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Anthony matures into a leader

Calling him 'the most important player we had last year,' Krzyzewski extols the ability of a small forward who has taken his hits in the past.

August 17, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Nearly 30 minutes after Team USA's second training camp practice ended Wednesday afternoon, Carmelo Anthony needed a table to get his legs treated with ice, but none were open.

So Anthony took advantage of his role as one of the team leaders and asked a teammate to move his interview group so he could lie down. And guess what? Kobe Bryant did just that, which speaks volumes about the respect Anthony has among his peers.

"No matter what situation he's in, Carmelo has shown that he can get it done," Team USA forward Tyson Chandler said. "From the college to the pros and now international levels, he's always played with that level of confidence. Carmelo never allows the game to get him out of his rhythm. He's always able to play at his own pace."

In recent years, the reputations of some NBA players took a hit when they struggled against international competition. But not that of Anthony, who has excelled on the world stage since he played for the USA junior team in 2002 when he was 18.

"Arguably, Carmelo was the most important player we had last year," Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski said about Anthony, named USA Basketball's male athlete of the year in 2006 for leading the USA to an 8-1 record and bronze medal at the FIBA World Championships.

"I love Carmelo; he and I've become real close," Krzyzewski said.. "Carmelo is a winner, and he's a heck of a competitor. He plays with courage on both ends of the court. I'd like him on my team any time."

Since leading Syracuse to an NCAA championship as a freshman, Anthony hasn't always been looked upon positively.

"It's odd because he's had this one little thing here and this thing there; people don't realize what a great kid he is," said Anthony's Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, a Team USA assistant.

Anthony, who spent much of the off-season working with his foundation -- which is involved in programs in Denver and his hometown of Baltimore -- recently donated $3 million to the Syracuse athletic department.

After two days of practice with Jason Kidd, LeBron James and Bryant, Anthony could not hide his excitement about the FIBA Americas Championship, which begins Wednesday.

"Each game is going to be different . . . and we know that everyone gets up to play Team USA," Anthony said.

"But on the team we have now, we have three out of the top five scorers in our league on one team. Each person doesn't have to score 30 points. That's something we have to do on our teams where we have to score 25 to 30 points in order to be successful. I can score 10, LeBron can score five and Kobe 12 and we can still win the basketball game.

"That's fun."

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lonnie.white@latimes.com

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