Melo: Less than East finals is 'unacceptable'

In an interview with ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Carmelo Anthony says anything less than a trip to the Eastern Conference finals would be "unacceptable" for the Knicks this season.

Thanks to Anthony's stellar play, the Knicks are off to a 19-7 start. Their last trip to the Eastern Conference finals was in the 1999-2000 season, when they lost to the Indiana Pacers.

In an excerpt of SportsCenter's Sunday Conversation, Smith asks Anthony what he thinks would constitute a successful season.

"Winning the division, getting out of the first round, getting to the Eastern Conference finals," Anthony says. "I don't see anything less than that."

He adds that anything less than a trip to the conference finals is unacceptable.

"I'll sit here and tell you right now, it's unacceptable. With the guys we have, with the team we have, with the roster that we have, it's unacceptable," he says.

Anthony also addressed his poor regular-season record (30-33) when he shares the floor with Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire has missed the entire season due to knee surgery but is expected to return shortly. Anthony says that he is confident he and Stoudemire can thrive together this year.

"I tell you what, when he comes back this time, it will be totally different," Anthony said. "We trust the system, we trust one another. What we have going right now as a team while he's out, we're building something. When he comes back, he can fit right in with what we have going on."

He added that Stoudemire would have no problem accepting a role on the Knicks' bench.

Anthony touched on several other topics during his conversation with Smith:

On improved defense: "I had to reinvent myself. [Ask myself], 'What's my flaws? What am I not doing? What are people saying I'm not doing? What do my teammates want me to do more? How can I be more for my basketball team and for this organization?'

"And it was like the only thing is defense. To take that challenge on guarding the next team's best player. To go out there and rebound, to go for the loose ball. To win the hustle game, have the effort. That was my mindset coming into the season. Scoring the basketball, that's what I do. Nobody can take that away from me. But if I add all those other aspects to my game, that takes me over the top."

On being in the early conversation for MVP: "It's a helluva feeling, just to know that I did what I had to do to get my name back in people's mouths. Doing it here in New York definitely puts it over the top."

On his plan as he entered his tenure with the Knicks: "When I got traded here I always told people that were close to me that this is a two- or three-year process. I came toward the end of the season, had to deal with that. The next season, had to deal with injuries, had to deal with the lockout, so that was another half a season I had to deal with.

"And then my focus was really this season right here. This was my season when I said I'm coming in full force."

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