To channel the great LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years!
That’s right. I do not think you can call what Carmelo Anthony is doing a comeback. Sure he’s posting his best numbers in years and contributing to winning after being run out of the league and treated like tarnished goods.
But to call this a comeback, turnaround, or resurgence is to accept that he was washed-up and/or is playing above what should be expected from him. I would argue he has always been there, ready to perform at this level. His last two teams just refused to see it.
In Oklahoma City, and again for that 10-game disaster in Houston, the teams tried to turn Carmelo into something he’s not. They propped him up at the three-point line and asked him to be a spot-up shooter.
In OKC he took 41% of his shots beyond the arc. In Houston, 53%. In Portland, he’s back down his New York Knicks numbers, attempting 28.9% of his shots from deep (in his last season with the Knicks he took 30% of his shots from downtown).
Not-so-coincidentally, his shooting percentages, both from 3-pt range and overall are back to their New York Knick levels. He’s taking better shots for him and naturally converting at a better rate.
I could go on and on with numbers, but the bottom line is that Carmelo Anthony never changed. He’s always been an inefficient scorer who can shoot you in or out of a game.
But when used properly, he can affect winning. He did it with the Knicks when they gave him a good supporting cast, and he did it in Denver before that. He did it at Syracuse, and he did it in the Olympics.
He may have never been to the pinnacle as a start player, but there’s no denying his stardom, his talent, and in my estimation his value.
The problem in OKC and Houston was that they didn’t respect what Carmelo does. And the lead dogs next to him, Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and then Chris Paul and James Harden dominated the ball so much, that they reduced Carmelo to a 3-point specialist.
How can you make a 35% career shooter who is used to shooting off the bounce a 3-point catch-and-shoot specialist?
In Portland, a team with its own two lead dogs in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, they trusted Carmelo to find his own way.
Yes, his minutes are down and his shot attempts are at an all-time low, but they are good attempts, coming within the flow of the offense. He’s still spotting up and getting fed by the guards, but he’s also hitting his mid-range and getting lay-ups.
It’s easier to knock down the three, when the basket is widened by closer shots. He’s a long way from the 1-for-11, 0-6 from three, performance in his last game for Houston back in 2018. He recognizes he’s not the best player on the team, but he always has the confidence in himself to perform at a high level.
That’s always what Carmelo should have been when he left NY. He is a scorer. So you let him score.
He’s the 15th leading scorer in NBA history, and next season, if he comes back and stays healthy, he’ll become the 9th all-time right behind Shaquille O’Neal. If you don’t want him dominating the ball, you cut his minutes and you use him when your stars need a break. There is no denying what he can do when given his chance.
This is when haters would comment that Carmelo was a primadonna and refused to come off the bench in OKC. I can’t argue. That was bad.
But what happened in Houston was not his fault. They had no idea how to use him and cut him loose. So then what? All other 29 NBA teams assume he’s washed up and tainted goods.
There were not 400+ players who deserved to be on an NBA team last year before Carmelo Anthony. OKC should have been a learning experience for him, and it was. Houston basically took away a year of his career when he could have been doing exactly what he’s doing today.
Now in Portland, he’s comfortable in his role. He’s found his footing as a leader and veteran presence. And he’s produced for them in big moments in the bubble.
Yes, the Blazers are probably going home once play resumes, unless Lillard makes a miraculous recovery from a leg injury and they somehow upset the heavily-favored Lakers.
But, for the first time in years, the future looks bright for Anthony. His tenure in Portland has shown his value. And if he decides to retire and call it career, well, now it’s on his terms, the way it always should have been.