Melo's body and mind healed — and it shows

Carmelo Anthony takes aim against Boston at Garden Friday, with a healthy knee and fresh perspective.ANDREW GOMBERT/EPA

Carmelo Anthony takes aim against Boston at Garden Friday, with a healthy knee and fresh perspective.

The change in Carmelo Anthony isn’t only physical, but mental as well. Those closest to the Knicks’ All Star forward have noticed that Anthony has embraced his role as a leader while looking and sounding more optimistic than he has in more than two years.

“Carmelo is in a great place,” says one friend. “I think he’s going to have a big year.”

Anthony is the Knicks’ longest- tenured player as well as the club’s most accomplished. He’s also coming off two straight seasons without a playoff berth and understands that if he’s healthy and at the top of his game the Knicks could go from being a 17-win team to a playoff club.


Anthony has publicly acknowledged that the Knicks did not land a top-tier free agent over the summer but knows that team president Phil Jackson did upgrade the roster.

There have been several reports that if the Knicks were to struggle, Anthony may eventually seek a trade. (He has a no-trade clause and would have to approve of any deal.)

But Anthony is a long way off from trying to orchestrate a move out of New York. Instead, he has talked about leading by example and even said he wants coaches to challenge him more.

“I think it’s well documented that when quote-unquote best players and star players allow themselves to be held accountable, it makes it easier for everybody else to fall in line and accept the coaching and teaching that every player needs,” Derek Fisher said.

“I don’t think that’s any different from any other situation and it works the same for us. In terms of the difference in feedback, we came into last year and were very intent on making sure guys had everything they needed from us to try and help them be the best they can be on the floor. That intent hasn’t changed. We’re just trying to be as efficient as possible. Hopefully it will work for Carmelo as well as all of our guys.”

The Knicks improved to 4-0 in the preseason following Friday’s 101-95 win over the Boston Celtics at the Garden. Anthony had a poor shooting night, scoring eight points on 4-for-14 shooting in 23 minutes. He is mostly relying on jumpers and has been reluctant to drive. That could be a case of him not wanting to put too much strain on his knee too quickly. Anthony had surgery last February and appeared in just 40 games.

On Friday, Fisher finally had the opportunity to see what is expected to be the Knicks’ starting backcourt. Arron Afflalo started alongside Jose Calderon and scored eight points with five rebounds in eight minutes.

Afflalo, signed as a free agent, had been sidelined since the third day of training camp with a strained hamstring.

Another new addition, Kyle O’Quinn, had a strong outing with 13 points and 11 rebounds. O’Quinn has likely won the backup center job. Meanwhile, rookie Kristaps Porzingis missed his second straight game with a strained quad. He is expected to play on Saturday in Charlotte against the Hornets.

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