To say that Carmelo Anthony didn’t have a very good season in 2018-2019, playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, would be… accurate. But as he’s on his way to the Houston Rockets via the Atlanta Hawks, the 12-time NBA All-Star sees it more as bump in the road rather than an obvious sign of decline.
Anthony averaged just 16.2 points per game for the Thunder, helping them to a first round exit against the Utah Jazz, his first playoff appearance since 2013, in which he performed poorly, scoring just 11.8 points per game, as the Thunder often found out they played better without him on the floor.
His sharp decline in scoring, efficiency and overall contributions (never his strong suit) isn’t convincing Anthony that it’s time to come off the bench, nor should he change something about his game.
From his interview with Jemele Hill of the Undefeated: I know how to play this game of basketball. I’ve been playing it for a long time. When I feel like I’m ready to take that role, then I’ll take that role. Only I know when it’s best for me to take that role. I’m not going to do that in a situation where I still know my capabilities and what I can do.And at the end of the day, the people who really matter know my capabilities and what I can still do. You start getting to the media and debates, it’s going to always be kind of back-and-forth.
Basically, Anthony thinks that everything that’s happened to him over the last few years with the Knicks and his last season with the Thunder has nothing to do with his diminishing ability to play the leading man for a team. He’s also hanging to the explanation that he arrived late to join the Thunder last season, and it simply wasn’t good fit.
You can argue that Anthony wasn’t used the right way on a team ill-suited for his specific offensive skills. But that’s the point. He’s going to join a team with two very dominant ball handlers who might be more intelligent in terms of knowing how to operate teammates compared to Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and a team that’s offensive scheme doesn’t exactly match his comfort zone and tendencies.
Without getting into potential Rockets lineups and alignments, a quick view of the team’s roster and players suggests Anthony as a 6th man, with less defensive responsibility and a bit more flexibility in positioning and role, can be a real game changer for him. He can still score, just not as good as before, and his career-long laziness on defense and on the boards is less impactful when he’s playing some of the time with the second unit.
A clear case of ego and of someone trying to push a narrative of simply being misused instead of slowly becoming useless, it feels like Anthony is struggling to keep up with the changes in the NBA, and the changing perception of “score-first, do little else” players like him.