Bad losses on a poor team with terrible costly salaries and an unworkable relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson meant Anthony’s time in the Big Apple came to a sad end.
When the 2003 third overall pick forced his way from Denver Nuggets to the Knicks, few would have envisaged a terrible conclusion to what once looked like a pairing made it heaven.
Anthony was the star New York market’s veracious appetite clamoured; After all, Carmelo was a box office signing with multiple All Star nods and an Olympic Gold medal to show. Anthony’s time in New York was quite successful leading the team to consecutive playoffs and a 13 game winning run. Carmelo added two more Olympic Gold medals and a scoring title (Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City played a hand in that by sitting out a couple of games) in New York.
A heralded trade to Oklahoma to play alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George did not turn out as expected as he struggled in his new role. Westbrook and George were and still are the lead offense options in Oklahoma and Anthony’s third wheel role on offense affected him. Little was expected of the former Syracuse University Forward on defense and he lived up to that by being a minus on defense throughout his one season stay.
Anthony wants the ball in his hands to cause havoc despite being a top threat from three point range.
16 seasons in the NBA clearly shows Anthony is the type of shooter who needs touches to get in rhythm unlike his former Knicks Coach Derek Fisher who rode the bench for long only to come off the pine and hit big game and championship winning shots. The gamble to resurrect his career in Houston with the Rockets back fired 11 games into this season. Just like in OKC, Carmelo did not fit well alongside two ball dominant players in James Harden and Chris Paul.
And just like that, Anthony’s career is on life support in need of urgent resuscitation and goes to show how ruthless and cruel the NBA is. One man who was in Carmelo’s situation not long ago has called on Anthony to call it quits at the age of 34. Tracy McGrady was on his way to all time greatness before knee injuries slowed him down to the point he bounced around middling teams though he could score the ball.
However, not all hope is lost as struggling franchises need Carmelo’s scoring skills to at least gain some level of respect and draw fans. Phoenix Suns need as much scoring as it can afford; signing veteran Jamal Crawford highlighted this. Orlando Magic and his former side Atlanta Hawks albeit for a day, is in need of his services. It is the same for playoff contenders in need of extra scoring from deep to prolong its stay in the postseason like Memphis Grizzlies and Utah Jazz.
However, Portland Trailblazers have the best make up to give Anthony a stable environment to thrive once again. Carmelo has been on Portland’s wish list for quite some time dating back to the turbulent end to his New York Knicks tenure. Financial issues prevented Trailblazers from really having a good go at Anthony but Carmelo is operating on a $2.3 million deal this season after getting his $28 million salary in the final year of his contract bought out by OKC Thunder.
Portland is in red hot form right now as it leads the confusing Western Conference standings with 11 wins and five losses. But followers of the NBA know Portland has great form in the regular season only to bottom out in the playoffs with last season’s sweep at the hands of New Orleans Pelicans a perfect illustration of its flaws. Depth in offense behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum remains an issue for Trailblazers three seasons after McCollum’s breakout year especially in the playoffs. This is where Anthony comes in a savior of Portland’s second unit which has Seth Curry, Nik Stauskas, Evan Turner, Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard.
Less mobile than before, Anthony’s best slot is at Power Forward at the expense of either Collins or Leonard. Portland’s bench produces 37.8 points per game this season in 13th place in the league but Grizzlies 16th rank comes at just 37.1. This means the slightest slip could move the team into the lower half of the table which is the reason Portland needs Anthony’s isolation plays since none of the unit’s members generate enough offense to ease the burden on McCollum and Lillard.
Refusing to start games from the bench and a lack of a clearly defined role led to Anthony’s struggles in OKC and Houston but none of that is on the cards as a distraction in Portland.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter