Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — LeBron James may have sewn up the MVP award with his play over the last five games, but Carmelo Anthony isn’t quite ready to concede it just yet.
“It’s early,” Anthony said after practice Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden.
“It’s All-Star break right now. I mean, he’s definitely playing like a Most Valuable Player so we’ll see what happens when it comes to that.”
James, the reigning NBA MVP, has taken his play to a new level recently, and the perception is that he’s making his teammates better in the process.
In his last five games, he’s converted 64-of-94 attempts (.681 ) while leading the Heat to a 5-1 record.
During that stretch, James went 13-of-14 for 31 points in a win over Charlotte Feb. 4 and 9-of-11 for 30 points in a victory over the Clippers Feb. 8.
For the season, he’s averaging 27 points, 6.9 assists, 8.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals.
“That’s crazy,” Anthony said. “What he’s doing right now is unbelievable. He’s scored 30-something points on 11 shots and 10-for-12 and things like that. I mean, he’s on an incredible run right now. I’ve never nothing like it.”
Anthony concedes that he watches LeBron and Kevin Durant, his other fellow Olympic teammate, when he can.
“I watch games,” Anthony. “I don’t really watch too much TV, but when my friends is playing I want to see what they’re doing, I want to see what the games is about.”
Anthony said he watched some of the game Sunday in which James went for 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting in a 107-97 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, his fifth straight game with 30-plus points on at least 60 percent shooting.
For his part, Anthony is averaging 29 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists despite ankle, knee and hand injuries that caused him to miss six games in the first half of the season.
“I know I’ve been playing all year,” he said. “I feel good, though. My body feels good for the most part. The good thing is in I came in in shape, so that’s helping me right now.”
Knicks fans chant “MVP” for Anthony whenever he has big moments at the Garden, but Anthony doesn’t necessarily appear to make his teammates better the way James does.
During the last five games, Anthony has made 58-of-126 attempts (.460) as the Knicks have gone 4-2. He dropped 42 points in Sunday’s loss to the Clippers.
Still, he doesn’t feel he’s had to carry too much of the load offensively.
“No, I don’t feel that,” he said. “It depends on the game. Some nights we all have it as a team, some nights we don’t. You gotta deal with it according to the game.”
Too often recently the offense has become sluggish and tends to revolve around isolation plays for Anthony, as opposed to the ball movement that led to an 18-5 start to the season.
J.R. Smith, for one, agreed that the Knicks need to get back to the ball movement that helped them win so often early in the season.
“I definitely agree with it,” Smith said. “I mean, whenever we move the ball, I think that’s when we’re at our best. If you give defenses a chance to set in, anybody can just hit the double- or triple-teams or isos and stuff like that, so when we use all our options out there it’s tougher for other teams to guard us.”
He added: “It’s really contagious once you start moving the ball, so I mean it starts off with the first unit and then it trickles down to the second unit. So you gotta start the game off like that.”
Anthony said ball movement wasn’t necessarily the answer to a better offense.
“When we win games, everybody’s involved in the game,” Anthony said. “Some games where we don’t make shots. Some games we do swing the ball and the ball movement is great and we still don’t make shots. I don’t think we want to start harping on the ball movement and things like that.”
Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Tyson Chandler will play Wednesday despite having a partial practice Tuesday with a sore left ankle. “He’ll play,” Woodson said…Woodson had initially set a goal of going 9-2 in the 11 games before the break, and has now scaled that back to 8-3 with a win Wednesday. “I’ll still take that, we’re still at the top of our division where we want to be,” Woodson said. “And we’ll have three or four days to get away from the game and re-think about what we gotta get done when we come back.”…Four Knicks will represent the franchise this weekend at the All-Star festivities in Houston: Anthony and Chandler will play for the East, James White is in the Dunk Contest and Steve Novak is in the Three-Point Contest.
“That’s big,” Anthony said. “Anytime you can have three, four guys representing your team for a weekend like that, that’s always big for the team, for the morale of the players, for the city.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.