Carmelo Anthony has been an important part of an injury-riddled season for the Portland Trail Blazers. He served well during the regular season, then hit critical shots during the season restart in Orlando bubble, propelling his team to the 2020 NBA Playoffs. No player outside of Damian Lillard has come close to the amount of attention ‘Melo has received for doing so. Because of his brilliant and polarizing past, Anthony has been the focus of the media spotlight since he joined the Blazers last November.
As is typical, the narrative surrounding Anthony has darted between two poles: the suspicion-laden “wait for the other shoe” warning and the fuzzy, redemptive, “proved everybody wrong” fable. In the midst of this, Michael Pina of GQ.com has penned the definitive piece on Carmelo’s run in Portland, balancing right-brained impression with left-brained analysis to paint the complete picture.
The article is extensive, well-documented, and must be read if you want to understand the glory, and occasional pain, of relying on the 36-year-old forward as a key starter.
Pina starts by aptly describing two Carmelos. “Olympic Melo” shares the rock, shoots smart jumpers, and plays well off-ball. “Hoodie Melo” goes iso in the post in Michael Jordan/Charles Barkley fashion. They are, alternately, dream and nightmare.
Instead of settling on one version of the Hall-of-Famer, Pina suggests that Portland’s “Skinny Melo” is an amalgam of both.
The Blazers have fostered a healthy balance between his beloved hero-ball possessions—he isolated more than Jimmy Butler and Paul George this season, and tied Anthony Davis—and plays that ask him to either stand in the corner and watch Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum go full cookout mode on their own, or drill a catch-and-shoot three after his own man leaves to help.
This is a reminder that NBA games aren’t a computer simulation, and personalities matter too. Sure, theoretically Anthony could just hang out in the corners, where he’s shot 55 percent this year, and be Portland’s PJ Tucker. But if you’ve spent your life as the leading man, it’s hard to be the fourth option, and the Blazers need Anthony to stay engaged. In ten bubble games so far, he has been, in part because Portland has continued to live with the occasional tough looks he can’t quit.
Whether this is good or bad depends on the night and, just as critically, the needs of your team. Pina suggests that Portland has been a near-perfect playground for Anthony, mining his gifts, absorbing his foibles, able to benefit from both.
Give the article a read and enjoy the anecdotes and video examples!