- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Some people might be surprised by Carmelo Anthony's efforts on defense early in the season, but Pacers president Donnie Walsh isn't one of them.
"It was always there," Walsh said of Anthony's ability to play defense. "Carmelo is one of the few players in this league who can do everything. And now he's doing everything."
Anthony was widely known as a one-dimensional scorer in his first nine years in the league. But through the Knicks' first eight games, Anthony caught the attention of many around the league by exerting himself on the defensive end.
"He's with a group of guys that I think he believes in and so he's doing it," Walsh said before the Knicks' 88-76 victory over the Pacers on Sunday. "I think he always tried to win the game ... but when you're there and you don't know if there are other guys there that can do it, then maybe you overextend on [the offensive] end of it.
"Now that he sees that the team as a whole is strong enough, he doesn't have to do that night in and night out. He's doing everything else. He can defend, he can rebound, he can pass. There's nothing I can think of in basketball Carmelo can't do."
Walsh was the Knicks' president and general manager when the team traded Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick to Denver to get Anthony. Walsh was opposed to giving up so much -- Felton in particular -- but he was reportedly overruled by Knicks owner James Dolan.
That power struggle, according to reports, is one of several reasons Walsh walked away from the Knicks' job rather than signing a new contract in the summer of 2011. Current GM Glen Grunwald took over for Walsh.
Walsh joined the Pacers as president and on Sunday commended the job Grunwald has done in bringing in veterans such as Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby and reacquiring Felton to replace Jeremy Lin.
"It is the perfect thing to do and they got exactly the right guys," Walsh said. "Felton, that was the one guy I didn't really want to give up in that trade [for Anthony], but we couldn't get the trade if we didn't. So I'm happy for the Knicks and more for Raymond that he's back here. Because he did a great job when he was here the first time."
Walsh believes the Knicks, as currently constituted, can contend for the NBA title.
"There's not that many contending teams when it really comes down to it. They're one of them," Walsh said.
Walsh touched on several Knicks-related subjects during a chat with New York reporters:
ON KNICKS FANS: "I'm really happy for the fans because during the years when we were breaking the team up we went through two years that we were going to lose, and [they knew it]. So I'm glad that they can come in now and say, 'Wow, this team could be really good.' Because I think they will be."
ON THE KNICKS' DECISION TO LET LIN WALK: "You’re looking down the road at the cap, you want to keep improving your team, you’re going to have to make decisions. They’re not going to look great, but they’re the right decisions. They did the right thing for where they were at the time."
ON AMAR'E STOUDEMIRE'S RETURN: "I've never bought this idea that [he and Anthony] can't play together, that's just nonsense. I'm looking for Amar'e to have a great season as well."
ON MIKE D'ANTONI GOING TO THE LAKERS: "Now he's in a different situation. Now he's got true talent. I expect him to do great, to be honest with you. I think he's a great coach and he'll do well."
Walsh added that he was 'a little bit' surprised when D'Antoni resigned from the Knicks after losing an apparent power struggle with Anthony.
"I think I put Mike in a very tough position here," Walsh said. "He had to go through the two years of losing. ... And then he [had] a team that was still forming and tried to make it work."
11dKevin Pelton and Chad Ford