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carmelo anthony

For Team USA, All Eyes Off Carmelo

Carmelo, off the bench.

In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, Carmelo Anthony was absolutely terrific in Team USA's 100–78 exhibition win over Spain, scoring 27 points on 10–of–15 shooting. Spain is supposedly the second-best team in the world, and the U.S. just blasted them, in large part because of Carmelo. It's the sort of game that Carmelo was talking about a few years ago when he said he actually preferred FIBA rules to NBA rules. If only the Knicks could play France more!

On one hand, the performance was a reminder of just how outstanding a scorer Carmelo can be, just what a talent the Knicks have. On the other: Well, it's a lot easier to just worry about blending in when your teammates are LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Carmelo doesn't have to be a leader on Team USA, so no wonder he likes it so much. On the Knicks, though ...

That's the idea, anyway. Take it away, Adrian Wojnarowski.

Perhaps Team USA will play a part in delivering Anthony back to training camp in shape, making him a standard on the Knicks. And maybe that gets the Knicks on the kind of post-Olympic run the Nuggets found for themselves with Anthony four years ago. There's so much New York needs out of him, but it's different here with Team USA. The U.S. needs 'Melo to play pop-a-shot and sometimes use his muscle playing the power forward and even center spots on defense. Nevertheless, the Americans don't need Anthony to be a leader, nor a complete talent. Sooner or later, the New York Knicks will need all that to advance in the playoffs. Beyond these Olympic Games, beyond the cleansing colors of red, white and blue, Carmelo Anthony will be made to answer for those flaws that keep chasing him deeper and deeper into his career.

Yeah, that all sounds pretty much right, if maybe a little harsh after a guy scores 27 points to help blow away the second-best team in the world. There's real truth in the idea that Team USA is an ideal place for Carmelo, if just because it's the exact opposite of the Knicks. Knicks fans expect him to be a LeBron-level superstar, but there's no need to do that on Team USA — LeBron's standing right there. Carmelo Anthony is one of the most talented basketball players on earth. Games like yesterday are gleeful reminders of that. The problem is that the Knicks need him to be more. The bigger problem is that Knicks fans, more than ever this coming year, expect it.

So, enjoy London, Carmelo. It's only gonna get tougher when you get back.

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Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images