Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant formed a close friendship when they were teammates on the United States Olympic team in 2008 and 2012.The two superstars found a common ground in the fact they both know what it feels like to be publicly scorned for shooting too much.
Anthony went through a tough period last year when the media and Knicks fans felt like the team had a better chance of winning with Jeremy Lin and that ‘Melo needed to tame his game become more of a facilitator.
Sensing a fellow shooter had become gun shy, Bryant had a message for Anthony last summer.
Ignore the critics, he said. Stop worrying about fitting in and get back to a scorer’s mentality.
”You have to do what you do best,” Bryant told him.
That’s what Anthony did in a spectacular first quarter Thursday night, and by the time he was done Bryant and the struggling Los Angeles Lakers had no hope of ending their slump.
Anthony scored 22 of his 30 points in the period, and the New York Knicks held on after he departed with a sprained left ankle to beat the Lakers 116-107 in coach Mike D’Antoni’s return to Madison Square Garden.
”I was zoned in. I was locked in,” Anthony told the Associated Press. ”Tonight was one of those games where I had that feeling. I wanted to get it going and I had that feeling going early in the game. My teammates were feeding off of that.”
Firing in 3-pointers and moving the ball to open shooters, things they often struggled to do under D’Antoni, the Knicks won for the eighth time in nine games and improved to 9-0 at home for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
”I wanted to beat them. I wanted to beat the Lakers, especially protecting our home court,” Anthony said. ”It had nothing to do with Mike. I wanted to protect our home court and win the basketball game.”
Statistically, Anthony is not having his best season. His 27.9 scoring average is just a shade below his career best of 28.9 in 2006-07 when he was playing for the Denver Nuggets. But what makes this year different is the way Anthony has reshaped his body and has become more active. Far too often he would settle for jump shots, but his year he’s attacking the basket more and — dare, I say it — playing more defense.
Anthony’s renewed commitment has been the driving force behind the resurgence of the Knicks. New York is now a serious challenger to Miami in the Eastern Conference and Anthony has taken the lead in the MVP race. The key will be how head coach Mike Woodson will use Amare Stoudemire once he returns from the injured list. It is no secret that ‘Melo and Amare don’t mesh well on the court together, so Woodson must find a happy medium in which both players can thrive and be comfortable.