GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Carmelo Anthony couldn’t wait to get started.
Maybe that’s because he looks at the New York Knicks and sees real NBA talent around him for the first time in a few years.
Or perhaps it’s because he knows his most successful seasons have come following the Olympics.
Whatever the reason, Anthony is talking like someone who believes his team is going back to the playoffs — and maybe going far once they get there.
“Like I said yesterday, I haven’t been excited like this in a long time to actually get going and ready to create something,” Anthony said Tuesday after the Knicks held their first practice.
The Knicks haven’t been exciting at all recently. Anthony had never missed the postseason until New York fell just short in 2014, and now he’s been shut out three straight years. The Knicks tumbled to a 17-65 finish two years ago, when Anthony was limited to 40 games before knee surgery, and went 32-50 last season.
Anthony often tried to carry the scoring load himself during those last two seasons, but he doesn’t see a need now. The Knicks traded for Derrick Rose, signed players such as Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee and Brandon Jennings, and expect big things from Kristaps Porzingis after his All-Rookie campaign.
Anthony has repeatedly said how excited he is to play with Rose, who believes he can make the game easier for the 32-year-old forward.
“He’s been here the longest, he’s went through a lot of things here, experienced a lot, so this is his team,” Rose said. “Me and Jo — I can only speak about me and Joakim — we’re coming in here, we’re battle-tested. Our job is to make his job as easy as possible and if it’s sacrificing, it’s sacrificing. Whatever he wants us to do, we’re going to do it. We don’t want no problems, we just want to win.”
The only time Anthony’s done that lately is in the Olympics.
He won his third gold and fourth medal overall in Rio, both records for a men’s basketball player. While most players crave a break after the long NBA season, Anthony said he was “in the best shape that I’ve felt in a long time” after playing this summer.
Olympic competition has provided him with a boost before.
The 2008-09 season, after his first gold medal, remains his most successful team season as a pro. He had never even won a playoff series before leading Denver to the Western Conference finals, averaging 27.2 points in 16 games before the Nuggets were eliminated by the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
He didn’t win another series until 2013, coming off his second gold medal in London. He led the NBA with 28.7 points per game in carrying the Knicks to the Atlantic Division title and eventually the East semifinals.
He didn’t do it alone back then, with Chauncey Billups in the backcourt in Denver, and Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire in the frontcourt in New York. The Knicks believe this team, like those, is filled with players who will earn Anthony’s trust.
“We’re hoping that, again, the level of talent that is on the team will lead to him not thinking, ‘I have to do everything,'” coach Jeff Hornacek said.
Anthony hosted most of the roster in Puerto Rico over the summer for basketball and bonding, so he’s gotten to know his teammates off the court.
He likes what he sees.
“I don’t know how great we can be,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to put kind of no ceiling on that, but we control our own destiny at this point.”
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