While Carmelo Anthony was in Las Vegas about a week ago, Mike Woodson came out to check on his star player and see how he looked on the court.
Melo told ESPN New York that his head coach was very pleased with what he saw.
"He said I was way ahead of schedule," said Anthony, who was pushed by Woody to get into top shape during the offseason. "I think it was big for him to actually be here and just see the work that myself and Tyson [Chandler] has put into the commitment of USA basketball and the commitment of making ourselves better physically, see where we're at mentally. Just to have him here, it was big for him, it was big for us to see that support."
For Melo, that meant losing 12 pounds (he now roughly weighs 239) and gaining more quickness -- on top of his strength -- thanks to renowned NBA trainer Idan Ravin, who's worked one-on-one with nearly half of Team USA, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin. That doesn't include Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard, who were left off the roster due to injuries. In addition, he's trained Amare Stoudemire.
About two weeks after the Knicks' season ended, Ravin met Anthony in the Los Angeles area to begin offseason training at an undisclosed gym. Occasionally, Paul, J.R. Smith, his brother, Chris, and Griffin joined the workouts, and they also played pickup games on UCLA's campus. Ravin, who was first introduced to Anthony through word of mouth before his rookie year with the Nuggets in 2003, said that two-week break is very important.
"The end of season is always a little abrupt, emotionally and physically," he said. "Everybody wants to play a little bit longer. So you give them time to get their head back and see what they want for next year."
Ravin said that Anthony was well-prepared for last season -- "1,000 percent he was in great shape" -- but wrist, groin and hamstring injuries forced him to play through pain and miss 11 regular-season games.
"What do you think happens when you get those injuries?" Ravin said. "You can't run, you can't play, you have to sit, it's hard. He gets affected."
Therefore, Ravin's big focus was getting Anthony to feel lighter on his feet for the Olympics and the 2012-13 season.
"It's better on the joints," he said.
Ravin also took into account how Woodson and the Knicks' training staff were pushing Anthony to get into better shape. To reach that goal, Ravin started with Anthony's diet, as he believes that "sometimes food is counter-intuitive." Many of Melo's toughest critics say that he's not diligent and plays overweight, but Ravin downplayed that notion entirely. He said they're missing something.
"You forget that under his jersey, he wears a lot of that compression-type stuff, and he wears a lot of that protection-type sleeves around his stomach, so it makes him look a little bit wider and thicker," he said. "But he's not fat a--, man. He's a world-class athlete, so he's always very detailed with his diet, with his conditioning. Remember, too, the season's long and it wears on you. Sometimes that's where the fatigue sets in."
On the court, Ravin focused on refining and adding moves to Anthony's game. In addition, they worked a lot on athletic development and improving his efficiency offensively and defensively. Ravin called the NBA "not a league of hugs and kisses" and that players "have to maintain that edge, especially when they're on top, because everyone's always gunning for you."
Ravin provided a breakdown of his work with Melo:
"We focused a lot on agility, quickness, stability, power, basketball and conditioning -- integrated stuff," he said. "There's a lot of focus on [the] mental component, beyond the court, such as meditation and reading books. It doesn't happen quickly; it happens over the course of a career. The goal ultimately is self-empowerment and improvement.
"Some people think, 'Oh, you train the athlete for an hour.' No, average trainers do that. To train the world's best athletes, you have to be a presence in their life all year -- even off the court. With each of these athletes, it's thousands of text messages, and time with them, and lunch and travel. You wear many different hats in order to fulfill that purpose -- being a mentor, being an adviser, being a friend and being a trainer."
Ravin said that Anthony will continue to work with him after the Olympics, and he only expects great things from him next season.
"I always found him to be really well-prepared, so when camp starts, I'm 100 percent certain he's always one of those guys that will be in good condition and his game will be solid and he's improved from the year before," he said. "I've never been worried about that."