Jerry Colangelo, director of USA Basketball expressed a simple, yet powerful statement on the first day of training in Las Vegas. When asked about the importance of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler on the 2012 version of Team USA, Colangelo smiled and said, “We’re happy with the Knicks.”
Anthony and Chandler joined an incredible collection of supreme athletes and gifted basketball players to form a squad that was heavily favored to capture a gold medal in London. The specific roles for the Knicks’ representatives were never really in question. Anthony owned a gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and he was considered one of the top offensive weapons for Team USA heading into the 2012 Games. Fresh off a Defensive Player of the Year award, Chandler entered the Olympics as USA’s lone 7-footer and true center in the paint.
The two Knicks starters certainly didn’t disappoint from the exhibition game in Vegas to the final contest against Spain on Sunday. Anthony finished seventh in scoring among Olympic teams and second only to Kevin Durant on the gold medal winning squad. In only 17 minutes of action, off the bench, Anthony completed an incredible 8-game run, averaging 16.3 points per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor and a ridiculous 23-of-46 from behind the arc. The All-Star also exploded for 37 points in 14 minutes during an 83-point destruction of Nigeria. In that offensive spectacle, Anthony drilled 10 3-pointers en route to one of the greatest performances in Men’s Basketball Olympic history.
As seen at various points last year with the Knicks, Anthony flourished at the power forward position. He worked quickly when receiving the rock, either launching a shot from downtown or utilizing a powerful first step to get to the rack. Anthony’s catch-and-shoot efficiency was downright scary. It seems the two-time gold medalist increased the speed in which he delivers jumpers to go along with his already established set of offensive moves.
Prior to the gold medal victory over Spain, ESPN.com’s Ryan Feldman highlighted the scoring output from Anthony. According to Feldman, Anthony was averaging 48.2 points per 48 minutes in the Olympics. The great Wilt Chamberlain recorded 49.8 points per 48 minutes in the 1961-62 season to put Anthony’s achievement into context. Anthony also ranked fourth on Team USA by hauling down 4.8 rebounds per game.
What’s even more impressive about Anthony’s two weeks in London is the fact he accepted a sixth man role and found a way to catch fire despite minimal court time. Anthony is and always will be a prolific scorer but the efficient way he impacted the games elevated Team USA when its offense suffered through stagnant periods.
At 28, Anthony posses a wealth of international experience, which includes a gold medal in 2012, gold in 2008, bronze medals in 2004 and 2006, and a silver medal in the 2001 USA Basketball Youth Development Festival. Sunday’s win capped the third straight Olympics for the 9-year NBA veteran as he continues to add accolades to a career that features a 2003 NCAA Championship and five trips to the All-Star game.
Following the celebration on Sunday, Anthony summed up the experience in Team USA’s quest for Gold, “For us to persevere the way we did, it’s a just a special moment for myself, for the guys that were on this team, for all the work that we put in and the commitment that we made to get where we are at right now.”
Chandler’s role on Team USA was drastically different than his Knicks teammate. The big man was counted on to control the paint and defend the opposing team’s best post player. Unfortunately, the international officiating hindered Chandler’s ability to truly alter the flow of the contest from a defensive standpoint. However, Chandler set the tone with the starting five and was an essential figure inside the huddle. After winning a gold medal at the World Championship in 2010, Chandler relished the moment in London.
“This is unbelievable,” Chandler explained on usabasketball.com. “Coach told us before the game we were going to hear the National Anthem twice, once before the game and once after, and I guarantee you are going to feel chills the second time. As I was standing up there it literally felt as if somebody was pouring a warm glass of water from the top of my head to my feet. I just got chills and goose bumps.”
Unforgettable memories were created across the pond for Team USA. The NBA rivals bonded to become successful Olympic teammates. With the Americans now returning to the states, the rivalries reset as each member of Team USA now shifts focus to the 2012-13 NBA season. The substantial accomplishments of Anthony and Chandler at the Olympics should bode well for the Knicks in their search for an NBA title in the near future.