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Carmelo Anthony, all grown up?

Nuggets' star says he has matured and he's being mentioned as an early MVP candidate.

November 18, 2009|By Broderick Turner

He eased into the Denver Nuggets' locker room dressed in a brown vest, brown pants, brown tie, brown boots, looking as if he had just left a board meeting.

A smile crossed his face as the assembled media gathered before him seeking something from Carmelo Anthony.

It was clear that this was a new Anthony, an evolving young man who still is making strides.

He won an Olympic gold medal in 2008 playing alongside Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, learning from them what it took to be a professional.

"I'm 25 years old," Anthony said. "People look at me like I'm on my way out of the game. I'm just getting started."

No longer is he the Anthony who was in a "Stop Snitching" video. No longer is he the Anthony who refused to leave a Nuggets game last season after Coach George Karl tried to substitute for him.

In Anthony's eyes he's still growing.

"For me, it took me a couple of years to figure that out, everything from top to bottom," Anthony said. "How you approach the game to your attitude, practice, the locker room, the shoot-around -- just everything. Not saying I haven't done it before, but it's more to it."

Now, Anthony is being mentioned as one of the NBA's best players and an MVP candidate.

Why not?

He's third in the NBA in scoring, averaging 29.7 points before Tuesday's game. He has had six games in which he scored 30-plus points in a game, two with 40-plus points. His defense has improved.

"I know how to play this game. That's something I've always known how to do," Anthony said. "So for people to start saying I'm turning that corner as far as playing basketball, that's something that I always knew how to do. It just so happens that I'm having a better year than I had last year or the year before last.

"It's good, though. It's good to be in them talks. It's fun."

Rookie drops double-nickel

Ah, the double-nickel, the phrase movie director Spike Lee made famous after Michael Jordan dropped 55 points on his beloved New York Knicks.

Now you can use that same phrase about Milwaukee Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings after he scored 55 points, including 29 in third quarter, against the Golden State Warriors last Saturday.

Talk about great company for Jennings. He broke Milwaukee's franchise rookie record held by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the 1969-70 season.

"Luckily, I hit the first two [shots], and it seemed like the rim kept getting bigger and bigger and I couldn't miss," Jennings told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel after he went 21 for 34 from the field, seven for eight from three-point range.

Right now, Jennings is the runaway leader for rookie of the year. He's averaging 25.5 points and handing out 5.5 assists and is making 47.8% of his shots, and an amazing 53.8% of his three-pointers.

He was drafted 10th overall by the Bucks in June. The Knicks, in desperate need of a point guard, passed on him at No. 8.

Jennings skipped college, opting to play a year in Europe for Lottomatica Roma in Italy after graduating from Oak Hill Academy (He spent his junior year at Dominguez High).

So far, it looks like Jennings is the real deal.

Hawks a threat?

The Atlanta Hawks are tied with the Phoenix Suns for the best record in the NBA at 9-2, with one of those losses coming to the Lakers.

Are the Hawks for real?

They are a young, high-flying, athletic team that seems to be coming into its own and they have won at Portland and Boston and defeated Denver at home.

The Hawks have been in the playoffs the last two years, reaching the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

They have an All-Star in Joe Johnson who is averaging 23 points a game, an improving, high-jumping Josh Smith and a sixth man in Jamal Crawford who was just acquired.

"I think we're maturing," Hawks assistant coach Larry Drew said in a phone interview.

The Hawks are doing this under some duress. Coach Mike Woodson is in the last year of his contract.

"We're all got one year left," Drew said. "But Woody has done a good of not letting it become a distraction. We're just coaching these kids and we'll let the business take care of itself."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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