Posts Tagged ‘Charles Oakley’

Laying It On The Line: The Answers

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HANG TIME, Texas – On a recent hot summer day when Allen Iverson announced his retirement, what immediately came to mind was not one single spectacular shot that he made, but all of those fabulous, bone-jarring times he crashed to the floor.

And then got back up.

It wasn’t just his ability to lead the NBA scoring four times that made Iverson special. It was that warrior’s mentality, the trait that made him willing, against all odds, to out-scrap, out-hustle, out-compete everybody else on the court.

Through the history of the NBA, it’s usually been the big men — think Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Charles Oakley — who got the reputation for being strong and tough, but the truth is some of the fiercest players we’ve seen over the past 30 years have been guards.

In addition to Iverson, here’s another handful of the backcourt backbreakers we’ll call The Answers. They’re indomitable. They breathe fire. They don’t ever quit. They would chew off a leg to escape from a steel trap. They’re the ones you want playing in a single game with your life on the line:

Isiah Thomas It was never wise to be fooled by the cherubic face and angelic smile. The truth is that while Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn got most of the notoriety for their bruising style and often dirty tricks, Thomas was the real heart and cold-blooded soul of the Detroit “Bad Boys.” Part of what made him the best “little man” ever to play the game was an inner fire that never burned out. He competed ferociously and refused to ever show a sign of weakness. Hobbling on a badly sprained ankle in Game 6 against the Lakers in the 1988 Finals, he scored 25 points in the fourth quarter — a Finals record — and nearly pulled out a win that would have given the Pistons their first championship a year earlier. Then there was the night of Dec. 14, 1991 when on a drive down the lane in the first quarter in Salt Lake City, Thomas took an elbow to the face from Karl Malone that opened a huge gash over his left eye. After receiving 40 stitches, Thomas returned to play in the fourth quarter.

Michael Jordan Sure, he had the leaping ability, the defensive desire, the post game, clutch jumper and late-game instincts. But Jordan the All-Star would never have become Jordan the legend and icon without his roaring, brash nature, downright mean streak and readiness to do anything it took to pull out a win. He could barely control his competitive urges, whether it was challenging Bulls teammates in practice, occasionally punching one of them out, or rising up in a game situation to respond to any kind of challenge — real or imagined — that might have been tossed out. There was virtually nothing that could stop Jordan from leaving every ounce of himself in any game that he ever played. The so-called “Flu Game” in the 1997 Finals is frequently cited. He spent the night before Game 5 at Utah suffering from severe stomach distress and was a questionable starter. Dehydrated, struggling to breathe, he hit 13 of 27 shots for 38 points to lead the Bulls to a 90-88 win. Just as telling was a story from the training camp of the 1992 USA Dream Team in Monte Carlo. After beating Jordan in a golf match one afternoon, coach Chuck Daly was awakened very early the next morning by a banging on his hotel room door. When he opened the door, Daly found a grim-faced, primed-for-revenge Jordan standing there, dressed for the golf course. “Let’s go,” he said.

Kobe Bryant – You can call him a shameless gunner who never ever met a shot he didn’t like or wouldn’t take. Shaq did. You can call him a difficult and unpleasant teammate who would make a guy leave an extra contract year and $20 million on the table to walk away from the Lakers. Dwight Howard certainly did. But after 17 NBA seasons, you can’t call Bryant anything less than the most single-minded, driven competitor in the game today. He won’t just trash-talk opponents, but will ride his own teammates to get them to try to match his level of intensity. (They can’t.) He plays hurt, aching, sick, bruised, broken and he is usually still the best player and hardest worker on the floor. He played half of the 2007-08 season with a fractured finger on his shooting hand and still won the MVP Award and led the Lakers to The Finals. At 34 last season, he averaged the second-most minutes per game in the league last season — trailing only rookie Damian Lillard — until tearing an Achilles tendon on April 12. So then he just took to Twitter from his sickbed to critique his teammates. It’s supposed to take nine months to a year to come back from Achilles surgery, but Bryant plans to tear up the calendar.

John Stockton Another one of those with a choirboy face who might have kept a pair of brass knuckles under his robe. Trying to get him to change his expression was as fruitless as banging your head against a brick wall. His Jazz teammate, The Mailman, had all those big, bulging muscles. But Stockton was equally as strong in competing with the stubbornness and dependability of a mule. Durability is a mark of greatness and in 19 seasons Stockton missed only 22 of a possible 1526 games due to injury. He never drew attention to himself by dribbling behind his back or through his legs, mostly throwing bounce passes that led to layups that were mind-numbingly effective and oh-so-deadly. He was also widely known throughout the NBA for using his 6-foot-1 body — OK, and occasionally his elbows — to set picks on opposing big men. Stockton never went looking for trouble or fights and rarely was involved in trouble, but night in night out he had the strong jaws and voracious appetite of a pit bull.

Clyde Drexler Oh, how nicknames can be deceiving. Clyde the Glide practically slides across the tongue like ice cream on a hot summer day. But it’s a lot like calling the fat kid in the crowd “Slim” or the tall guy “Shorty.” Maybe it was the fact that from the time he was a star in on the University of Houston’s Phi Slama Jama team all the way through his 15-year NBA career in Portland and Houston, the TV screens were filled with images of him floating effortlessly to the basket. In reality, he was as sharp and cutting as razor wire. He went down onto the floor for loose balls and into the crowds of tall trees to come away with the toughest rebounds. He would slice through the narrowest opening to get to the hoop for a critical bucket. He would use arms, legs, elbows — any means possible — at the defensive end, all the while with a smile on his face that belied how much he wanted to destroy you. The defending champion Rockets were down 3-1 in the 1995 conference semifinals, facing elimination and when his teammates entered the locker room, Drexler was stretched out on a table connected to IV bottles. He had the flu and nobody thought he would play. But Drexler dragged himself out onto the court and, though he could not manage a single field goal in the game, played 32 hard and inspirational minutes to spark a Rockets win that started a comeback to their second straight title.

Shaqtin’ A Fool: Top Five Hard Fouls


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Shaq unveils a special edition of “Shaqtin’ A Foul” as he counts down the hardest fouls in NBA history.

#shaqtin

LeBron Must Keep Cruisin’ Past Bruisin’

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Whether it’s Friday night in Charlotte, Saturday at home against the Sixers or even Game 1 of the first round of the playoffs, LeBron James will be coming back to a different game than he left.

More rough, more tough, more down in the dirt, use-everything-but-the-kitchen sink.

Because it worked in Chicago. Because it’s the only thing that put James on the wrong end of a scoreboard since Feb. 1.

Because the rest of the NBA is desperate.

If it wasn’t already with his third MVP, the 2012 NBA title and an Olympic gold medal, the 27-game winning streak stamped this as LeBron’s time, an era of contentment, fulfillment and waltzing up and down basketball courts to music that only he can hear.

When it got to the level where Danny Ainge was taking shots at his toughness and Pat Riley was responding quite earthily, then the point had already been made. Opposing defenses might as well be shooting spitballs at a battleship.

The only other answer, of course, is to bring him down by any means, which was the path taken by Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson.

James’ response was predictable, a variation of “How Dare They?” that was really no different from the indignant reactions of Michael Jordan when he was soaring above the game.

The irony and hypocrisy is that it was none other than Riley as the Designer Don of the Knicks in the 1990s who built on the Detroit Bad Boys approach and did as much as anybody to have enforcers Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, Patrick Ewing and friends try to take a piece out of Jordan when they couldn’t stop him.

Everybody now will poke and prod and push and shove and flat out body slam James to throw off his shot or throw him out his comfort zone.

“We know what’s coming now,” said Miami teammate Shane Battier. “We know that’s Eastern Conference basketball, especially in the playoffs. Teams are going to try to make it a game without spacing, without pace and we’re going to try to do the opposite. We’re going to create a bunch of space and try to create tempo. That’s our strength.

“We know that every other team is going to view that Chicago game as some kind of blueprint maybe. That’s OK. We can play any style of basketball that’s required and I’m pretty sure LeBron can handle himself.”

In the end, that’s all that matters, how James handles himself. When opponents tried to body up Jordan, it only stiffened his own resolve. When anybody took him down to the floor with a bit of extra flourish, Jordan usually got back up and made them pay with a bit of extra mustard mixed with venom.

It is a different game now, one where it’s almost impossible to impede a player on the perimeter without setting off the kind of alarm sounds that accompany airport metal detectors. It’s why point guards have never thrived more at any time in the history of the league than today. The rules have been tweaked and rewritten to put less emphasis on brute strength and more on speed and skill.

The dilemma is that James, at 6-foot-8, 260, has the brute strength to overpower while giving up none of the speed and skill. Until somebody finds a way to put a muscle or two on Kevin Durant, LeBron is a cut above, in a class by himself.

Being so talented makes him singular and makes him a target and in the history of stars in any sport that does not make him special. The other guys don’t come to praise you, but to chop you down.

It’s a fact of life and complaining about a lack of whistles from referees or retaliating with a bull rush at Carlos Boozer will not stop it, only let them know that they’ve gotten under your skin.

Jordan channeled his anger into a raging fury that was belied by that photogenic smile that launched a thousand ad campaigns. Oh yes, we all wanted to be like Mike. But never ever forget that Mike, when provoked, could be a very bad man with a ball in his grip.

“We’re aware of what everybody’s game plan is against us,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “They want to prevent layups and dunks and highlight plays at all costs. That can mean hard fouls. We know that.”

Battier views from across the court and across the locker room and sees an awesome physical specimen and a supremely talented player who is finally at peace with who he is.

“I’m pretty sure,” he said, “that LeBron is ready for anything.”

He’ll have to be, since now the plan and the game is going to change.

Could 80s Flashback Fire Up Heat?

 

HANG TIME, Texas – So much for the notion that all of the energy and drama was sucked out of half the playoff bracket by the Heat’s 27-game win streak.

Suddenly the Eastern Conference is dripping with more subplots than a Russian novel with LeBron James complaining that the Bulls abused him, Taj Gibson cleverly telling the best player in the game that he’s too good to whine, Danny Ainge foolishly and typically wading into the middle of the war with his mouth and Pat Riley suggesting that Ainge should “shut the (expletive) up.”

Oh baby, the only way this could only get more delicious is with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Or maybe Kevin McHale taking down Kurt Rambis with a clothesline.

Just like that, we’re back in the 1980s with LA Gear, parachute pants and an urge to sing “Beat It.”

Is the manipulative genius of Riley at work here with LeBron? Has the blueprint for beating the Heat been put on display? Does anybody actually need to light a fire under an imposing team that just went nearly two full months without losing?

Do we really have to wait three more weeks for the playoffs to begin?

Miami vs. Chicago. Miami vs. Boston. And you thought Indiana was the Heat’s only minor roadblock to The Finals.

Don’t we really have to pull for the Celtics to tumble into the No. 8 seed and open up against the Heat in the first round?

Before the opening tip, Riley and Ainge could square off at center court for an MMA bout, complete with the octagon cage.

Hopefully, the winner of that first-round street fight would then face Chicago in a series presumably played with helmets and full body armor.

Look, we can’t really blame James for feeling that the Bulls used him as a tackling dummy on Wednesday night. After all, he’s been raised and cultivated and ascended to his seat on the throne in this 21st century era that has become so polite and contact-averse that any day now you can expect the NBA’s discipline czar Stu Jackson to rule from the league office that defenders must play with their pinkie fingers extended, as if they’re attending a tea party.

“Let me calculate my thoughts real fast before I say [what I want to say],” James said after the game. “I believe and I know that a lot of my fouls are not basketball plays. First of all, Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground. The last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not defensive and those are not basketball plays.”

Of course, those of us who were around in the 80s and 90s or have learned from the drawings on cave walls about the times when prehistoric figures named Oakleysaurus, Mahornasaurus and Laimbeer Rex guarded the paint with sharp elbows and pointed attitudes, know that those used to be routine basketball plays. As James is trying to climb the ladder of greatness to catch Michael Jordan, let him ask His Airness if he was ever given a bump or two at The Palace of Auburn Hills or Madison Square Garden.

All of the good will and gosh-almighty admiration for Miami and for James that was built up during the construction of the 27-game streak could go out the window if the Heat players start to believe they should be unchallenged physically and simply carried on the shoulders of tributes to a second consecutive NBA title.

“I think he’s too good of a player to do that,” Gibson zinged when asked about James’ complaints in a radio interview.

The big question is what in the world could ever have possessed Ainge to enter the fray. Then you remember that he was just being Ainge, agitator and instigator and never a finisher during his playing career.

“I think that it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating,” Ainge said.

And that’s when the real fun started.

“Danny Ainge needs to shut the #$!* up and manage his own team,” Riley said in a statement released through a Heat spokesman. “He was the biggest whiner going when he was playing and I know that because I coached against him.”

Give Riley credit. The guy who copyrighted the term “three-peat” back in 1987 could have another T-shirt selling bonanza on his hands with the blunt “STFU” combined with that fireball Heat logo.

It might not only have been the first official statement in known team sport history to include the home-run word, but also the artful, Machiavellian Riley’s way of delivering a just-as-short message to LeBron ahead of the 2014 opt-out clause in his contract: I’ll always have your back.

At first, Ainge backed off a bit.

“Pat Riley’s right,” he said. “I should manage my own team. I complained a lot to the officials. And I’m right, LeBron should be embarrassed about how he complains about the calls he gets.”

But just before Friday night’s game against the Hawks, he could not resist one more shot:

“I stand by what I said. That’s all. I don’t care about Pat Riley. He can say whatever he wants.

“I don’t want to mess up his Armani suits and all that hair goop. It would be way too expensive for me.”

Can’t we start the playoffs right now?

Knicks-Bulls Seems Like Old Times

 

HANG TIME, Texas — The only things missing were Charles Oakley and Patrick Ewing clubbing Michael Jordan like a baby seal as he drove through the lane, Charles Smith missing layups or maybe Jeff Van Gundy derisively referring to Phil Jackson as Big Chief Triangle.

It was just like old times when the Knicks and Bulls collided on Friday night at the Garden — tempers flaring, heads butting, technical fouls flying and, in the end, of course, Chicago winning.

Where else but the Big Apple would it be more appropriate to make snap judgments and leap to hasty conclusions? Especially since the New York media have spent the first third of the season once more pounding the drumbeat of hope — or fantasy — for the Knicks’ first championship since 1973.

This was the second time in two weeks that the feisty Derrick Rose-less Bulls had stuck the Knicks, who are more earthbound at 5-3 since that soaring flight over Miami on Dec. 6.

First, let’s go over the gory details of the Friday Night Fights from main man Marc Berman of the New York Post (that’s BOTP, if you’re a Twitter follower of our hilarious good buddy @FisolaNYDN):

In the worst Garden night of the season during which they fell behind by 25 points late in the third quarter, the Knicks fought the referees, fought the Bulls players, but didn’t fight hard enough to win. As the final buzzer sounded on a discouraging 110-106 loss, coach Mike Woodson, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler — all ejected — weren’t around to hear it.

The loss dropped the Knicks (19-7), percentage points behind Miami (17-6) for best record in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks, who also lost to Chicago two weeks ago, shot 33 percent in the first three quarters and trailed 83-61 and then blew their cool.

First, Anthony got ejected with 6:45 left for a hard slap on the ball held by Joakim Noah, picking up his second technical foul. Then Woodson followed Anthony to an early shower 1:30 later, earning his second technical for profanely berating the referees. Woodson, outcoached by Tom Thibodeau, appeared to mouth “terrible bleeping call,’’ then adding “bleep you.’’ as a kicker.

Bad move as all hell broke loose after that.

Fact is, despite all the talk about the Knicks’ excellent defense and chemistry and coaching and cohesion and Anthony, so much of their sizzling start has been based on their shooting the ball at a record-setting pace from behind the 3-point line. When Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Steve Novak, Anthony and virtually anyone in a NY uniform are connecting at a 40 percent clip while Tyson Chandler takes care of business on the inside, that’s a recipe for success.

However, the question has always been whether the Knicks could keep up that pace from downtown? In their last three games, the outside temperature has cooled with the Knicks shooting 28-for-86 (32.6) from long range, which has included a pair of losses this week to the Rockets and Bulls.

Is the answer as close as the Erie Bayhawks of NBA D-League, where Amar’e Stoudemire is putting the final touches on his rehab from knee surgery?

On one hand, Woodson says: “We’re going to post Amar’e some when he comes back. We will stick him down there and try to get him the ball, and let him work a little bit and see what happens.”

On the other are reports that the Knicks have tried to peddle the contract of the 30-year-old Stoudemire to every other team in the league unsuccessfully. The dilemma was spelled out wonderfully on Friday by Howard Beck of the New York Times:

In his prime, Stoudemire was the N.B.A.’s most lethal finisher in the pick-and-roll. But that role has been usurped, too, by Chandler, who is taller and longer, with a bigger bounce and healthier knees.

The obvious solution is to have Stoudemire anchor the second unit, running the pick-and-roll with Pablo Prigioni, while Novak, Smith and Rasheed Wallace spread the floor with their 3-point shooting.

But playing as a reserve means fewer minutes and a diminished profile. For all his public diplomacy, it seems doubtful Stoudemire would be content. On Thursday, he told reporters he was ready to “return back to dominance,” which hardly sounds like the words of a player ready to cede the spotlight.

Ask those who have worked with Stoudemire, and they eventually invoke the same word: prideful. Not selfish or egocentric, but simply prideful — a man who views himself in grand terms and spends every minute trying to live up to the image. At age 30, even after multiple knee operations and back problems, Stoudemire still views himself as an elite player.
Reintegrating Stoudemire — whether as a starter or a reserve — might be the greatest challenge the Knicks face this season. (His famously poor defense is also problematic.)

It is a cruel crossroads for Stoudemire, one he never could have foreseen. He surely deserves a better fate.

But considering the way the Knicks opened the season with a bang, stirred the passions in New York and raised the possibility of challenging Miami’s supremacy in the East, they do too. Old times against the Bulls weren’t such fond memories.

 

Nets Flying Beneath The Radar

 

HANG TIME, Texas -- Call it the luck of the Nets.

Just when it looks like they could really be building something, all everyone wants to talk about is their building, the futuristic and upscale Barclays Center.

And here in the early weeks of the 2012-13 NBA season, when a 5-2 start is enough to get Jay-Z’s toes tapping, New York and the rest of the league is dancing in amazement at the 6-0 start by the Knicks.

Yet for all that, maybe it’s quite understandable for the Nets to be uncelebrated, because theirs is a lineup that in a celebrity-driven league can go as undetected on the radar.

Deron Williams is a big-time name that belongs up on any marquee. But the trio of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries has the bland aura of a buttoned-down law firm.

What matters, of course, is winning and the appreciation will overtake the image if the Nets continue to do that. For now, what’s changed is that the relocation to Brooklyn and the new digs has given them a bit of swagger, as was noticed by even the always-swaggering Celtics in Thursday’s loss.

But as was noted by our old friend Filip Bondy in the New York Daily News, there is still plenty of work to be done, especially at the defensive end.

“They have a lot more confidence,” Kevin Garnett noticed, about these new Nets. “They also got a lot of calls tonight.”

It was good to hear an opponent gripe about officiating, rather than smirk at another feeble effort from the home team. And here’s another change from the Jersey era: most fans actually cheered for the Nets in Brooklyn, instead of for the Celtics.

“It was a fantastic environment to play in,” Lopez said. “It hasn’t been like that here in a long time.”

Not everything is perfect. Avery Johnson has yet to completely trust his team’s defense, understandably. He ordered his players to foul the Celtics in the final minute, sending them to the line, rather than let Paul Pierce launch a possible back-breaking three-pointer. Boston missed four foul shots in those waning seconds, rendering the Net coach an accurate soothsayer.

“It was one of the bigger games that we had,” Johnson said. “To win a close game like that without Gerald Wallace means a lot.”

The Nets are now 5-2, while reminding nobody of Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Charles Oakley or even Kenyon Martin. New Yorkers have always worshipped the fine art of stubborn resistance, from shot-blocking to sacrificing the body in the lane. We may have to make some new allowances for these Nets, who are doing things differently.

There will always be areas to improve and nits to pick. What would that matchup with Boston have looked like with Rajon Rondo in the Celtics’ lineup? How far to close that 30-point gap from their first run-in with the defending champion Heat?

It’s enough for now that the Nets are still upright in the Eastern Conference standings, ahead of both Miami and Boston.

Now a three-game road trip to Sacramento, the Lakers and Golden State might provide a few answers about what the Nets can be.

And who they are as well.

Chandler Recognized For His Impact





GREENBURGH, NY – The New York Knicks were the fifth-best defensive team this season. Yes, the Knicks!

This is a franchise that had ranked in the bottom 10 defensively each of the last seven years and hadn’t ranked higher than 15th since 2001. And somehow, with offense-only stars like Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks vaulted from 21st in defensive efficiency last season to fifth this season.

The biggest reason? Tyson Chandler.

That’s why Chandler, even though he ranked 19th in blocked shots per game, was voted the Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

“It’s simply because I’m able to get a lot out of my teammates and play a team game,” Chandler said. “I try not to gamble much and I try to do the right things defensively. And I’m just glad that it was recognized and hopefully, it takes us further as a team.”

After joking that he couldn’t have won the award with his teammates’ “poor defense,” Chandler seriously gave credit to his teammates for “buying in” defensively. And obviously, one man can’t defend five by himself. The Knicks do have other solid defenders like Iman Shumpert, Landry Fields and Jared Jeffries. Still, there’s no question that Chandler is largely responsible for the Knicks’ defensive improvement.

“He’s the perfect fit in terms of what I look for in a defensive center,” Knicks head coach Mike Woodson said.

And this isn’t the first time Chandler has made an impact on his new team. In fact, it’s the third straight year that he’s gone to a new team and helped them improve defensively.

The Chandler Effect, last three seasons

  Previous Season With Chandler
Season/Team DefRtg Rank DefRtg Rank
2009-10 Bobcats 103.4 7 100.2 1
2010-11 Mavericks 103.2 12 102.3 7
2011-12 Knicks 106.9 21 98.4 5

DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions

Chandler freely admitted that he wanted this award and used it as motivation as he worked out in the summer.

“I never set out for individual goals except for this one,” he said, “because I felt like if you’re Defensive Player of the Year, you’re changing something and you’re helping win ball games. So to win, I was speechless when coach told me.”

Interestingly, the last five DPOY awards have gone to big men — Chandler, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett — who entered the league straight from high school. And Chandler says his best lesson came his rookie year, from Bulls coach Bill Cartwright and teammate Charles Oakley.

“They would always tell me, ‘You can’t control offensively the type of night you have night in and night out,'” Chandler said. “‘Sometimes, the ball just doesn’t go in. But defensively, you control it. You never have to have a bad defensive night.’ And I kind of ran with that. So every night, I feel like that I can always have a great game, because I can always go out there and play D.”

So while Chandler is the first Knick to ever win the Defensive Player of the Year award, you can give credit to two former Knicks for planting the seed 10 years earlier.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

A reason to cheer again in NYC

Ten years is not only an eternity, it’s an annoyance in the City That Never Waits. Trains, cabs, Yankee championships … they all run on time. And then there’s a Knicks playoff victory, which goes counter to what New York is all about, which has the feel of an Eddy Curry full-court sprint.

It’s been a decade, for the most part, since Madison Square Garden had any reason to cheer in springtime. That’s another reason why New York deserves your sympathy, if the injury to Chauncey Billups and two blown games to the Celtics weren’t enough. The famous old building will throb with anticipation Friday night, hoping the Knicks have learned the hard way how to close out a playoff game by now, but mostly hoping 10 years of deflation is about to end, to be replaced by elation.

Carmelo Anthony, for his part, is ready to make his playoff debut on the MSG stage, as he tells our man Alan Hahn of Newsday:

Carmelo Anthony is ready for his close-up.

With the Knicks trying to avoid an 0-3 deficit in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics , and the possibility of playing with a limited Amar’e Stoudemire (back) and without Chauncey Billups (knee), Anthony will step onto the Madison Square Garden court for Friday night’s Game 3 with the desperation of a franchise on his shoulders and the focus directly on him.

“Without them two guys, I think me, personally, I have to step up and do it all to try and win,” the four-time All-Star said Thursday.

Anthony couldn’t have done much more — other than perhaps taking the last shot rather than passing to Jared Jeffries on that infamous final possession — to help the Knicks win Game 2 in Boston on Tuesday. His 42 points, 17 rebounds and six assists was an all-time performance, but it still resulted in a loss.

And though some criticized his decision to pass rather than shoot — after he was criticized for shooting rather than passing on the final possession of Game 1 — others chastised Anthony for how he seemed satisfied in defeat. He even used the word “fun” to describe the game. Gasp! Kobe Bryant never would have talked like that.

“I’m not Kobe , though,” Anthony replied with his ubiquitous Cheshire cat grin in place. “I ain’t Kobe , man.”

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