It’s difficult to remember, but before Kevin Durant and Paul George got hurt, Kevin Love left Minnesota and LeBron James came home to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony’s status was the biggest story in the NBA.
Way back in June, Anthony opted out of the final year of his contract with the Knicks to test the free agency waters, and some believed he’d end up in Chicago (or Houston, or Dallas…) As it turns out, the lure of New York – and a max-money contract – proved too strong, and ‘Melo returned to the team he’s lead since 2011.
Ultimately, in an offseason defined by change, Anthony was the outlier. But not even he could escape the tide of transition. After a 37-45 season, Knicks president Phil Jackson brought in a new coach – NBA vet Derek Fisher, who will run a squad for the first time – and shipped off stalwart center Tyson Chandler in exchange for a pair of point guards.
So, as Anthony prepares for the 2014-15 NBA season, he’s adjusting to a new system and new perimeter players – though, as he told Rolling Stone at a Tools for Teachers event organized by his foundation, he’s excited to see what the new-look Knicks can do. Change can be a good thing, after all.
“There was a lot of change in the offseason, even for me, being able to get out on that market and explore free agency,” he says. “And then coming back to a situation that’s totally different. I think the opportunity is big for us and big for me, and I’m ready to get it started.”
And it could be a good one for the Knicks. Most think that the acquisition of guard Jose Calderon will not only help alleviate some of the burden on Anthony – he played a league-high 38.7 minutes per game and put up an average of 21 shots per night – but speed up a stagnant offense that ranked in the NBA’s lower third in points per game and field goal attempts. Young Shane Larkin (also obtained in the Chandler deal) and veteran Pablo Prigioni will help manage the team’s transition to the new triangle offensive system, which Anthony is already enjoying.
“I’ve played with Pablo, I’ve played against Jose and Shane as a young guard; I’m looking forward to them being in the system we’re running,” he says. “They were put in the system for a reason; I think it fits everybody that’s within it, so it’s just a matter of us putting it all together.”
Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same: Anthony remains the superstar of the Knicks, and as such, his every move is subject to intense scrutiny, both by the New York media and his team president. Earlier this month, Jackson touched off a mini firestorm – which was probably intentional – when he suggested that Carmelo had “just touched the surface of the greatness he’s capable of.”
Anthony knew he’d face criticisms like that when he returned to the Knicks, and his attitude towards them has remained refreshingly unchanged. Turns out, he’d rather focus on important things…like bringing an NBA championship back to New York for the first time in 40 years.
“I don’t know,” he laughs when Jackson’s comments are brought up. “At this point in my career, it’s just all about winning. That’s all I care about; I talked to Phil and I talked to my teammates, and whatever it takes to make that happen, I’m ready to do it.”