By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The subject was Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.
Once Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan started rattling off the different ways Anthony puts the ball in the basket, it seemed he'd never stop: "He can post up, he faces you up, he gets out on the break, he shoots threes, he can take you from the three-point line off the dribble, he can face up off the [free throw line area] and shoot it over you, he can run pick-and-rolls," Jordan said. "He's got the whole package."
The Wizards will get a close look at Anthony and the Nuggets tonight at Verizon Center, and the teams meet again on Monday in Denver. Anthony is averaging a career-high 30.7 points on 49.2 percent shooting after he scored 26 points in last night's 100-87 victory over Atlanta.
Only Allen Iverson, who will be out of action until the Philadelphia 76ers can work out a trade for him, has put up points more proficiently. And like Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, who ranks sixth in scoring at 27.8 points per game, Anthony is the kind of player who can take over a game at any time.
The Arenas/Anthony matchup is one reason tonight's game could be highly entertaining. Denver ranks second in scoring (108.3) behind only Phoenix, while the Wizards (101.8) rank sixth. And both teams allow opponents to score almost as efficiently as they score themselves.
To get ready for the Nuggets, who push the ball in transition at every opportunity and lead the league in points scored following an opponent's basket, Jordan installed a few extra fast-break drills the past two days at practice and emphasized the importance of sprinting back on defense.
"We practiced for two days with the three-man weave, getting the ball out of the net and pushing it forward the way they do," Jordan said. "We've incorporated two or three drills to get them thinking that this is how it's going to be, but you won't know until you're in it."
In terms of style, the Nuggets couldn't be more different from the Houston Rockets, who rode Yao Ming's 38 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks to a 114-109 victory over the Wizards on Saturday night.
The Rockets typically use up most of the shot clock and run their offense through Yao on the low post. The Nuggets attack with the fast break and don't hesitate to take a quick shot if it's a good one. Starters Anthony, Marcus Camby, Andre Miller and J.R. Smith are each averaging in double figures.
Anthony, a Baltimore native, has posted some big scoring nights against the Wizards. Last season, he finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds in Denver's 108-105 win at Verizon Center.
Now in his fourth season out of Syracuse, where he led the Orangemen to a national championship as a freshman, Anthony is carving out a place for himself among the NBA's biggest stars.
Along with Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, Anthony was a member of the U.S. men's national team this summer and led the team in scoring during the FIBA World Championships. He's already been named Western Conference player of the week twice this season.
Always a dangerous scorer, Anthony's outside shot has improved; he's developed an array of post moves to use against smaller, quicker defenders; and his ballhandling makes him as dangerous as many guards.
The first Wizard who will get a shot at defending Anthony is Caron Butler, who is having a career season himself. Butler is on pace to post career highs in scoring (17.8 ppg), rebounds (8.3), assists (3.2) and shooting percentage (45.7 percent) and is the only Wizard who has scored in double figures in every game. Butler is one of the few forwards in the league who can make Anthony work at both ends of the court.
"They play that up-tempo game and Carmelo is playing real good basketball," Butler said. "He's one of the best scorers in the league, so we have to throw a lot of looks at him. You have to be real aggressive and physical with him."