A blast from the past stole the headlines in the National Football League (NFL) after news broke of former San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick finally getting a shot to return to the league. Kaepernick has not been in the league since 2016 after getting released in the aftermath of his continued protest against Police brutality on African Americans. He is scheduled to “audition” for a job in the league in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams. While the odds (short notice, due to work out with players he has no chemistry with) are stacked against him, he is still getting a chance after a long wait.
The circumstances are different from Kaepernick’s, Carmelo Anthony’s one year, non guaranteed deal with Portland Trailblazers shares one major similarity with Kaepernick’s; he has a shot to return to the top. Anthony has not played in the NBA after a 10 game stint at the Houston Rockets last season following his disappointing campaign with Oklahoma City Thunder. At OKC, Carmelo struggled to fit alongside ball dominant players in Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Worsening the situation, Anthony refused to play a sixth man role off the bench which contributed to his short tenure at OKC. After flirting with the idea of playing in Houston for a while, Carmelo got his wish but was miscast again leading to his release. The idea of playing alongside ball dominant Guards Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum looks bad and ill advised but unlike Anthony’s stints at OKC and Houston, this fit will work out nicely.
For starters, Anthony’s harrowing experience has humbled him to make him accept a role off the bench in his latest stop in the NBA. During his time out of the league which had many tying his absence to being “black balled”, Anthony looked and spoke the part of a changed man who is willing to play the role of a veteran scorer off the bench to help a team; with Portland, he gets the chance to help a dark horse title contender.
Carmelo can assume the role of LA Clippers Guard Lou Williams who has extended his career added a lot of gloss to it simply by doing what he does best-score the ball-off the bench. Anthony’s career is underlined by his epic scoring battles against the game’s elite and doing a little bit of same against players on opposing teams’ second unit should be easy. A healthy stretch of high numbers could bump Carmelo back into the starting lineup to close games out when defenses collapse on a Lillard drive to the basket.
Another major reason for optimism on Carmelo’s move is the instant need he fills for Portland considering the lack of depth the team faces at the wing position. Zach Collins is out for the next two months, Jusuf Nurkic is still dealing with a compound fractured leg and Skal Labissiere still isn’t cutting at the NBA level. The absence of Forwards on the roster has forced Portland Coach Terry Stotts to play Shooting Guard Kent Bazemore at Small Forward and Small Forward Mario Hezonja at Power Forward. At 6 foot 8, Carmelo can play both Forward positions.
By having Anthony on the roster, Portland could end games with a team that has Hassan Whiteside as the only non three point shooter. Lillard, McCollum, Anthony and Hezonja are three point shooting threats which opens up the floor for Portland to exploit. In clutch time, defenses have to worry about Lillard and McCollum and that has led to a stuttering start from last season’s Western Conference Finalists. Trailblazers have four wins in 12 games this season and rank 13th in the Conference standings ahead of the rebuilding New Orleans Pelicans and grief stricken Golden State Warriors.
At 35 years, Carmelo isn’t going to shed his defensive liability tag anytime soon or pretty much ever but that wont matter much in Portland. At OKC and Houston, both teams had franchise guys who were spared from top defensive duties and while it’s the same at Portland with Lillard, the Trailblazers are in short supply of able bodies at the wing so much so they should be able to stomach Carmelo’s flaws.
For the first time since his time in Denver and New York, Carmelo is in a perfect situation to extend his Hall of Fame career for a few more years. Would Portland repeat its Conference title run this season? No but Carmelo gives them a legitimate chance to at least make the playoffs in the face of strong challenges from Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings and Dallas Mavericks.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter