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Friday, March 2, 2012
J.R. Smith believes Melo has 'evolved'

By Ian Begley

J.R. Smith played alongside Carmelo Anthony for 4½ seasons in Denver.

He has played with him for four games in New York.

In that small sample size, Smith says he has noticed a few differences in Anthony's game.

"I think as a player he’s definitely evolved his game. He has more of a defensive mindset. He's getting off the ball a lot better," Smith said on Friday. "He's not the same 'hold and let me work' [in isolation] player. He understands we have talent and we have a great team. As a player he definitely has evolved."

It's an interesting observation because Anthony has been asked to adapt to a Knicks offense led by Jeremy Lin that's predicated on ball movement and spacing. Anthony traditionally thrives in isolation.

In Anthony's four games with Lin as the starting point guard, he's averaging 16.8 points on 43 percent shooting. He is taking an average of 15.8 shots per game. For the year, Anthony is scoring 21 points on 40 percent shooting, taking an average of 18.3 shots per game.

Mike D'Antoni thinks Anthony is adjusting well to life with Lin and he believes that, at this point in his career, Anthony's chief concern is winning, not scoring.

"I think he's good. ... [For] everybody at this stage of their life, I would think winning is the No. 1 thing," D'Antoni said.

D'Antoni cautioned that he didn't want to speak for Anthony, but the Knicks' small forward wasn't available to reporters after Friday's practice.

Nevertheless, D'Antoni praised both Anthony and Amare Stoudemire for making adjustments since Lin has taken over and the Knicks' rotation has expanded.

"Amare is the same way [as Anthony]. Amare is doing everything to be positive and be a plus with the team," the coach said. "We've got great guys that are working hard and that's all we can ask for."

The Knicks went 6-1 last month with Lin running the show and Anthony sidelined with a groin injury. Many wondered how Anthony would fit into the Knicks' offense because of his tendency to operate in isolation.

Anthony, however, laughed off the notion that he couldn't co-exist with Lin. The Knicks are 2-2 since Anthony returned to the lineup.

D'Antoni has said that it will take time for both Anthony to adapt to Lin's game -- and vice versa. But he's optimistic about the future for his Knicks (18-18).

"There will be ups and downs ... [but] you weather the storm," he said. "Good times are coming so they know that."