By John Schmeelk
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I’m honestly torn as to how to look at the Knicks’ recent turnaround. On the more obvious hand it’s encouraging, but on the other it says something about this group that isn’t very flattering. If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now: this team quit on Mike D’Antoni. Is it a death knell for this group of players? No, but it is certainly a sign of their character.

Carmelo Anthony is the ring leader of the group, and his effort and dedication have certainly been at a different level since Mike Woodson took over. Just look at how he was quoted in today’s New York Post:

Anthony said over the last three games, his focus “was to have an energy that I haven’t had so far this season.”

“Especially on the defensive end,” Anthony said. “Everybody on this team knows, everybody in the world knows I can score the basketball. It’s not that important to me. As far as on the defensive end, just showing my teammates that the effort is there, giving that extra effort. And as a result, everybody’s been feeding off of that.”

This is the team’s superstar, its apparent leader, admitting that he dogged it under the old coach. When I wrote this last night I was willing to give Anthony the benefit of the doubt and say his lack of 100% effort was subconscious. This quote indicates that he knew quite well that he wasn’t playing as hard as he could for D’Antoni. Seriously? A team trades away its entire young nucleus for you, pays you a ridiculous amount of money and then you decide not to play hard? This quote should be back-page material. It’s ludicrous. If I’m James Dolan and I read this, I call up my star player and rip him a new one. I do the same if I’m Woodson, who if the stories are correct, has been all over Anthony in meetings. How do you think Tyson Chandler feels about his “superstar teammate” not trying while he plays with an injured left wrist?

Real leaders and real stars don’t constantly need a coach all over them to play hard. They don’t need someone constantly exhorting them to play as hard as they can just to get maximum effort. Anthony does, apparently, and it speaks volumes as to the type of player he is. The other implication is that the way he played under D’Antoni was tantamount to sabotage. He purposely didn’t play hard for the Knicks and Knicks fans, just because he didn’t like his coach’s strategy or style. He was willing to sacrifice victories just so he could be lazy. He didn’t care enough about winning. This is scary stuff.

Can anyone ever imagine someone like Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley or Steve Nash needing someone to light a fire under them? Ewing had his flaws, but he never once could someone accuse him of not leaving it all on the floor. Apparently, Anthony has been doing that all season by his own admission. This is about as criminal an action that an athlete can commit on the basketball court. He didn’t care enough to play hard on defense. It’s a joke. Every Knicks fan should be furious.

Of course, it’s possible that Anthony has finally had a revelation. Maybe this whole series of events, including getting booed on his own floor, has awakened something in him. Perhaps he finally understands what it takes to be a champion. Or maybe after a few games he will return to the same guy we saw the first three months of this season: someone who apparently doesn’t care enough to give paying fans their money’s worth and try on defense. We’ll know soon enough.

You can follow me on Twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports at:!/Schmeelk

Do you agree that Carmelo’s admission is infuriating? Is it getting tougher for you to root for him? Sound off in the comments section…

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