As part of his whirlwind promotional tour in New York for his new Jordan Brand shoe, Carmelo Anthony was kind enough to stop by SI.com’s office on Wednesday to talk lockout, defense, the Denver Nuggets and why I’m a moron.
SI.com: Did you know the league proposed something called — or at least nicknamed — the “Melo rule”?
Anthony: Yeah, I knew that. I don’t really know the particulars of it, but there was something out there. I saw it on Twitter. I don’t really understand it.
SI.com: It wouldn’t have applied to you, ironically.
Anthony: Yeah, I heard that, too.
SI.com: It was meant to make it harder for teams to trade for guys in the final year of their contracts, as was the case with you last season leaving Denver. I’ve always wanted to ask you: Was your move to push for a trade more about Denver or New York? Would you have done the same thing if you were on any number of 25 different teams?
Anthony: I think for me, it didn’t really have to do with me wanting to come to New York. Of course, New York was my No. 1 option if I was going to leave Denver, but it was more the direction of the organization in Denver. There were a lot of guys with contracts coming up at the same time. I didn’t know if they would be willing to sign those guys back. I just wasn’t sure about the direction of the Denver Nuggets at the time, especially with the lockout coming up and all those guys’ contracts coming up.
SI.com: Speaking of the lockout, you and Amar’e Stoudemire have both mentioned the possibility of the players joining up and forming their own league. Agents talk a lot about that, too, and they talk about it seriously. Some people dismiss it as basically a joke.
Anthony: It’s possible. It’s very possible, with all the relationships and connections players and agents have.
SI.com: The believers always bring up Nike in discussing a new league, since Nike isn’t an official league sponsor and Adidas is. You’re a Nike guy and you’re here promoting a Nike shoe (the Melo M8) – have you ever talked to Nike officials about them getting behind a league like this?
Anthony: At the end of the day, with all the guys Nike and the Jordan Brand have, they are very powerful. If we was to come to them and ask them, we’re pretty sure they’d be into it.
SI.com: You know that Nuggets coach George Karl called you out about your commitment to defense.
Anthony: Once I left.
SI.com: Yeah. But he’s not the only one. Other people have questioned whether you have really bought in on defense. Is that fair?
Anthony: I was in Denver playing for George Karl for six-and-a-half years, and anything he asked of me, I did. If it was “go out and average two more rebounds per game,” I did it. It was “play harder on defense,” I did it. If it was “go out and score 40 points,” I did it. For him to come back after I left and say something like that, considering how sensitive everything was at the time, it was very strategic.
SI.com: But do you think the criticisms of your defense have merit? Is there one thing on that end you worked to improve on in the offseason?
Anthony: Look, defense is about energy and focus at the end of the day. I can’t see any team or any coach just coming out and saying, “Oh, we’re just gonna come out and run every play at Melo.” I never saw that before. I think [Karl] was being strategic in what he did and what he said. In Denver, we weren’t always known for being a defensive team, but that’s because we were running up and down the court. Like I said, I take it for what it’s worth. I store it in the back of my mind.
SI.com: What about the Knicks? As a team, what do you guys have to do better to improve defensively?
Anthony: As a team, we’re on our way. You gotta remember, you’re talking about a group of guys who never played a day with each other and were used to a system that they had already — and that actually was working a little bit for them. And then you get four or five guys who were key components on that team, and they leave and they only get two guys in return — it’s a totally different situation for the guys who came in and the guys who stayed.
SI.com: Do you expect any sort of differences in the scheme of how you guys defend the pick-and-roll, or anything like that?
Anthony: I’m sure coach [Mike] D’Antoni and the front office are hearing the same stuff I’ve been hearing [about the Knicks' defense], and I’m pretty sure they are getting tired of hearing it, and they want to fix that.
SI.com: You’ve played power forward now and then when your teams have needed you to do so. Is that something that can work for 10 minutes a game in New York — you at power forward and Amar’e at center?
Anthony: It doesn’t matter where you put me on the court. But if I had it my way, I’d never be a big or play power forward [laughing]. But wherever they need me to be, that’s where I’ll go.
SI.com: It’s just a totally different game, banging down there?
Anthony: It’s different. It’s more about my body. It’s more tiring.
SI.com: Speaking of which, Jeff Van Gundy was quoted in a story forThe New York Times saying he’d support something like a 70-game season, provided teams play those 70 games over the same amount of time in which you play 82 now. Does that make a difference, that extra bit of rest here and there?
Anthony: You’re talking to a guy coming up on my ninth season. Eighty-two games is a lot of games, to be honest. You play back-to-backs, three games in four nights, 12-day road trips. You have to be in shape, you have to be conditioned. You almost have to be like a machine to deal with that, to play and pull in and out of hotels.
SI.com: So that extra day of rest now and then matters that much, huh? I’m not sure the average fan really understands that.
Anthony: The average fan is not gonna understand anything about the lockout, to be honest with you. The only information they hear or see is information [the league] wants people to hear. Fans are never going to fully understand what is really going on.
SI.com: That must be frustrating.
Anthony: It’s frustrating. As players, I don’t know why, but we can’t really voice our opinion or where we stand due to some other reasons. So all the fans hear or read is information that is being put out there by the other side, by David Stern or whoever.
SI.com: You shot a crazy percentage from three-point range when you got to the Knicks — something like 43 or 45 percent. Steve Nash kind of stuff. Do you want to keep taking five or six threes a game?
Anthony: If you’re open, you gotta shoot. So if you’re open from three six times, why not?
SI.com: That’s the D’Antoni system, right? It must be fun, though you guys had a pretty fun system in Denver, too.
Anthony: I love the style we played in Denver. The style we played, the team that we had — I loved it. It’s kind of a similar situation here.
SI.com: Let me put myself on the line. This summer, I ranked the top 100 players in the NBA, and I ranked you 20th. I got piles and piles of hate mail from fans.
Anthony: You can’t do that. You can’t do ratings like that. I don’t see 20 guys better than me.
SI.com: Yeah, people thought I was crazy.
Anthony: Me too.
SI.com: But 20th in the NBA is still pretty damn good!
Anthony: That’s terrible [laughing]. For me.
SI.com: I think if the defense comes together in New York, and you’re part of that, that ranking could change.
Anthony: If the defense comes together or not, there’s still not 20 guys better than me.
SI.com: I ranked Kevin Garnett above you — his defense is just too good to overlook.
Anthony: So if I would’ve gone to Boston, on a defensive-minded team, then what would you have said? That I’m a top-five player? It’s a lose-lose situation for me. But you’re entitled to your opinion. Everyone makes mistakes.