For the past nine years, New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has had to carry the scoring load for his teams to remain competitive.
But with arguably his deepest and most seasoned supporting cast this season in New York, he's ready to sacrifice the high scoring he's always been known for.
"I don't want to try to put all that burden on myself to go out there and try to do everything, so I'm willing to make any sacrifice in my game regardless of what anybody else says," he told ESPNNewYork.com on Friday. "If my scoring goes from 27 to 23, I'm cool with that. Right now, I'm willing to make any sacrifice that I have to."
Anthony said his motivation to change his game comes from his focus to buy into the team system. Anthony said he's been inspired by his veteran teammates, such as Jason Kidd, who has taken the leadership role in pre-training camp, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas, whom he said are all working harder than ever in the gym. He even included free-agent power forward Rasheed Wallace, who's been recently training at the Knicks' practice facility.
"We go up there and you'd be surprised the work that the older guys put in, from Camby to Jason Kidd to Rasheed," Anthony said. "The work that the guys are putting in, you would think that they were still in their early 30s or something like that."
Anthony said that Wallace took his physical on Friday -- as did Melo -- and a source close to the team told ESPNNewYork.com that "the players all expect (the Wallace signing) to become official." The former Piston has close ties with Knicks coach Mike Woodson, who was an assistant coach in Detroit in 2004 when they upset the Los Angeles Lakers to win the championship. And Woodson has been a big proponent of coaching veteran players.
"The word out of the practice facility was the staff was talking during pickup games and workouts as if (Wallace) was joining the team," the source said. "They were talking about how his game fit in with the rest of the team."
Wallace's agent, Bill Strickland, said over the phone that if Wallace decides to come out of retirement, it will be to play with the Knicks and no other team.
"That's my understanding, based on his relationship with Coach Woodson," Strickland said.
A team source said that Wallace has not yet signed a deal but said something could be done by the end of the day Friday.
Another source familiar with the Knicks' free-agency situation said that during Wallace's first workouts with the Knicks, he wasn't in very good shape. But Wallace could improve his conditioning during the season and be a key stretch-4 during the playoffs. As of right now, only Steve Novak plays a similar position, and the team could use an additional 3-point shooter who can spread the floor.
While waiting on Wallace's decision, the Knicks have reached out to representatives for free-agent swingman Josh Howard, according to a league source.
With the Atlantic Division being extra competitive this season -- the Knicks, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors could all be playing in May -- Anthony & Co. need to make sure their arsenal is fully equipped.
"(The Atlantic) is wide open," he said. "I've been in the Western Conference for seven and a half years, and every year that's how it was. Two games separate everybody. You lose one, you fall back, so it keeps you on edge. Now in the East, it seems like that's the new trend. As long as we do what we have to do, we'll be fine."
And what about Miami?
"We're not even worried about them," he said with a smile. "They do what they do, we do what we do. We'll meet up when we meet up."
With Anthony arguably in the best shape of his life -- Knicks legend and MSG analyst Walt Frazier told ESPNNewYork.com that he believes so -- this is Melo's best shot at elevating to the MVP conversation, along with his 2003 draft buddies LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
But that's not on his mind. He's all about team. And sacrifice.
"At the end of the day, as long as we win games, everybody will be happy," he said. "I don't really think about it. My mindset is to make this one of the best years for myself and for the Knicks."