We've reached "best shape of my life!" season in the NBA, albeit a couple months later than usual. Practice facilities around the league are opening their doors, allowing the media and-- by proxy--us to recalibrate internal images of players that had dissolved into occasional snapshots over the extra-long offseason. And for all the excitement therein, I think we've all been around long enough to meet these reintroductions with skepticism. Everybody says they've "bulked up" or "slimmed down", but rarely does it appear totally truthful or prove meaningful on the court. (I'll take this opportunity to announce that I've added fifteen pounds of muscle since May).
This takes us to Carmelo Anthony, who's been described by himself and others as "trim" and "lean", not to mention "mentally focused". We'll happily take those descriptions over their opposites, though I'm not sure how much weight to put in that stuff. But then there's this, from the mixed-up files of Alan Hahn:
"Nobody knew, but I was struggling with my elbow for the past six years," he said. "If you go back to games, I was never able to hold my follow-through up, I was always jerking my shot and it just felt weird. But now that I got the surgery, got it to where I can extend my elbow out more, there's no pain."
He repeated the last part as if it were some kind of revelation.
"No pain at all."
Now, this is sure to generate some sweet "OH GREAT NOW HE'S GONNA SHOOT MORE" japes, and there's a distinct possibility that we'll all have forgotten about this by January, but...shit, he got me. Certainly, it couldn't have been constant, excruciating pain, but don't you kind of know what he's talking about? Weren't there times-- both last season and in his Nugget days-- when you wondered where the hell Melo's form had gone? If we take Melo at his word, then it's hard to imagine how a pain-free right elbow (not to mention a repaired right knee) wouldn't improve his game. At the very least, he must be better equipped to handle the tighter, more grueling schedule the Knicks are about to face.
I think we already expected the natural variables of time and extended practice-- just marinatin' together-- to improve the Knicks' chemistry this season. Carmelo Anthony, in particular, should benefit from being firmly settled into one place. (The same can't be said for all the guys currently being plugged into Trade Machine deals to New Orleans, those poor young'uns). So, while it was already reasonable to anticipate improvement from Melo, this post-surgery revelation can't hurt. LITERALLY!!!