The Knicks have six new players on the roster, but luckily for them, they have two holdovers who’ve come back to camp with a renewed focus thanks to the time they spent at the London Olympics.
Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler used their summer experiences to the max, as they not only helped Team USA win the gold, but they also forged a personal bond.
“Me and Carmelo became a lot closer and had a better understanding of each other, our personalities and what we wanted to accomplish in our careers,” Chandler said. “The whole time we were out there, even though we were out there trying to accomplish our goals for the Olympics, we were also out there to work on ourselves and talk about what we wanted to accomplish with the New York Knicks.”
Head coach Mike Woodson noted neither will play big minutes in the team’s opening exhibition game tomorrow at Washington, but the real value has been put forth on the practice floor.
Both Anthony and Chandler are in supreme condition and it’s rubbed off on the team. Woodson said he’s noticed the difference.
“It is a bonus [playing in the Olympics] because when you spend the whole summer competing at a high level for something of that magnitude like winning a gold medal, it is important,” Woodson said. “It’s a bonus for any coach to have two players who played throughout the summer and have come back pumped up and ready to go. It’s been nice to see.”
Chandler said it was nice to see Anthony in a different light. Despite being teammates last year for the first time, it also came during the truncated lockout season, which means no teams, especially the ones assembled or changed on the fly as the Knicks were last season, were fully allowed to get to know one another.
“Anytime we had the chance to talk and get in the weight room we did everything together,” Chandler said. “It made us stronger, and our bond stronger, and now we have to bring back the same leadership qualities back to our team.”
Chandler thinks he and Melo are poised to have even better seasons than in years past, simply because their level of competition blew away anyone else’s summer experience.
“Guys played pickups and things like that in the offseason but we’re playing against the best players in the world in practice everyday,” Chandler said. “And everybody sees the shape Melo is in, his timing, and he’s already playing basketball at an unbelievable level. Same with me. I’ve also gotten my body stronger.”
Anthony has always been known as one of the stronger players at position, but the real questions were always about leadership skills and conditioning.
But since the Knicks officially opened camp, Anthony has looked and sounded like a guy who possesses a quiet confidence about himself and the Knicks. He said even though there are a ton of veterans on the roster, he’s been happy to share what little tidbits he picked up from Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He hopes all he’s learned will translate into bigger and better things for the Knicks.
“Just from a games standpoint, [and] already having that experience this summer carries over here into training camp,” Anthony said. “It [knowledge] has carried over into our strategies, and our schemes, everything. … To incorporate that with my own team it makes things a lot more easier.”
Woodson tried to deflect the added pressure that may accompany Chandler and Anthony, but he had to acknowledge the different level of swagger the two have.
“Anytime you play against the best players in the world they’re going to force you to compete, and that’s everyday in practice, or every time you step out there to play a game. I think you also learn things about yourself,” said Woodson. “And I think Melo was fantastic in the Olympics and did a lot of wonderful things in helping to bring home the gold. It’s been a nice carryover since he came into camp. He’s committed — but I always thought he was committed. He’ll need to be committed even more if we’re talking about trying to take this team to the next level. … But that should be everybody. It’s just not on Carmelo Anthony.”
»Rasheed Wallace worked out on Tuesday, though only in the walk-throughs. He’s yet to be cleared to fully compete. Woodson said Wallace is “still in conditioning mode and is listed as day-to-day.”
»James White didn’t practice due to a nagging right hamstring injury.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.