HOUSTON -- Kobe Bryant has been putting up big assist numbers lately, and the Lakers superstar probably can be credited with another one for helping to clear Carmelo Anthony's head and changing his outlook.

Bryant talked to Anthony last season when he was being pelted with criticism amid Jeremy Lin's rise and the Mike D'Antoni saga. Bryant imparted advice then and they continued talking. They had plenty of discussions during the summer at the Olympics. Anthony has come back a better teammate and become an MVP candidate.

"I think it's helped," Bryant said Friday during All-Star Weekend. "What I told him was, 'Listen, you can't listen to what the critics, the pundits are saying. You can't adjust your game because of criticism. If you do what you do, everything else will fall into place.' Hopefully he took that advice to heart."

Anthony has, and he's focused on winning and trying to lead the Knicks to a championship.

"We're ready," Anthony said. "My team is ready. We're ready to go out there and compete for a title. We just got to go out there and do it."

The Knicks still have some things to fix on both ends of the floor before they'll be ready to beat the Heat or other contenders in a seven-game series. But having Anthony can keep them in just about any game.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Anthony, whose bruised right biceps is better and won't keep him from playing in Sunday's All-Star Game, has followed Bryant's advice and is having the finest season of his 10-year career. Anthony is averaging 28.6 points and has led the Knicks to a 32-18 mark, their best record after 50 games since 1996-97.

"Me and Kobe talk a lot," Anthony said. "A lot of conversations came last season throughout the season. We talked this summer. We talked at the Olympics. His approach to a lot of things I definitely admire. If I could take anything away from what we talked about, it was just his approach, how to approach different things, kind of how to block things and stay in his mind frame."

Bryant is proving his mettle amid a circus-like atmosphere with the Lakers. He and Dwight Howard have had philosophical differences and D'Antoni hasn't been able to get the Lakers to play up to their potential. Bryant continues to try to will the Lakers to wins, but he joked about what he wishes he could do during the break.

"Hit the reset button," Bryant said. "And hopefully there's an easy button like in the [Staples] commercial so the second half of the season, things are a little easier for us."

Anthony probably thought similar things about last season. When that subject is brought up, his way of speaking of it is to ignore it.

"I kind of erased that out of my head," he said. "I wanted to come back and start off with a clean plate. Where I am right now, I'm in a very, very positive state of mind, a very positive state in general.''

Bryant said the Knicks' roster has helped bring out the best in Anthony.

"I think the difference now is he has pieces around him that are complementary and enable him to do what he does best," Bryant said. "I think we're all starting to recognize what his talents are."