Carmelo Anthony's offensive stat line for the U.S. Olympic basketball team's first game, against host nation China, could hardly be less impressive: 0 for 3 from the field and 3 out of 4 from the line, for a grand total of three points. Moreover, he helped provide one of China's rare highlights in America's 101-70 rout: At one point, he went up for a rebound near the basket only to have seven-footer Yi Jianlian sweep the ball from between his hands and pound it through the hoop.
Nevertheless, there were some reasons to feel positive about Anthony's performance. Specifically, he actually defended the ball on occasion.
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No, Melo didn't make a slew of steals, and while he came up with some rebounds, he was hardly the dominant player from that perspective. Yet he was very active, moving his feet and putting out something close to maximum effort when the man he was guarding had the ball -- and even sometimes when he didn't.
Stop the presses.
Anthony's efforts prove he can play decent D when he puts his mind to it. Apparently U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski has helped him understand that if he doesn't, he won't stay on the court, especially given the talent coming off the bench: Dwyane Wade, Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh and so on. That'll be a tougher sell coming from Nuggets head man George Karl. What's he supposed to threaten? That Chris "The Birdman" Andersen will take all Melo's minutes from now on? But for now, let's hope that some of Anthony's Olympic experiences carry over to the upcoming NBA season. Because if they don't, the Nuggets hopes for a second consecutive fifty-win season will go the way of that gold medal Anthony didn't win in the 2004 games. -- Michael Roberts