“The reason why he’s not in the league—because he’s still worthy—is he hasn’t mentally taken that step back to say, ‘OK, I’ll come in and play against backups. I’ll try to help the team out. I know I might not be able to close, but I just want to help.’ Well, he’s not there yet.”
This was probably the most accurate quote explaining Carmelo Anthony’s current situation, and it came from his former teammate, Chauncey Billups.
Billups’ claim is logical, and it may be true, but what about the changes Anthony did make?
Use the 2017-2018 season with the Oklahoma City Thunder for instance. He wasn’t as ball-dominant as he’s been in past seasons. Anthony took more catch-and-shoot jumpers than pull-ups, which signifies him taking a backseat role and taking what he could get. His usage percentage was 23.2 percent, lower than his career average of 30.8 percent. His 3-point attempt rate was 40.6 percent, which was more than double of his career average, so that puts to rest the narrative that he was settling for too many long twos.
Where Anthony went wrong was in his opening press conference of media day for the Thunder before the season started where he all but said he wasn’t coming off the bench behind an up-and-coming Jerami Grant. That’s the moment that stuck in everyone’s mind, and when the Thunder didn’t perform up to expectations he was the easiest person to blame.
While in OKC, he averaged 16.2 points which were second-lowest in his career, but he also only played 32.1 minutes per game which was also second-lowest in his career. Anthony shot 35.7 percent from three, which was slightly higher than his career average of 34.7 percent. He shot 43.7 percent from 2-point range, which was the lowest of his career, but he only took 8.9 shots from 2-point range which was…guess what? the lowest of his career, so that low percentage is a little distorted.
Even in Houston Carmelo took a backseat role, while also adapting to the new NBA by taking twice as many 3s as midrange jumpers and coming off the bench. It wasn’t until Houston ran into injury problems that Anthony had to take a larger role where he underperformed.
Melo is being asked for more than what the average aging NBA player is being asked to do and it’s not fair. Carmelo has been the same player with the same persona for at least 15 years. That’s what made him a superstar, but it’s also what kept him from getting over the hump and winning a title. That being said, while he’s not anywhere near what he used to be, Anthony is still serviceable. He shouldn’t have to give up his ego or motivation to contribute to an NBA team. He just needs to be what he was for the Thunder and simply try harder on defense.
Melo deserves one last chance to play.