Carmelo Seems Ready For Beijing

Carmelo Anthony hopes to lead the U.S. to gold in Beijing.

Carmelo Anthony hopes to lead the U.S. to gold in Beijing.

Since Syracuse football has brought no joy to any fan of the Orange recently, I’ll add another post about a former Orange hoopster. Scoop Jackson of ESPN.com has an interesting interview with Carmelo Anthony. Melo speaks on the upcoming Beijing Olympics and the debacle that was the 2004 Olympic team (including Larry Brown leaving Anthony, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on the bench for most of the tournament). One point that struck me was something I’ve heard other people say before about Melo’s play during FIBA competition: that Melo seems more comfortable or better suited for the international game than the NBA. Here was his response:

    Personally, I try to play wherever they need me to play, and that over the years has been to my advantage. I can play down low. I can play up top, where I can play off the dribble or hit the outside shot.

Melo does have a great inside-outside game that fits in well in international play. He can utilize his size against smaller defenders or draw bigger defenders to the outside with the threat of his three point shooting. He also seems to play better with the more physical defense that characterizes international play.

Here was his response to the question if the international game is easier for him than the NBA:

    It’s easier from the standpoint that I don’t have to try to go out there and do too much, which I sometimes do. It’s easier for me to let the game just come to me. You know, knock a shot down when I’m open, and just getting open shots. Like I said, I’m out there with Bron, Kobe, Jason Kidd and all those other guys. At the end of the day, someone is supposed to be open.

Valid point. I would agree it is easier to play with the likes of LeBron, Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd than Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby. Not that those three are bad players, but the supporting cast for team USA is much greater. If it wasn’t, we could just send last year’s Nuggets (minus the likes of Nene, Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera) and a few other players to China.

Without a doubt Carmelo has been impressive during his men’s national team career. He lead the team in scoring leading up to the Athens games in 2004. He was the co-captain of the 2006 FIBA World Championship team and averaged 19.9 points per game. He improved even more during the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship. In nine games, he led the team in scoring with 21.2 points per game. Carmelo was the leading scorer in six of the nine games he played in. He finished one tenth of a rebound beind team leader Dwight Howard, averaging 5.2 per game. The biggest thing he brought to the table was his outside shooting. One of teams biggest weekends going into the Olympics is a lack of pure outside shooters. Michael Redd is the only legitamate outside shooter on the team. There are many players who can hit outside shots (LeBron made 62% in 2007, Kobe 45%) but Redd is on the team purely for his outside game (64 out of his 100 shots in 07 were threes). In 2007 Carmelo was second behind Redd in 3-pointers made (26) and second behind LeBron in 3-pt percentage (57.8%).

I know one of my favorite sports memories was watching the original Dream Team dominate in Barcelona in 1992. It was painful to watch the 2004 team get embarassed in Athens. The rest of the world has caught up to America on the basketball court. And while Coach K, Jerry Collangelo and our own Jim Boeheim have improved the state of USA Basketball, if the 2008 team is going to win gold Carmelo will have to continue his strong performace from previous international competitions. Team USA battles Canada (and current Orange sharpshooter Andy Rautins) on Friday.

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