New York Knicks v Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe says Carmelo is hardest player for him to guard


Kobe Bryant leads his struggling Lakers into Madison Square Garden Thursday night to take on a Knicks team that is 8-0 at home and led by Carmelo Anthony, a guy playing like an MVP candidate.

As part of the hype machine for that game, Kobe sat down for an interview with ESPN (Stephen A. Smith to be exact) that the network played plenty on Wednesday. Among the things discussed in that interview was the hardest player for Bryant to guard in the NBA.

His answer was Anthony, reports the New York Post.

The Lakers star said Anthony, the Knicks’ MVP candidate, is the “most difficult” guy for him to guard in the league, even harder than LeBron James, he told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on Tuesday.

“For me?” Bryant said. “Yeah….”

“I’m [180 pounds] soaking wet,” said Bryant, who is Melo’s teammate on Team USA. “Going up against that bull, it’s fun, but it’s hard.”

That kind of matchup, Carmelo on Bryant, is why Anthony at the four is such a matchup nightmare — if Carmelo has Kobe on him he can take Bryant down into the post with Amare Stoudemire not there and back Kobe down, where ‘Melo has the size and strength advantage, then he can spin and take short fade-aways over either shoulder. If Stoudemire is in the post and Anthony is out on the wing trying to use his quickness on Kobe, then Kobe can hang with him and contest everything.

The Lakers likely go with Metta World Peace — a bull himself — on ‘Melo, but he is going to need help from Dwight Howard and others.

And if the Lakers defensive rotations look anything like they did in the first half of the Cleveland game, Anthony is not going to put up monster fourth quarter numbers because he’ll be sitting on the bench resting as the Knicks bench closes out a blowout win.

Carmelo Anthony says he can play at high level 4-5 more years

USA Basketball Men's National Team Training Camp

Carmelo Anthony can flat-out score the rock — that has never been the question. Even hurting last season for many of the 40 games he played, he averaged 24.2 points a game, had a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent (right near the league average) while having the entire weight of the Knicks offense on his shoulders (32.2 usage rate, fifth highest in the NBA). When people (or players) talk about him being overrated, the discussion turns to defense or if he makes his teammates better. But there should be no doubt Anthony is an elite scorer.

He thinks he will be for a while longer — like another five years. Via Ian Begley of ESPN:

In fact, the 31-year-old Knicks star is confident that he can play at a high level for the next “four or five years.”

“Without a doubt. Without a doubt,” Anthony said after the Knicks’ final training camp practice on Saturday.

The Knicks better hope that’s true, they already made that bet with that massive five-year contract they gave him last summer.

Anthony’s age combined with him coming off knee surgery have a lot of people — myself included — expecting him to take a step back. Not a big one, but he is coming up at the point in his career where some open shots he used to get are now contested because he’s half-a-step slower, and some of those looks don’t fall as often. His jumper isn’t suddenly going to look like Rajon Rondo‘s, ‘Melo is going to get his points, but he may not be as efficient.

Fortunately, the Knicks have an improved supporting cast around him this season. That should take some offensive load off his shoulders, and maybe the Knicks offense will see better ball movement and start to resemble the triangle. If it’s just more isolation Anthony, it’s not going to be pretty.

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.