Melo's achievement, newfound leadership on Team USA nothing but admirable

We have spent a lot of time debating what Carmelo Anthony cares about. His hometowns? Both matter, as he identifies himself with Brooklyn and Baltimore.

His community? Well, that's become clearer this summer, especially when he posted an Instagram photo of prominent former athletes Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell at a summit in Cleveland -- and challenged current athletes ("Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE") after a series of confrontations between police and civilians around the country. He did so in a measured way, not blaming anyone, and calling "to steer our anger in the right direction."

As he told ESPN's Hannah Storm: "I think people were surprised at the fact that an athlete of my stature stepped up to the plate and said something. A lot of times with athletes we are kind of afraid sometimes of speaking out on different issues. I think the platform [is there] for us to say something. We needed our voice to be out there."

That's admirable for Anthony to care about.

Then there's the other stuff that draws him detractors.

His shots? Clearly he cares about those. Only Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson and LeBron James (barely) have averaged more shots per game since Anthony entered the NBA in 2003.

His money? He was leaning toward signing in Chicago during the summer in 2014, a move that might have moved him closer to more winning, but ultimately opted to remain in New York for what amounted to roughly $50 million more than the Bulls could offer. And the Knicks have gone just 49-115 since, though now two of those broken-down former Bulls (Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah) are joining him at Madison Square Garden.

But whether you credit him, or critique him, for his primary concerns, it's hard to take any issue with his approach to the Olympic endeavor over the past dozen years.

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Carmelo Anthony is being embraced as a leader on Team USA. USATSI

More than any other American NBA player, he has made it cool to care about international competition.

Some may suggest that's self-serving, since the Olympic platform gives his game a chance to shine, with a little more space on offense due to teammates who command considerable attention, and inferior athleticism among many opponents -- so his defensive deficiencies aren't as easily exposed. He plays more at the power forward spot, which seems to suit his style better. And he gets plenty of shots, which helped him finish fourth on the team in points in 2008 (behind Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant) and second in 2012 (behind only Kevin Durant and ahead of James).

Even so, his availability, and his longevity, should be viewed among his attributes. And his standing among U.S. scorers in the Olympics -- now third after scoring 14 against Venezuela to pass Michael Jordan and just 15 behind James -- is significant. It is one of the things that will speak well of him, when we are speaking of his career after it's over, even if that career never includes a second appearance in an NBA conference finals.

Anthony should also be seen as instrumental in debunking the myth that international play is destructive for NBA careers. While that myth is embodied by Paul George, who has recovered from a freak intrasquad USA Basketball exhibition accident to play a key role on this team, it is also just assumed by some that playing during the summer leads to health and playing struggles in the fall, winter and spring.

That doesn't really bear out, at least not when you review what happened in the 2012-13 season, following the 2012 Olympics in London.

Take Anthony Davis out of the equation, since he was still playing collegiately at Kentucky in 2011-12. And take into consideration that the 2011-12 NBA season included only 66 games, due to the lockout, so availability must be measured on a percentage basis, not in terms of total of appearances. Bryant, Durant, James Harden, James, Andre Iguodala, Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler and Russell Westbrook all played a greater, or nearly similar, percentage of games compared to the season prior. Most gave similar performance, too, with Harden's numbers exploding upward due to his move from sixth man in Oklahoma City to leading man in Houston. James had what remains the best statistical season of his career. Two players (Kevin Love and Deron Williams) did sit more, but Love suffered a freak hand injury that had nothing to do with what he'd been doing the previous summer.

Anthony? He played roughly the same percentage of games, averaged more minutes in those games and jumped in his scoring average from 22.6 to 28.7. And while he did dip from 82 to 75 games after the 2004 Olympics, and from 77 to 66 after the 2008 Olympics, he's still managed to compete in 902 NBA games, and log 32,796 minutes, even with his offseason commitments.

He's also managed to show leadership in this environment, in a manner that sometimes seems absent during the NBA season. That included hugging the temperamental DeMarcus Cousins after the Kings center fouled out against Venezuela. He appears to be embracing this opportunity, to step out of the banana boat, as the three other members of his crew (James, Paul, Wade) aren't around, and to show off his selfless side.

So it's OK for Anthony to wrap himself around this latest accomplishment of passing of Jordan as a scorer in this setting, and soon the passing of James -- the sort of passing that comes more naturally to him than passing to teammates. And it's OK to care about it, even if you don't care for everything Anthony does as an NBA player.

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