As ridiculous as it sounds when describing a nine-time All-Star and future Hall of Famer, Carmelo Anthony has a game that may be more suited to the Olympics than the NBA.
Even his college coach, Jim Boeheim, agrees with that opinion.
"He's probably even a little better international player," said Boeheim, a USA Basketball assistant coach.
Anthony averaged 13.9 points and 4.5 rebounds in 18.4 minutes while shooting 44.6 percent from the three-point line and 53.7 percent overall in 16 Olympics games in 2008 and 2012. Most memorably, he nailed 10-of-12 threes en route to scoring 37 points in just 14 minutes against Nigeria in 2012.
According to Boeheim, the international game plays to Anthony's strengths because it's more offensively oriented. There are fewer shot blockers around the basket, so Anthony can finish at the hoop. The three-point line is closer.
As a result, Anthony's name is etched in the Olympic record books. In U.S. Olympic history, he ranks No. 1 in three-pointers made (39), No. 4 in points scored (239), No. 4 for rebounds (83) and No. 4 in free throws made (40).
On the international level, Anthony, the 6-8, 230-pounder, represents the ultimate mismatch for opposing teams.
"He shoots like a 2-guard. He posts up like a 5-man," Venezuela coach Nestor Garcia said. "That's really hard for our players."
And unlike the situation during his NBA career with the Knicks and Nuggets, there is less pressure on him to carry his team.
"Anytime you go out there and play with the best guys in the world," Anthony said, "it's fun, you enjoy it and the game comes easy."
In his fourth Olympics in Rio, Anthony is aiming to become the first men's basketball player to win three gold medals.
"This is something I look at as a legacy thing," he said. "To go have a chance to win three gold medals and play in four Olympics, just to represent the country, I feel good doing that."
But his joining the 2016 team was not a given, especially after his close friends from the past two Olympic games -- Chris Paul, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- did not participate.
Anthony spoke with the Syracuse coach while mulling the decision. After Anthony's Knicks missed the playoffs the past three years while winning only 86 cumulative games, they came to the conclusion that returning to a high-level, winning environment would be good for him.
"I thought at the time it would be a great experience for him to come back basketball-wise," Boeheim said, "because the last couple of years haven't been very good."
His international experience has been rewarding, and it's appropriate that Anthony could become the men's player with the most gold medals.
When Jerry Colangelo became the managing director of the newly organized USA Basketball men's senior national team program, Anthony was the first member of the so-called "Redeem Team" to commit to play.
"And he's the last man standing," Colangelo said. "For him to be in a position to win another gold medal is a great story in itself."
Coach Mike Krzyzewski praised Anthony as the team's vocal leader. Older than Kyle Lowry by two years, the 32-year-old Anthony is one of only two players on the team in their 30s.
"He's getting all the old jokes," said Team USA center DeMarcus Cousins, who will turn 26 on Aug. 13. "He's been a great leader for us. He's obviously the most experienced guy here, so we're going to follow his lead."
During practice Anthony stood at the elbow of the court and drained shot after shot. As his teammates missed, Anthony chided them: "Don't blame it on the rim."
"He's a scorer. That's what he does," Boeheim said. "If you get him in a position where he gets the ball in open spaces, he's gonna make shots."
Anthony may have more room to operate on the NBA level this coming season as well. In hopes of taking the burden off him, the Knicks, who have a rising star in second-year player Kristaps Porzingis, traded for Bulls point guard Derrick Rose and signed Bulls big man Joakim Noah. Knicks president Phil Jackson said those moves will reinvigorate Anthony.
He already has had a socially active offseason, supporting Freddie Gray marches in Baltimore, where he grew up, making a passionate post on Instagram and advocating for an end to violence during an appearance on the ESPYs.
"I'm gonna continue speaking out about it," Anthony said. "I'm comfortable with it."
Anthony occupies a similar role on Team USA where coaches and staff have repeatedly praised how he has helped his younger teammates and how well they respond to him.
"We're happy to have his leadership," Colangelo said. "We're happy to have his scoring ability. He's very successful in international play … He'll be one of the key factors for us in attempting to win the gold medal."
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