Al Iannazzone joined Newsday in January 2012 as the Knicks’ beat writer, after covering the NBA for 11
Carmelo Anthony was reflective about his transformational summer during the past week, when the Knicks played the Pistons in London. It was, after all, during the London Olympics when he became more committed to winning and, by all accounts, to being a better teammate.
Anthony slipped up the night the Knicks lost to the Celtics by confronting Kevin Garnett twice after the game. He was suspended and the Knicks then lost in Indiana without Anthony, who later admitted he hurt his team.
But a true indication of how far Anthony has come as a player and a teammate was Tyson Chandler's reaction when he was asked if Anthony apologized for costing them a game.
"No. No. No," Chandler said. "He's our brother and he can never let us down and we stand by him whatever, whatever he wants to do. If he wants to rumble, we're going to rumble together. Whatever he wants, we stand behind him."
It would have been hard to find a Knicks player who would have said that about Anthony last season. There was tension on the court and locker room at different times, especially when Mike D'Antoni was the coach.
Anthony went somewhat rogue amid Linsanity and the D'Antoni drama. It was never more apparent than in D'Antoni's last game.
Anthony was distant in Chicago last March. He barely interacted with his teammates, didn't sit in a huddle and was animated when he felt he was open and didn't get the ball. Later, there was a definite tension in the locker room and a frustrated Anthony was almost defiant about his play.
D'Antoni was gone two days later. Mike Woodson took over and Anthony became much more engaged with his teammates and on the court. That's the case even more so after Anthony's summer with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and the rest of the players on the gold medal-winning Olympic team.
One of them was Chandler, and when it was brought up that there were issues last season, he didn't have much to say other than, "Yeah. Absolutely." But Chandler couldn't say enough about how he and Anthony became close while playing together on the Olympic team and how Anthony has changed.
"I think when you play on a team like that, you learn a little better how to lead because it's different when you're playing amongst players who can almost do anything on the basketball floor," Chandler said. "You fall into a position where you do what it takes to win. He just did the same thing.
"It put a little hunger in him. A lot of players on that team won the championship, played for a championship, and I think it lit a little bit of a fire under him."
Now Anthony is an MVP candidate and the unquestioned leader of a veteran team that believes it can compete for a championship.
"This is the best team I've been a part of," Anthony said. "We trust each other. We have fun with one another. Nothing else can come between us."
It would have been hard to find a Knicks player to say that last season.
Rasheed Wallace said he wants to be a coach -- maybe on the high school level -- when he's done playing.
But when asked if he could see Wallace coaching, Mike Woodson said: "I doubt that. I doubt it. I don't know if he would even have the patience . . .
"He might jump on the officials," Woodson joked. "I don't know. I think he has the mind-set to be a coach because his IQ of the game is pretty good."
All-Stars? Not in the East
The fans voted Anthony, Garnett, LeBron James, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade the East starters for next month's All-Star Game and Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul the West starters.
The reserves will be announced Thursday, and then we'll hear about snubs. Don't buy it, not this year in the East. Guys will be picked just to fill out the roster because there aren't 12 guys having "All-Star seasons." Do Wade and Garnett deserve to start?
Josh Smith, Luol Deng, Chandler, Paul George and Paul Pierce are leading reserve candidates, with Brook Lopez, Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Chris Bosh, Joakim Noah, Monta Ellis, Anderson Varejao and Kyrie Irving also in play.
The big what-if
"Oh, hell yeah," Wallace said. "With the squad that we had, we were pretty much running the East for about six years. But it just wasn't in the cards for us."
Anthony went third to Denver after Detroit took Milicic second in 2003. The Pistons won the 2004 title and reached another NBA Finals, but Milicic has been a bust.
"That's a big what-if," Wallace said. "They went with who they went with."
When Woodson wasn't preparing for the Knicks' game against the Pistons in London, he spent time with his daughter and his nephew's daughter. "I was at the mall, the shopping center," Woodson said. "All I did was follow along, didn't do much except spend money. That's about it."
At least he came home with a win.
Around the NBA
Grant Hill became the 106th NBA player to appear in 1,000 games. It's a major milestone and a tribute to Hill's perseverance, hard work and commitment.
Hill missed 356 of a possible 492 games from 2000-06 with ankle and knee issues. Consider this: Jason Kidd shared the 1994-95 Rookie of the Year award with Hill and ranks eighth in NBA history at 1,349 games.