Carmelo Anthony was itching to get back on the court, but for nearly five months after he had knee surgery, the Knicks and their doctors wouldn't let him touch a basketball or set foot in a gym.
"I wasn't even allowed to go near the court," Anthony said. "They had a no-Melo-on-the-court sign on the door. They had a picture of me with an X on there. I didn't pick up a basketball until the end of July."
What followed were hours and hours of shooting from all over the court to get ready for this season. The Knicks' lone All-Star worked on trying to regain his rhythm and timing, on getting comfortable in different spots on the floor and pushing off his surgically repaired left knee to see if he had his power back.
Anthony is not officially done with his rehab, but judging by the Knicks' first two preseason games, all the work he did is paying off. Anthony has been extremely sharp. He's shot 18-for-25 and scored 38 points in 45 minutes.
"The most important thing is being healthy," he said. "When you're healthy, everything kind of falls into place mentally. There's a lot of clarity for me at this moment. I can kind of just play ball and not have to worry about ticky-tack injuries or having surgery. I can just focus on my team."
Anthony, whose season ended in February after a career-low 40 games, said there were times during his rehab when he didn't think he would ever get back to this point. But now he says he's not surprised at how well he's been shooting.
"You guys haven't seen what I've been doing during this rehab," he said. "I kind of felt like I had that rhythm kind of early, earlier than expected, and right now [I'm] just applying that to full basketball.
"It comes back to you. It comes right back. You just worry about everything else coming back -- getting that pop and having the power to do different things, push off the leg. At first, it was like it's going to be hard to get back there soon. As the rehab went on, it started coming back."
Even after all the changes the Knicks made, Anthony remains their most important player. His play and the fact that he hasn't missed a practice or taken a recovery day through the first two weeks of training camp are very encouraging signs.
He said he's in the "power phase" of his rehab and that it will end this month.
Anthony said the Knicks haven't discussed how they will handle back-to-backs and three games in four nights yet, but he was happy that commissioner Adam Silver has reduced the number of back-to-back games this season for all teams.
"Yeah, good," Anthony said.
There were concerns about Anthony's attitude after the Knicks drafted the unproven and relatively unknown Kristaps Porzingis and failed to get any stars with the nearly $30 million they had available in free agency.
But Anthony expresses optimism about the team that president Phil Jackson has assembled. His overall attitude and performance have impressed Derek Fisher.
"I think Carmelo's excited about basketball again, which for veteran players is hard to do as you move through your career," Fisher said. "Being away from the game oftentimes reawakens that childlike joy that you have for playing the game. He has that right now.
"It's more about the mindset that you see and his approach to the game. He's being aggressive. He's making passes when he should make passes. He's putting in effort on the defensive end, and he's really leading our guys.
"The offense will always be there for him, but it's the other things we are seeing from him right now. He's enjoying being back on the floor. That's helping our team a lot."