New York Knicks

After many years in the league, Carmelo Anthony is finally transforming from an individual star, to a real team leader. 

By David Hong

Throughout his NBA career, New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has been one of the most polarizing players in the league.

While he was always a great scorer and one of the best players in the game, his attitude has often been in question.

He has been labeled as cocky, selfish, not able to make his teammates better, etc. This is why he has been one of the most criticized stars in the game and a major reason why he hasn’t won an NBA title yet.


Now at age 31 coming off a rough year, which saw the the Knicks win the fewest games in franchise history (17), while Melo missed the entire second half due to surgery on his knee, it seems like Melo has grown more and is more team oriented.

Here are some factors that show his improved maturity.

Defense

Melo was always capable of playing good defense with his size and strength, but during most of his career, he hasn’t shown much consistency. Mainly, the reason is that he doesn’t always put much of an effort on it, resulting in him being an underachieving defender.

But this year, Melo has stepped up defensively. He’s played LeBron James tough in two games and can be found hustling more often. He’s blocking more shots and he’s getting more steals, too. In a losing effort against the Miami Heat on Monday, Melo still had four steals and a blocked shot as well. You can see how much of an effort he’s putting on defense, when he guards players one on one. So far, Melo is finally giving his maximum on D.

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Passing

Melo has never been known to be a passer because he is a ball dominant guy who always likes to score. In the past, that was why the offense was stagnant at times when Melo goes to his favored isolations. He normally takes around 30 shots per game.

But in the first month of this season, Melo surprisingly has been less of a ball hog and distributing more. He had six assists in a November 8 games vs the Milwaukee Bucks, five assists in a November 17 game vs the Charlotte Bobcats and four assists Monday vs the Heat. He even has excelled in the pick and roll a few times, including a couple to rookie sensation Kristaps Porzingis. Sure, he still has his iso moments, but there’s no doubt, Melo is not always looking to score these days and is also distributing with more consistency. Melo is still one of the best scorers in the game when he’s on, so the Knicks still need his scoring prowess on offense. But in the early going, it seems like Melo is doing a nice job balancing between scoring and passing the ball and as a result, more players are involved offensively.

Leadership

Another one of Melo’s criticisms has been that he was never much of a leader. He was never one to be vocal about situations and a positive attitude was left at times to be desired. But this season, Melo has stepped up in the leadership role. Never one to vocalize, he has led by example, whether it’s taking players under his wing or standing up to his teammates. Look at Monday’s game when Heat center Hassan Whiteside inadvertently elbowed Lou Amundson. Amundson was called for the foul instead. Melo was upset at the call and went over to Whiteside to say a few things to him. That’s standing up for his teammates, something Melo rarely has been seen doing. He is finally showing some of his veteran leadership.

RELATED: Melo Already Talking Championships With KP In Town

Loves Porzingis

Finally, Melo has had a nice bond with potential future star Kristaps Porzingis. That’s huge because Melo has not been known to have great rapport with teammates who are big in attention as well.

He never fit in with Amare Stoudemire and the two had trouble playing together. Stoudemire went on his way in the offseason by saying that Melo was not one of they guys who helped him in his career. That summarized their relationship together.

In 2012, Jeremy Lin became an overnight sensation (who could forget Linsanity?) without Melo. When Melo came back, he did not adapt to Lin’s game. There was clearly some jealousy from Melo at Lin’s unexpected fame and Anthony was one of the guys who was criticized for making the Knicks let Lin go in the offseason.

This year, despite being a rookie, Porzingis has been the biggest talk on the Knicks with his surprisingly good play. He has eclipsed Melo as the center of attention and is a huge crowd favorite. You can tell by the Porzingis chants that were heard in the Knicks last home game on November 17.

Melo clearly notices that he’s been overshadowed by Porzingis as the center of attention, but instead, Anthony has been a good citizen. Melo has embraced Porzingis, complimented him, and is willing to offer a helping hand to the rookie’s development. That wasn’t what you saw from Melo early in his Knick tenure, especially at someone who may be threatening to steal the spotlight from #7.

But this is a different Melo. He also probably realizes that he’s not getting younger and knows that Porzingis could be the next franchise Knick when he’s done. It’s been a good bond between the current and possible future star.

Porzingis has been a huge factor but Melo’s maturity so far has also been a big reason for the Knicks 8-7 start after winning only 17 games last season. We all know Melo’s history, so hopefully he will continue to stay on the good side by continually playing more team ball, hard-nose defense, and continue to develop a good bond with Porzingis, all while showing him the NBA ropes in the rookie’s young career.

Anthony has certainly changed, but this a change Knick fans will surely approve.

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