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Porzingis: Carmelo Anthony is 'doing everything'

NEW YORK -- Carmelo Anthony had a productive, efficient night against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday: 27 points on 12-for-20 shooting with 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

Anyone looking at the box score of New York's 107-91 victory can tell you that.

But coach Derek Fisher noticed something about Anthony on Saturday that can't be gleaned from numbers.

“You see him comfortable with his teammates,” Fisher said.

This may seem like a simple principle, but for Anthony and the New York Knicks, it’s everything.

New York has been searching for the right mix of players to complement Anthony for the past four seasons.

Things were never quite right with Amar'e Stoudemire. They worked well for one fleeting season with Jason Kidd in the mix. But, mostly, the Knicks have been maddeningly inconsistent during Anthony’s tenure.

This summer, after the worst season in franchise history, Phil Jackson overhauled the team via the draft and free agency. The front office couldn’t convince any of the top free agents to come to New York. But the club pivoted nicely by landing a strong stable of role players.

So far, the results have been promising. The Knicks improved to 14-14 with Saturday’s win over Chicago. They won their 14th game last season on March 17.

One difference between last season and this one seems to be Anthony’s trust in his teammates. Some suggested over the summer that Anthony was unhappy with the Knicks’ free-agent acquisitions. Anthony denied that.

He said on Saturday that he decided to fully trust in this group immediately.

“I was going to [either] trust them or not; there wasn’t no in between with that,” Anthony said. “I decided to go full throttle with trusting this group of guys.”

The trust could be one factor behind Anthony’s improved assist numbers this season.

His assist rate this season (5.2) is the second highest of his career, per basketball-reference.com. He’s also creating 8.1 points per game from his assists, which is ninth among forwards who play at least 25 minutes per game, per NBA.com.

“He’s being a real leader,” says Kristaps Porzingis, who adds that Anthony has been a “mentor” for him since they first met. “He’s sharing the ball, he’s scoring -- he’s doing everything for the team.”

This isn’t to say that everything about Anthony’s approach on offense has changed. He still has the NBA’s second-highest isolation rate behind James Harden. And he’s shooting a career-low 41.6 percent from the field.

But the Knicks' offense seems to have a better balance this season. Anthony’s usage rate (30.4) is sixth-highest in the NBA but at its lowest level since he arrived in New York. He’s also attempting nearly two fewer field goals per game than his career average.

Fisher chalks some of this up to the cast of players surrounding Anthony.

“Great players always appreciate and enjoy having guys on the floor that can make plays,” Fisher said. “... Guys like him believe that they can carry the whole thing, so the more guys you add that can take some pressure off, I think the better off we are.”

Anthony would probably agree with that statement. He's quickly grown to appreciate new teammates such as Arron Afflalo, Porzingis, Derrick Williams and Robin Lopez.

“Personality-wise, from a basketball standpoint, this is a good group of guys," Anthony says. "It’s easy for me to trust them.”

Things can always change quickly with this club. But, right now, that trust seems to have the Knicks heading in the right direction.