GREENBURGH, N.Y. — If Carmelo Anthony finally leads the Knicks past the first round of the playoffs this season, they may have the Olympics to thank.
Anthony says he’s in better shape than he’s ever been in and trusts his teammates more after winning a gold medal in London alongside fellow Knick Tyson Chandler.
“I’ve felt that I’ve been in great shape before,” Anthony said Monday after practice. “Coming into this camp this year, I feel extremely different, a lot different coming into this camp, having the full camp, being heathy, being in the best shape that I could be in. It makes things a lot more easier when I’m able to do that.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who was in London for three Team USA games, says he believes Anthony is more “committed” now than ever before to the Knicks’ stated goal of competing for a championship.
“Any time you play against the best players in the world, they’re going to force you to compete and that’s every day in practice,” Woodson said.
“You learn things about yourself. Melo was fantastic in the Olympics and did a lot of wonderful things for that team to help them secure the gold medal. It’s been a nice carryover coming into camp. He’s committed. I always thought he was committed. He has to be committed even more about trying to take this team to the next level.”
Anthony has said winning the gold medal in London put things into better “perspective” for him because it allowed him to understand he can sometimes defer to and share the ball with his teammates.
Of course, those Olympic teammates included LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.
“For me, just now, trusting my teammates a lot more,” he said. “I think at the end of the day for all of us, if we can trust one another out there on the basketball court it will make things a lot easier. And being with the guys that was on that team this summer, it really put that in perspective.
“It’s easy when you have 12 of the best guys in the world on one team but that same mindset, you still try to have trust in one another. You give it to someone on the wing, Lebron, Kobe, Durant, anybody like that. So to incorporate that now, to my own team, it makes things a lot easier for myself.”
This Knicks team doesn’t feature LeBron, KD and Kobe, but it has added veterans like Jason Kidd, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, all of which could make Anthony more inclined to trust his teamamtes.
“It makes things a lot more easier because as far as the teaching goes from Coach Woodson,” Anthony said. “He’s still going to teach and do what he’s supposed to do as a coach. But we have guys that really get it and understand. Guys’ IQ on this team, the veterans, that definitely helps. That makes it a lot easier.”
Chandler said he and Anthony grew closer personally during their time in London and that that will also benefit the Knicks going forward.
“I think first me and Carmelo got a lot closer, understanding each other’s personalities and what we want to accomplish,” Chandler said. “The whole time we were out there even though we were obviously out there to accomplish winning the gold for the Olympics, also we were out there to work on ourselves for the New York Knicks.
“Every time we had the opportunity to talk, every time we had the opportunity to get in the weight room and when we did everything together it made our bond stronger and now we’ve just got to bring the same leadership to our team.”
Woodson now has a roster that includes three players with NBA championship rings in Chandler, Kidd and Wallace and two freshly minted Olympic gold medal winners in Anthony and Chandler.
“It is a bonus,” Woodson said. “When you spend the whole summer competing at a high level for something of that magntifude and winning a gold meal, it’s a bonus for any coach to have two players who palyed throughout the summer and didn’t get a whole lot of time off. They should be pumped up and ready to go. These two guys have been that way. It’s nice to say.”