Karl will help Anthony mature

While LeBron James continues to develop as a player, Carmelo Anthony is struggling to keep up.

Updated: February 18, 2005, 1:04 PM ET
By Greg Anthony | ESPN Insider
At about this very time last year, there was serious debate as to who would be the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James were enjoying standout seasons. Anthony's Nuggets were on their way to the playoffs for the first time in ages, and they swept the season series against James' Cavaliers.

Last year, both Anthony and James – the eventual Rookie of the Year – deserved to be in the All-Star Game (though neither was selected) and each was selected to Team USA for the Athens Olympics. Heading into the Olympics and then the season, both had high expectations. This is when the problems began for Anthony, and the tables turned for the top pair of picks in the 2003 draft.

Today, James' Cavs sit a game behind Detroit in the Central Division, a circuit that last year boasted the two best teams (the defending champion Pistons and Pacers) in basketball. Yet Anthony's Nuggets are adjusting to their third head coach since the season began, and they are the No. 11 seed in the Western conference.

Friday night, in Denver, Anthony will be in the spotlight in the Rookie Challenge, when he, LeBron and the other second-year players take on the rookies. But for the rest of the weekend, Anthony will have to sit back while LeBron takes over in Carmelo's home city.

So how did it come to this?

First, let me make clear that I think you cannot question Anthony's talent or work ethic. But I learned long ago that hard work alone won't improve you. That effort has to be put to good use and this is where Anthony has struggled.

Former NBA guard Greg Anthony covers basketball for Insider. He joined ESPN in November 2002 as a studio analyst for the network's NBA coverage. He appears on all of ESPN and ESPN2's NBA studio shows.