NEW YORK -- George Karl sees a championship in Carmelo Anthony's future.
Provided that the small forward embraces team basketball and not just gaudy statistics.
"I've said I feel Melo's going to win a championship some day," Karl said before the Nuggets faced the Knicks Sunday. "He's going to figure out that scoreboard and numbers and stat sheets aren't important, it's what the team scoreboard and the intangibles in the end that make winners champions. "
Karl coached Anthony from 2004-2010, with the duo enjoying regular season success but coming up short in the playoffs. Anthony posted great individual statistics, averaging at least 20 points each season he played in Denver, but they only advanced out of the first round of the playoffs once. And Karl has been critical of Anthony in the past about his commitment.
While Karl's words seem like a dig at Anthony, the coach explained that players chasing individual statistics in the NBA is the norm, not the exception. He talked about how a player like Miami's Ray Allen, who he coached in Milwaukee, plays a different style of defense than he played in his younger day.
"I can say that about everybody except maybe Chauncey Billups and Nate McMillan in my career," Karl said. "I can say that about Gary Payton, Sean Kemp, and a lot of great guys that I had the fortune of coaching. "
As Melo has played MVP-like basketball this year, it appears the All-Star is playing with a defensive zest he did not show earlier in his career. Karl isn't surprised that Anthony would be focused on holding up his end on that side of the court.
"He's always done it," Karl said. "He's always had the skills to do it. It's the commitment and consistency of doing it and putting it in every game."
It's been almost two years since the trade happened to send Anthony to Denver, and it's been debated which team got the better of the deal. It seemed the Nuggets did better early on, but as the Knicks have played like one of the top teams in the NBA this year, the scale may be tilting. Karl called the deal a "win-win."
"I think as an organization we felt that Melo didn't want to be there and we had to come out with the best possible solution and I think we've changed our face and not lose. How many people can change almost their complete roster and don't go down?" Karl said. "And I think they got what they wanted. They wanted to get back to the top of the mountain. They took a chance on going out and getting one of the top 10 players in basketball and it didn't work for a while but it's working now."