Carmelo Anthony has fit within the Portland Trail Blazers system like a glove and has been a complimentary to head coach, Terry Stotts’ rotation alongside stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
What’s the secret?
On a recent episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast, I checked in with Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin who covers the Blazers daily.
Check out notes from our discussion below:
Sean Highkin on what surprised him about Carmelo Anthony this season:
“I’m going to be honest with you, when they brought him in, I was certainly in favor of the move. I thought ok, considering what I said earlier, once they lost Zach Collins they pretty much had no playable option at the power forward so we might was well take a gamble on ‘Melo even though he’s at this stage of his career. I did not expect him to play this well as he did and I also – and I think the thing that was obvious watching and being around him all year and being up close with him, was in the past when he was in Oklahoma City he famously said, “I’m not going to sacrifice, I’m not going to take a lesser role…” and at this point, I think he had been out of the league for a year and he was so grateful to be back in the league that he totally blended in. He was the third scoring option behind Dame and CJ which is something that he really hasn’t been in his career and he just totally fit in. I was just actually shocked by how much he had left. Here’s the thing, it’s easy now that he had this good year in Portland for us to look back and say, ‘How is he possibly out of the League?’ But here’s the thing. He was not good in Oklahoma City. He was not good in Houston. Even though he’s Carmelo Anthony, the future Hall Of Famer, one of the best players of his generation, that doesn’t mean you know – like look what happened to Allen Iverson at the end of his career…like once he wasn’t the same guy in Detroit Memphis he just wasn’t the same guy. He washed out of the league. It was maybe not a surprise given that those Oklahoma City and Houston years had gone with ‘Melo, as much as it sucks to be one of the most iconic guys of his generation was going to go out that way. And it happened before. So when the Blazers brought him in, it was like, ‘Sure. Let’s see how this goes. This could be interesting…’ and he was brought in for exactly what they needed him for!”
Sean Highkin on how perception could have played a part in Carmelo Anthony finding a team to play for:
“I think perception DOES play a little bit of a part because again, the way – and I don’t ‘Melo was the problem in Houston, but he wasn’t part of the solution either. He was not good in those 10 games that he played in Houston. So, I can kind of see where that was coming from, and obviously the model for a guy that was a former superstar are who really sticks around and reinvent themselves as role players, the model for that in terms of the best case scenario how that could play out is Vince Carter; who once he kind of lost the explosion since the Toronto and the New Jersey days, he was able to reinvent himself as a role player. He’s 42 and he’s sticking around with this Atlanta team that was rebuilding and seemed happy with his role. That’s the best case scenario. The Iverson thing is the worst case scenario on where the athleticism just goes overnight and then he refuses to come of the bench and just kind of out of the league. ‘Melo is somewhere in between that where he’s not the same guy anymore in terms of what he was as a player. He’s 35. Un less you’re LeBron, your skills ARE going to diminish a little bit at that age. But he came in and in his time in Portland, and I think it does help that they needed for him to start; it wasn’t like they had an emergency option. I think plenty of teams over the offseason could have had ‘Melo if they wanted him, but I think that he really wasn’t interested in doing the Vince Carter thing – going to the Atlanta Hawks come off the bench and play 15 minutes a game. He really wasn’t interested in doing that. Given on how the last two places he played before Portland in Oklahoma City and Houston and how those places went, or those stops in his career, I think a lot of [other] teams were like you know, ‘We’re brining ‘Melo in, he’s not wanting to come off the bench, and he’s not good enough to worth have promised him a starting spot’… The Blazers were in a position where they were so desperate for literally any playable power forward, that they looked around the landscape and said, ‘You know what? Let’s see if Carmelo Anthony still has anything left’… and it actually worked out as well for them as it could of. And it totally depends on the situation. I wouldn’t rule out Portland bringing him back. He talked about on how he liked it in Portland and he wants to maybe retire, but that’s obviously going ti me down to money and if he’s going to start; and the thing about the Blazers, is Zach Collins is going to be back next season from his shoulder injury that he missed most of this season with and they’re going to use Zach Collins as their staring power forward long term. So if ‘Melo does come back, it’s going to be coming off the bench. He’s going to have to see is he willing – he likes the situation in Portland, he’s comfortable here, he likes the coach all the stuff. Is he willing to at this point of his career now say, ‘I’m comfortable here. I like it here. Now, I’m willing to come off the bench and maybe take on a Sixth Man role?’… Or is he going to look around and gonna say, ‘Okay now I’ve proven that I can STILL play in the league. I had this successful comeback season in Portland. Now is some team going to give me a starting role?’… And I just don’t know what team that it’s going to be.”