The trainer who led Carmelo Anthony’s workouts over the summer and before his joining the Portland Trail Blazers cold turkey on Tuesday says the forward was able to stay NBA-ready by embracing an overhaul of his game.
Trainer Alex Bazzell said in an in-depth interview with SNY that they zeroed in on pushing Anthony to improve his defensive effort — especially against the pick-and-roll — and to make quicker decisions off the catch and move better off the ball.
Bazzell was adamant the 10-time All-Star was open to change.
“He was completely bought into the [idea that on] the defensive side of the ball, he’s got to get better,” Bazzell said. “He was bought into not being able to hold the ball [on offense]. We would still work on his mid-post because I think that’s going to be a part of his game that he’s going to have to rely on to score every now and then. You don’t take that away, you keep all of that fresh.
“When we would play one-on-one scenarios, when he’d catch, it’s hard because sometimes you just have a tendency to hold it, relax and kind of let the defense make a mistake. It was just trying to break habits that he’s built up for so long and he was never defensive about it. He was always 100 percent in agreement with what I was saying.”
Bazzell and Anthony worked from June to August in Los Angeles, and in New York before the season and before his Portland debut against New Orleans.
“We were working on moving without the ball because that’s something I saw on film he didn’t do very well,” Bazzell said of Anthony, who had last played Nov. 8, 2018, with the Houston Rockets. “Especially coming from — let’s face it, Houston’s offense is four guys standing and watching James [Harden] dribble the ball for 20 seconds. It’s tough. So we worked on getting used to [moving without the ball]. Getting used to the actions of catching. His footwork efficiency with rips and jabs and all of that off the catch. He’s as smart a player as you’re going to find. There’s a reason that he’s scored as many points as he has. So it was just getting him comfortable with moving in different ways than he has in the past.”
Bazzell said their routine consisted of three days on and one day off of workouts that lasted about an hour. Pickup sessions with Nets players after word came that Brooklyn had interest in Anthony also gave him a chance to stay sharp.
“I think that kind of reaffirmed that he belonged in the league because he went up there and played incredible,” Bazzell said.
They then “crammed in everything” with five workouts in three days after Anthony agreed to the deal with the Blazers last week.
“But the workouts were much more specific because I actually knew the offense of what Portland was going to run and the touches that he was going to get,” Bazzell said. “The first workout was beating on his body a little bit. He’d drive and we’d put a shoulder in him. Just to see how his body was going to bounce back. And then get his cardio up.”
Anthony played in his second game Thursday night, a 137-129 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. He scored 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting, including 3-for-5 from three, with seven rebounds, four assists and three turnovers in 29 minutes. It was an improvement over his debut performance Tuesday when he scored 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, going 2-for-3 from 3-point range with four rebounds and five turnovers in 24 minutes.