NEW YORK -- Since Michael Jordan retired in 2003, the West developed into the dominant conference, fueled by deeper teams, increased star power and -- most importantly -- more championships. Even when the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals in 2012 and '13, the Eastern Conference overall was still a bit weaker.
But entering this season, Carmelo Anthony knows it's a whole new ballgame: The Eastern Conference's top five teams -- the Heat, Bulls, Pacers, Nets and Knicks -- could all compete for the No. 1 seed, according to ESPN's "Summer Forecast." And Melo feels the East is now more competitive than its conference counterpart.
"When I was in the Western Conference, everybody was talking about how the West is so much better," he told ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday. "But now, the power has shifted back into the Eastern Conference, so we're ready. We're excited about that."
While the Heat remain intact, Derrick Rose is returning and the Nets and Pacers acquired more seasoned talent, the Knicks added Andrea Bargnani, Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih, who Anthony believes are key pieces for the team to be successful.
"I think we have the talent," he said. "I think the most important thing is injuries, for one, and then everybody just coming together and just taking on the challenge as one. We can't let nothing else break that bond that we're going to build over the season."
MELO'S WORKOUT PLAN: This offseason, Anthony has been in Los Angeles working out with his longtime trainer, Idan Ravin, performing basketball, beach and weight workouts. Melo called it a "great summer" as he prepares for the season.
"[Idan and I] are always trying to figure out what's that next move or how we're going to push this year. And I think we did a great job of just coming up with something and just running with it," Melo said. "Just certain dieting things, just taking chances with different styles of training -- not just doing stuff on the basketball court or in the weight room. I'm trying to just push the limit."
Ravin shared some insights into his private work with Anthony.
"Among the many things that make him great is his willingness to evolve," Ravin said. "We constantly look for ways to add new wrinkles to his game. Defenses and defenders become more sophisticated each year, so we always look for ways to counter this. He has been consistent and methodical with his training, as well as meticulous with his diet, avoiding the processed and refined sugars."
One element Anthony would like to bring more to the court is running pick-and-rolls, and for good reason. In 2012-13, while he ran only 184 pick-and-rolls, he ranked first in points per play at 1.071 (the only player above 1.0). That's a big credit to his shooting ability and Tyson Chandler's strength as a screen-and-roller.
"I want to continue doing that and figuring that part out, but that comes along with the territory and the game situation," he said. "It's all about just trying to tighten up those screws that you already have, and just having fun with it."
IT'S AN HONOR: On Wednesday, the Knicks star was honored by Hennessy with its 10th annual Privilege Award for his contributions to the New York City community. In a speech to the crowd, which included J.R. Smith and Spike Lee, he talked about the importance of basketball court development as the focus of his foundation.
"My rec center was taken from me when I was maybe 11, 12 years old, which was a very pivotal time in my life," he said. "I had to also make a decision whether to go left or go right -- whether to hang with the people that were getting money or the nerds. I had to make that decision, and sports got me over the top. As a teenager, we go through a lot of changes with our bodies, with our mind, with our emotions, our spirituality. We have a hard time trying to figure out. So for me now, my main goal is to try to connect the dots between that, bringing that community feel back to where it used to be."
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