Is This a New Carmelo, or the Same Carmelo Getting More Appreciation?

Brian DiMenna

That photograph is sort of misleading. I don’t think that Melo and Chris Kaman were ever actually that close together during Friday night’s Knicks win.

If you saw the game, you saw another impressive Knicks win, with a 104-94 victory pushing New York’s record to a perfect 4-0. You also saw the Knicks play a Dallas team missing Dirk Nowitzki, again offering just enough fodder for those who want to dismiss New York’s hot start.

One thing that has not been getting dismissed is the impressive start to the season for Carmelo Anthony. Melo is garnering almost universal praise. Whether it’s his renewed focus on the defensive end, his precision passing out of the post, or just his routine relentless scoring, every facet of Melo’s game appears to be in perfect harmony.

Now, there’s a part of me that is thinking that Anthony’s experience in New York has been good for him. If there’s one thing New York fans thrive on, it’s constructive criticism. If there is a part of your game that we feel could use improvement, New Yorkers are rarely shy in gently pointing out one’s shortcomings. We might say things like, “Hey you bum! Pass the ball!” or other gentle, constructive reminders of what we might expect from a superstar athlete.

But there is a part of me that wonders if this is who Anthony has been his whole career, but it’s just now being appreciated because a Knicks team that many were doubting entering the season — I include myself in this group — is now 4-0 and blowing out opponents. If you look at the bulk of Anthony’s statistics, advanced or not, none of it is greatly out of line with his career performance. His less quantifiable defensive improvement appears to show up in the numbers, as well, but is it the result of improved effort as has been generally observed, a natural evolution of a maturing player, or a team-wide re-commitment to the defensive end of which he’s a part?

Similarly, there’s little doubt that last season Melo struggled through one of the more difficult years of his career. But was the issue a lack of effort, his inability to mesh with head coach Mike D’Anotni, or the team’s insufficient supporting cast, or maybe all of the above, or were legitimate flaws in his game exposed that he’s addressed?

Now, admittedly, no one’s had more doubts about Melo than myself, but while we’re all enjoying Carmelo’s stellar play to open the year, and surely digging the team’s 4-0 start, I’m curious as to whether this is, in fact, some new and improved Carmelo Anthony that we’re really witnessing, or just the same old version that we’re finally ready to appreciate?

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