Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks battles for a...

Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks battles for a loose ball against Sundiata Gaines of the New Jersey Nets. (Dec. 21, 2011) Credit: Jim McIsaac

Carmelo Anthony held his usual place atop the boxscore with 21 points in Wednesday night's win over the Nets in the Knicks' preseason finale. But while others still judge Melo by his attention to scoring, he's looking to set a new career standard at the other end of the floor.

"I get tired of hearing we don't play defense, I don't play defense,'' he said after the game. "I just wanted to get out there and do it. I just wanted to show it.''

Anthony talked about making a commitment to defense well before training camp opened this season. During the lockout, even when there was a chance a season might not happen, Anthony insisted that he will dispel the notion that he lacks the ability -- and the desire -- to be a good defensive player.

Long before the arrival of Tyson Chandler, Anthony said the Knicks "can be a great defensive team'' and put himself out in front of that mission.

"I'll lead that charge,'' he said in October. "I'll take that stance . . . At the end of the day, we will be a great defensive team.''

Yes, it was a preseason game, and yes, it was against a weaker opponent in the Nets, but the Knicks still had to do something about Deron Williams and Brook Lopez for at least the first half of an otherwise sloppy game. The result was a defensive effort that produced 11 steals and 11 blocked shots -- one each by Anthony -- and limited the Nets to 82 points, including a meaningless three-pointer by Sundiata Gaines at the buzzer.

Was this something to build off for a Knicks team that has been mocked for its defensive ineptitude in the past?

"We've done a great job defensively,'' Amar'e Stoudemire said. "The offense is going to come. The defense is where we seem to be making strides."

Stoudemire also has been routinely derided throughout his career for his lack of defensive focus. But they now flank Chandler, one of the best defensive centers in the NBA, and seem to want to shake their reputations. "We know we can be a good team,'' Anthony said. "The way we talk, the way we communicate. We're going to have each other's backs all season.''

Notes & quotes: The Knicks waived training-camp invitees Devin Green and Chris Hunter, leaving the roster at 14, one below the NBA maximum. The team still has its $2.5- million room exception to make an addition during the season . . . Mike D'Antoni gave the players the day off Thursday, their first day off of the preseason . . . Wednesday night's MSG Network broadcast drew a 2.28 Nielsen rating, the highest for a Knicks preseason game since the ratings began in 2004. It was a 322-percent increase over last season's preseason opener.


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