We all know what Carmelo Anthony's presence means on the court for the Knicks. Whenever he's attacking or attracting double teams, it's like the holiday season every night for his teammates who are the recipients of open looks -- the best present you can ask for as an NBA player. This season, they're being rewarded even more easy looks because, as Nets coach Avery Johnson put it on Wednesday, Melo is "on another planet right now."
That raised this intrigue: Has anything changed in his personality that's led to his higher level of play? Any new ways he's been helping the guys behind the scenes prepare for game time? As it turns out, Melo has, in fact, adjusted his basketball approach and demeanor this season. ESPNNewYork.com spoke to several members of the Knicks, who each provided their unique off-the-court perspectives on this season's early MVP favorite, starting with the head coach:
Mike Woodson: "He's the ultimate pro. You hear all kinds of stories before you coach a kid, but he's been everything and more for me in terms of me being able to coach him, being able to challenge him, and he's responded. He's made guys around him better. I thought last year our team really grew based on Melo and how he stepped it up after we had all the injuries. When Amar'e went out, which was a blow to our ball club, Melo rallied the troops I thought, and everybody responded until Amar'e was able to get back. That, to me, is a sign of a leader."
Tyson Chandler: "He's a lot more focused. I think last year was disappointing for him, as it was for the rest of the team. He came back, had a great Olympics, was one of the best players there -- if not, the best -- and it's huge for him."
J.R. Smith: "He's been more vocal than he's been in the past years. I don't think he's as shy as he's been in previous years to come out and say something, speak his mind. I think he has a group that he believes in and will listen to him as well, so it helps. Every day is fun for us. I mean, every day brings something new, every day we're laughing and joking, so every day is like a treasured moment for us, especially when we're winning, too."
Ronnie Brewer: "He's been great. The game looks so easy for him to have the big scoring nights that he has. It's been a positive note for me that he's still in my corner, still backing me. He just tells me to play with a lot of confidence. Everybody knows what I can do on defense, to be solid on defense, but he wants me to be a threat on offense and continue to shoot the ball, and shoot it with confidence, so that's what I'm trying to do."
Pablo Prigioni: "In this time I'm part of the team, I saw him quiet, playing great, but not all the time wanting the ball or playing for himself. I see him like trusting the team and his teammates, and I see him playing heartfelt, doing everything for the team on offense, but also on defense. I think it's the best season of Melo in the NBA. He's playing excellent and saw him really focused."
Chris Copeland: "When I was at Colorado, I would always be at the Pepsi Center, so I'm pretty familiar with him. We used to work out. He's a great dude. He's just super cool, like if you ever need anything from him, you can always ask about advice to help with stuff. That's one of the things that I think people recognize about him anyway, but that's something that needs to be said. He's a great character guy. All the guys help me for one, but like specifics for him, if he sees me doing a move that can be done better, for example, or different places on the floor I need to know, or when to attack, he's a great player. He sees the game at a very high level. I grab as much as I can from him, anything from footwork to places on the floor. I pay attention to him, for sure, and try to learn. Whatever he tells me, I try to put in my memory bank and use it."
James White: "The thing about Melo is, out of the superstars -- he's one of the top-five guys in the league -- he's a very down-to-earth guy, he helps everybody else. You hear stories about other superstars that aren't accessible to their teammates, they don't hang out with their teammates, talk to their teammates, but he treats everybody the same. He doesn't try to act above anybody else. That's the biggest thing to me. I mean, I've known him since he was in high school when he was a skinny kid from Baltimore. I'm from D.C. He's just the same guy. I'm like two years older than him, so growing up I was like the guy, and he was the next guy. Just watching him play and develop into the guy he is now, it's amazing."
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