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SportsColumnistsAl Iannazzone

George Karl sees older Carmelo still evolving and smarter

Kings coach George Karl sees Carmelo Anthony as

Kings coach George Karl sees Carmelo Anthony as more of a facilitator than when the Knicks star played for in Denver. Credit: AP / Pat Sullivan

Carmelo Anthony is north of 30 and coming off knee surgery so he’s a different player than the one who played under George Karl for six seasons at Denver. But Karl sees Anthony evolving and believes he is still finding his legs after the procedure.

“He’s like any player that gets older and matures,” the Kings coach, said. “You get older, your body doesn’t maybe have the athleticism, you have to get smarter. I think he has. I think he’s much more of a facilitator.

“He hasn’t had that big time game this year yet but I’m sure he’s going to. I’m sure anybody that has knee surgery, your body’s different. It’s never the same. I think you’re seeing some growing pains with that.”

Many of Anthony’s offensive numbers are down, particularly his shooting percentage (40.1) and scoring (21.1). Both can be attributed to the road back from knee surgery.

“I know what I got to do and what I’m going through right now as far as trying to get back to where I was,” Anthony said. “It’s more mental than physical.

“It does affect you. You go home and watch the film and watch the tape and you’re like, ‘damn!’ I take the same shot every game. Some days they go in, some days they don’t. So it does affect you mentally and emotionally so I got to try to keep that away from me.”

Anthony’s scoring dip also could be because of what his old Denver coach said — Anthony being more of a facilitator.

He’s taking 2.1 fewer shots per game than last season, and his assists are up, although slightly from 3.1 to 3.3. Though Anthony is never going to be mistaken for a point-forward, he is passing the ball more readily.

Anthony made the right play a few times late in Thursday’s two-point loss to the Kings, including passes to Arron Afflalo for three-pointers. Afflalo just didn’t knock them down.

Then in the closing seconds, Kristaps Porzingis was open under the basket. Anthony — who misfired on a three — was concerned about getting a shot off before the buzzer and never looked to pass. That’s what most fans remember.

Anthony’s game has flaws. He’s not LeBron James. He doesn’t fill the stat sheet and make everyone better. But Anthony is helping Porzingis more than he is credited.

By design, the Knicks have played Porzingis with Anthony most of the time. Yes, they both start and finish games so it makes sense that they’re on the floor together. But Porzingis gets so many open looks because of the attention Anthony receives. The Knicks hope eventually Porzingis will draw some attention and Anthony won’t always face double- and triple-teams.

“Porzingis’ double-doubles are very impressive,” Karl said. “But it’s still Melo’s team.”

There was never any doubt. Not yet. Porzingis is just 20 and still growing and learning. Anthony is 31 and is growing and learning in different ways.

Big fans

Playing Monday against Dirk Nowitzki, someone Porzingis patterned his game after, was a good experience that could help the rookie. Porzingis is a quick study and picked up some of what has made Nowitzki great.

“He’s not the most athletic or fastest guy on the court, but somehow he always gets his shot off,” Porzingis said. “He’s so smart. You can just watch him play, how he tricks the opposite player — he’s walking around, out of nowhere there’s a screen for him. He gets the open shot. Those kind of things that obviously comes with experience, those are the things that I can learn from.”

Nowitzki said Porzingis is ahead of where he was as a 20-year-old and is impressed on many levels.

“The sky’s the limit for this kid,” Nowitzki said. “Not only because he’s good, but also because I heard he lives and breathes basketball. He stays in the gym, he works hard and doesn’t let all this hype here get to his head — you have to root for him.

Colangelo to the rescue

The 76ers needed someone to shake things up — Jerry Colangelo is just the guy.

Colangelo, the former Suns owner and current head of USA Basketball, is the Sixers’ new chairman of basketball operations and special adviser to the managing general partner for two reasons: to speed up the rebuilding process and fix what general manager Sam Hinkie has done to a once-proud franchise.

The plan of rebuilding through the draft works if you get franchise-changing talent the way the Thunder did when they grabbed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in three consecutive drafts.

The Sixers haven’t been that fortunate. Injuries, salary-cutting trades and a roster of many relative unknowns have led to a 38-150 record over the last two-plus seasons and ultimately NBA Commissioner Adam Silver helped pushing for the Colangelo hire.

Now with Colangelo, the Sixers have someone who is well-respected around the league by executives, coaches and players. Hinkie will stay on as general manager, but Colangelo will be pulling the strings.

Yahoo reported that Colangelo is talking to former Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni about becoming Brett Brown’s associate head coach. D’Antoni worked with Colangelo in Phoenix and Team USA. It still may be tough for this team to sign free agents, but its chances are better with Colangelo.

Left-handed compliment

After the Warriors won their 27th straight game dating back to last year, the Harlem Globetrotters tweeted congratulations at Golden State, adding, “They’re now just 3,562 short of our current mark.”

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