Teammates pushing Carmelo Anthony hard in practice

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony reacts during the first

Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony reacts during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Washington Wizards. (Oct. 17, 2013) (Credit: AP)

For some reason, Metta World Peace ended up wearing Carmelo Anthony's No. 7 jersey for the Knicks' open practice Sunday.

World Peace also had Anthony's number in one dramatic instance during the scrimmage portion of the practice at Columbia University. With fans screaming in delight, World Peace swiped the ball from the Knicks star and went the length of the court for a dunk.

"That's the only way we can get better, if we push each other," World Peace said about playing tough defense on Anthony. "Sometimes me and Iman Shumpert are both on the same team. We try to make it hard on him, so when he gets out there on the floor, it will be easy and he can be the leading scorer. We want Melo to be the leading guy in the NBA this year, but we got to do that together."

Anthony, 29, was the league's leading scorer last season, averaging 28.7 points. The Knicks need him to continue to play at that kind of level. Anthony also is being asked to take over more of a leadership role now that vocal veterans Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace no longer are on the team.

J.R. Smith, who has been close to Anthony since they were on the Denver Nuggets together, said he has seen Anthony challenged this preseason like never before.

"It's extremely fun just to see Metta guard Melo in practice and really give it to him," Smith said. "I think it's the first time I've seen him in all the years we've been together get a real challenge in practice every day. I think he takes it head on."

Smith believes Anthony is embracing the leadership role. "It all started in the first meeting," he said. "He expressed what he expected for us and how he sacrificed his whole summer to work hard and lose the weight and be in the best shape he's been in. He expects us to do the same . . . He's done everything else in this league except win a championship. I think that's the thing that's burning him the most. He's willing to do whatever."

Including get challenged by his teammates in practice.

Notes & quotes: Andrea Bargnani suffered some back stiffness early and the Knicks held him out of the scrimmage. Beset by injuries during the past two seasons with the Raptors, Bargnani hasn't missed a preseason game or practice as a Knick. Mike Woodson didn't seem overly concerned and said: "He's got some stiffness. We pulled him, took him back to stretch. He's fine." . . . Raymond Felton, who strained his hamstring Thursday, did not participate and will not play Monday night in Toronto. Shumpert (elbow) participated on a limited basis and is questionable for Toronto . . . Smith, who participated in full-court drills Sunday, will be cleared for contact Monday and is expected to participate in his first scrimmage Tuesday.

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