The return of Carmelo AnthonyDate: December 6, 2019
By: Justin Morris
The last time that Carmelo Anthony played in an NBA game prior to being signed by the Portland Trail Blazers on November 19th, the Warriors were the best team in the NBA, Zion Williamson had yet to make his Duke debut, and the Black Panther had yet to hit movie theaters.
Melo posted a photo on his Instagram shortly after being reinstated by Portland along with the hashtag #StayM7LO, and the caption “one should be concentrating on the clues that the universe is dropping for them to take up a quick reaction…I had to achieve the tranquility of spiritual maturity through the guidance of the universe. I will always be 7.”
The photo showed Anthony in his signature element; with a hood on, and the number 00, followed by a few descriptions of the number’s meaning in explanation of why he had chosen to wear it for his newest journey. Some of the attachments were:
“- without end (process that never stops”
“- can never be given an exact value”
“- infinite nature of (God)7”
“ – the chance to have a new and great beginning with the past left behind where it belongs”
The last undoubtedly had a particular meaning with Melo’s situation. After 10 All-Star selections in a storied 10+ year span with Denver and New York where he, as the alpha dog, vaulted himself into the NBA’s top 25 all-time scoring list, Anthony found himself in unfamiliar territory towards the back end of his career. His glory seemed to derail itself after he demanded a trade from then-president Knicks Phil Jackson, stating he was willing to drop the no-trade clause in his contract if he could be dealt to one of three teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets or the Oklahoma City Thunder.
His wishes were granted to the latter, pairing Anthony with Russell Westbrook and Paul George in what seemed like it could be a championship-caliber big three. Anthony though, did not take kindly to being relegated to the third option on the team, and the trio was unable to find any substantial chemistry in the one season he spent in OKC.
Things got worse the next year when he was picked up by Houston. After being forced to come off the bench after starting every game prior in his career, the Rockets let him go after just 10 games, citing team chemistry as the main reason for his departure. Performance though, was a without question a factor.
Anthony posted career lows in scoring, field goal percentage, and player efficiency rating, and the lack of defense that was once made light of by fans showed glaring weaknesses as he aged, as the Rockets were outscored by 60 with Anthony on the floor through the games. “The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized”, said GM Daryl Morey about his trade to Chicago “therefore we thought it was best to move on as any other outcome would have been unfair to him.”
He was subsequently waived by the Bulls, and so began his long-awaited journey to get back into the league. He sat and watched as friends Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki had their farewell tours and were sent riding off into the sunset, but remained confident in his own abilities to contribute to an NBA team, as did many others in the league around him.
So Melo took to social media, posting workouts in his hood, and occasional motivational quotes, all the while staying optimistic about a potential return. But time ticked on. The playoffs came and went in 2019, and just as they did, so started the 19-20 season. He even made an appearance on ESPN’s First Take to voice his desires to continue playing. But still, no phone calls.
Then, just a week earlier, he got what he’d been so desperately waiting for; an opportunity. It came from a fledgling Portland squad, who, just removed from a Western Conference Finals appearance a year earlier, found themselves at the bottom of the league’s standings at 5-9. Their offense had come to a standstill, and with Damian Lillard sidelined, they needed a scorer.
Enter Carmelo Anthony. “This ain’t a farewell tour” he said following the signing, and the two parties discussed a role that would fulfill both of their visions: Melo would score and the Trail Blazers would try and win. He put up 10 points in four rebounds in his debut against New Orleans, followed 18 against Giannis and the Bucks. Monday was his best performance of the season, as he put 25 points to go with eight rebounds in a convincing Blazers win.
And this was only the beginning. In his second week, Anthony averaged 22.3 ppg and and 7.7 rebounds in three games; two against the Bulls and one against his former Thunder en route to a Western Conference player of the week award, his first since 2014. The next day, he revealed he was just days away from retiring before Portland gave him the call that changed his life. Now, he may not be the player he once was, but there’s no question Melo can still put the ball in the basket.
Will he be able to vault the Blazers back into the playoff conversation or further? That remains to be seen, but NBA fans are all happy to see one of the great scorers in our game get the chance to do what he does best again.
Justin Morris can be reached at email@example.com.