NBA AM: The Key To Carmelo Anthony’s Success
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony is the leading candidate for the Most Valuable Player award in a lot of people’s eyes at this early junction of the regular season. Anthony is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and two assists a contest for the 17-5 Knicks, who currently sit atop the Eastern Conference.
Last night was another convincing performance by the Knicks as they handled the struggling Los Angeles Lakers 116-107. Anthony dropped 30 points in 23 minutes in the win against his former head coach in Mike D’Antoni and one of his best friends in the league, Kobe Bryant.
Anthony and Bryant have grown quite close as a result of their time together with USA Basketball. They won their second gold medal together this summer and during their time in London Bryant talked to Anthony about his approach to the game. At the time, Anthony was coming off a highly-criticized season. He averaged just 22 points a game in a season where the Knicks once again couldn’t get out of the first round.
“I asked him, ‘What the hell are you doing? You have to do what you do best.’” Bryant said to The New York Daily News. “Now, the organization has put pieces around him that have allowed him to be Melo. And now you guys are all celebrating him for things he’s always done. It’s funny. God bless you guys.
“I think last year was very tough for him because he was criticized a lot for shooting and for playing the way he likes to play. Then the whole Linsanity thing and everybody said, ‘Well, they’re better without Melo’ and all this nonsense. You guys are all guilty of it. . . . And as a result, he got a little gun-shy and a little self-conscious about things.”
Anthony is certainly not hesitant in the least bit this year. He’s averaging 20.1 shot attempts per game, the third most in his career. The 5.6 threes he’s letting go a night are by far the most he’s shot in his career as well. His shooting percentages are amongst the best they’ve ever been, though, as he is hitting 47 percent from the field and 45 percent from distance.
The only concern over Anthony right now is his health. He sprained his left ankle in the third quarter Thursday night against the Lakers on a collision with Dwight Howard and is now uncertain for Saturday’s contest against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“It was a hard foul,” Anthony said. “I couldn’t catch my fall. It was an awkward fall. Right now I’m sore.
“I’ll wake up [on Friday] and see what happens.”
Other than a troublesome ankle, things couldn’t be better for Anthony and the Knicks right now – a great contrast from last season.
Nash Could Practice Next Week: After dropping their fourth-straight game last night, the Los Angeles Lakers did receive a bit of good news. Steve Nash, their starting point guard and the key to the offense they are running right now, is expected to return to the practice court next week and there is some speculation that he could be available for Christmas Day’s rematch against the Knicks.
“Hopefully I can practice next week,” Nash said to ESPN Los Angeles’ David McMenamin. “We’ll see. I’m definitely getting better. We’ll see if I continue to improve and there’s no setbacks, then I should be able to practice next week.
“On the court, I’ve been running the last day and a half, and [my leg] has been responding pretty well. So, I haven’t done a really huge load, huge amount, but it’s something.
“I’m not really sure how it will respond. I still can’t do certain things. I’m just knocking down hurdles, so the first one is to be able to run, and then you hop the next few hurdles and take some contact and see how my body responds.”
Many expect the Lakers to take form once Nash returns, but he’s quick to point out that it’s not all about him.
“If I come back and we take off, but no means am I the savior,” Nash said. “If I come back and we struggle with it, it’s not going to be all on me. It’s a team sport. We all got to work. And if people want to judge us when I come back, that’s fine. I’m not bothered by it. I just want to focus on getting as fit as I can to try to help the team as much as I can and let the chips fall.”
For Nash, just being able to get back on the court after missing all but one game so far this season will be a victory in its own right.
“It’s a tough situation to watch the team struggle with myself, Steve Blake and Pau [Gasol] out of the lineup,” Nash said. “The guys are hobbled a little bit [without us]. To watch the guys struggle, the right decision is to come back when you’re 100 percent, to prevent further setbacks than to be out for another extended period of time. On the other hand, there’s the feeling amongst all of us, we all want to get back out and just help.”
Hollinger Joins the Grizzlies: Longtime ESPN analyst John Hollinger has been hired by the Memphis Grizzlies as their Vice President of Basketball Operations. He was hired along with Stu Lash, who will be the Director of Player Personnel and Basketball Development, on Thursday evening. The two were hired by the new ownership and will work with current General Manager Chris Wallace.
Hollinger has been with ESPN since 2004 and is the developer of advanced statistics such as Player Efficiency Rating (PER), offensive efficiency, defensive efficiency and pace factor amongst other tools.
Up Close With Daniel Orton: Oklahoma City Thunder center Daniel Orton has been bouncing back and forth between the NBA and the D-League in recent weeks. HOOPSWORLD caught up with him recently to talk about playing in the Development League, being with the Thunder and his career moving forward in this video interview.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on tap today, starting with mine at 11 am est. You can get your questions in about the NBA, NCAA and NBADL here. Salary cap and Collective Bargaining Agreement expert Larry Coon will take over next at 3 pm est. His chats always fill up quickly, so make sure to get your questions in early here.