Carmelo Anthony signed with the Portland Trail Blazers on a non-guaranteed deal this past week. Yes, you heard right. The 35 year old, 10-time All Star, six-time All NBA, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist, NCAA Champion Carmelo Anthony is back in the league after being cut by the Houston Rockets last November.
During that absence, many critics and supporters voiced their respective opinions about Anthony. Former teammate Chauncey Billups offered his perspective on why Anthony has failed to land a roster spot.
“Scoring 30 [points] meant too much to Melo,” Billups said.
On the other side of the spectrum, many have questioned why Carmelo isn’t on an NBA roster. Former NBA player Royce White strongly believes that Anthony should be in the league.
“He’s given too much to the game for [the NBA] not to allow him to play, or for them to kind of culturally make a decision or an agreement that he’s not good enough to play anymore,” White said.
White even went as far to criticize role player Jared Dudley, who was signed by the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer.
“How… [did the Lakers] sign Jared Dudley and not Carmelo... If anybody thinks Dudley can hold Carmelo’s jockstrap, I’ll slap them,” White said.
Whatever your stance is, the critics do have a point in their frustration. For the past three summers, we have been teased by “Hoodie Melo,” clips of Anthony dominating pick up runs with other pros while donning a hoodie, which has made us believe that he could translate at least some of these skills onto an NBA court.
In his stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Anthony averaged a career low in field goal percentage at just 40 percent and contributed another career low of 11.8 points per game in a first round playoff exit against the Utah Jazz. Anthony lasted only 10 games with the Rockets, making just one out of his 11 shots in his final game.
To put these numbers in perspective, Anthony averages 24 points per game on about 45 percent shooting from the field in his career. There is no denying that Anthony was once an all-time talent. He is undoubtedly bound for the Hall of Fame. But the question is will Carmelo be able to adjust his role from former superstar to bench contributor?
As the critics have said and what the numbers show, it seems unlikely, on the surface, that he will. In a press conference before the start of his season with the Thunder, Anthony laughed at the notion of coming off the bench. But all of this, his refusal to come off the bench and his inefficient offensive performances, came before his year without playing on an NBA team.
In fact, Anthony seems to have been showing signs of change. On ESPN’s First Take over the summer, Anthony revealed that he didn’t want to come off the bench with the Rockets because that message was never “relayed to him.”
Perhaps the most powerful statement came when Anthony remarked on what returning to basketball means.
“I want to get back out there on the court. I miss the game. I was away from the game for damn near a whole season. I got the opportunity to step back and grow as a person, and I deserve another shot,” he said.
This self-reflection by Anthony seems genuine, and I want to believe him. Anthony should have no worries of his role being diminished as a bench player. Having a diminished role does not mean a player’s impact is diminished.
To help Anthony’s case, Dwight Howard of the Lakers was able to make his own come back as a legitimate bench asset, displaying flashes of his Defensive Player of the Year prowess. Andre Iguodala has made significant contributions coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors dynasty, winning Finals MVP in 2015 and serving as a defensive stopper. And like fine wine, volume scorer and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams seems to be playing better as he ages.
Despite the antics and the poor play of the past few seasons, I believe that Anthony still has it in him to serve valuable minutes for the Blazers. In this era of pace and space, Anthony can easily slide into the role of a three-point specialist as long as he is willing to put in the effort on the defensive side as well. If Anthony really can accept that his old way of play is longer viable in a current offensive scheme, and if Anthony really did take his time away from basketball to reflect and change, there is absolutely no reason he should not be on an NBA court.
The Portland Trail Blazers could use a spark. They are severely under performing after last year’s Western Conference Finals appearance with a 4-8 record so far this season. With holes in their lineup as big men Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are out with injury, the Blazers need someone beyond Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum to bear the offensive load.
But on a non-guaranteed deal, Anthony will have to quickly prove his growth and worth to stay on the team. As a long-time fan of Anthony, I hope and believe that Anthony can prove the critics wrong and be that spark for the Blazers for the rest of the season.