Prior to Sunday night, it had been 746 days since Carmelo Anthony last played at Madison Square Garden. It’s an incredibly long stretch for a player who was the former face of New York Knicks basketball.
Prior to signing a non-guaranteed deal with the Portland Trail Blazers in November 2019 that reportedly paid him $14,490 for each day, the former Knick had not played in the National Basketball Association since November 8, 2018.
For those keeping score at home: Melo, the third overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, ended up signing for the remainder of the season.
Heading into this season, Anthony, a 10-time NBA All-Star averaged 24.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists during a 16-year career with the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets.
Cooke was a peer of Anthony, LeBron James and Amare Stoudemire. He shared his thought on why Melo was given such a hard time during his free agency process.
Check out a snippet from our Q&A below:
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: I wanna ask you some questions about Carmelo Anthony. Are you surprised at how well he’s doing?
Lenny Cooke: I’m just happy for him man, I’m a big fan of ‘Melo like I’ve always been a fan of his since 2000. I just feel like he handled the situation well. This was a prime example to show our urban community that when your number is called, be prepared. And his number was called and he was prepared. He was ready ever since he got that call.
Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson: Why do you think that people doubted ‘Melo so much?
Lenny Cooke: Wins and losses. Being on teams where he wasn’t winning. He hasn’t won a
championship, people doubted his leadership and they really can’t say anything bad about his image or nothing like that, I think it had to do with wins and losses and not being on a winning program.
During his hiatus, NBA teams publicly teams kept a poker face. Privately over the past year, the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Portland Trail Blazers were all suitors.
Anthony kept his faith throughout the whole process. “It is what it is at this point,” Anthony told me back in the fall when he was still a free agent.
“I’m sitting back waiting spending time with my family and that’s all I can focus on right now.”
When I asked him if he wants to play he told me: “2000 percent, make that the headline.”
Here we are. Currently averaging 15.7 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest, Melo has been an asset to the Portland Trail Blazers who are battling for an eighth spot in the NBA’s Western Conference standings.
Anthony, 35, has had some key moments within head coach, Terry Stotts rotation to show his shooting touch. In a game last month against the New Orleans Pelicans, he hit a buzzer-beater with just 2.2 left in the first quarter. During the play, Anthony stripped the ball away from Pelicans guard, JJ Redick. In that sequence, Anthony squared up just outside the three-point line and quickly launched a buzzer-beating trey at the horn, tying the game at 31 apiece.