The instant Kobe Bryant marked Carmelo Anthony, the Lakers star shied away from small talk with his close friend and cut to the chase.
“Show me what you got. Let’s go,” Bryant recalled saying. “If you can’t trash talk with your friends, what kind of relationship is that?”
Metta World Peace mostly guarded Anthony in the Lakers’ 100-94 victory Tuesday over the New York Knicks, making the Knicks star work tirelessly for 34 points. But Bryant’s brief defensive assignment once Metta World Peace fouled out late in the game conjured up images of the league’s two top scorers going after each other.
Even beforehand, early-season debate brewed on who could become the NBA MVP.
Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni clashed with Anthony for parts of two seasons in New York, but he gave valid reasons on why Anthony remains a good MVP candidate.
“They’re one of the top teams and he’s definitely a big reason why they are there,” D’Antoni said. “So you’d definitely have to talk about him.”
Anthony ranks second in the league in scoring at 28.5 points per game. But who else would D’Antoni choose?
“Durant’s always there. LeBron’s always there,” D’Antoni said. “I think you have to be in the top three or four records. Right now somebody is probably slipping by.”
That would be Bryant, who leads the league in scoring at 29.9 points per game. Wouldn’t D’Antoni favor him?
“If we can get up to where we need to get up to,” D’Antoni said. “But we have to get up there. I don’t think you can put anybody at MVP when you’re below .500. That just doesn’t work. “
The Lakers’ win over New York inched them closer to that goal, standing 14-14 and reaching the .500 mark for only the second time this season.
Bryant, who’s won one regular season MVP award, has insisted indifference to individual accolades. He could’ve secured his third scoring title last season ahead of Durant, of Oklahoma City, but Bryant sat out of the season finale in hopes to rest for the playoffs.
The Lakers star encouraged Anthony last season and during the 2012 London Olympics not to feel guilty about tapping into his scoring instincts. The Knicks star attributes Bryant’s advice as a huge reason for his breakout season. But Bryant’s hardly concerned about the consequences.
“That’s not my problem,” Bryant said with a laugh. “That’s the Eastern Conference. “
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org