For the past two years, the name Carmelo Anthony has become a punchline.
After a disappointing season playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George on the Thunder, Melo found himself traded to the Hawks, who quickly released him to sign with the Houston Rockets, who, after a short stint, took him out of the rotation, later, again, releasing him from his contract. Signed, trade, waived, signed, waived, and now, signed again, by the Portland Trail Blazers. This pattern isn’t exactly encouraging when put on the page, especially when you consider that Melo hadn’t averaged a positive Box Plus Minus (BPM) or Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), two catch-alls for measuring the relative value of a player’s contribution, since his penultimate season with the Knicks, now almost four years ago.
To many critics, Carmelo Anthony’s career was considered over. Even after Melo was signed by the Blazers, many viewed his stint with them as a “farewell tour”, only meant to give the 10-time All Star a more suiting exit from the league. However, Carmelo Anthony has emphatically rejected the notion of a farewell tour, both with his words and with his play.
After a rough adjustment period, it looks like Melo has found his stride again as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. Carmelo Anthony, or 007 as he’s rebranded himself, has gotten hot offensively after sitting on the sidelines for essentially an entire season. His scoring over the past three games has helped lead the Blazers to a 3 game winning streak right after it looked like their season was about to skid below the .500 mark. Over these games, Melo dropped 19 against his former squad, the Thunder, and 23 and 25 against the Chicago Bulls. He’s scoring like vintage Melo, for better and for worse, and it’s brought the third iso-scorer that the Blazers have been trying to put next to McCollum and Lillard for a long time (Rodney Hood wasn’t really cutting it). But Me7o isn’t just getting buckets for the Blazers, he’s also getting a couple of assists a game and rebounding pretty much as well as he ever has. Melo grabbed 10 boards to go along with his 25 points in the latest matchup between the Blazers and Bulls, his first double-double since he was traded away from Oklahoma City. Perhaps even more impressive is Anthony’s Plus/Minus over the past few games. Melo has gone from hardly making any positive impact to leading all Trailblazers in P/M over this win streak, with a whopping +27 stat line against the Thunder team that had given up on him.
Moral of the story: When you #StayMe7o, you don’t have to #GetMe7o. It’s been very easy to dismiss Carmelo Anthony’s talent and accomplishments over the past few seasons, but Anthony has shown in his play with the Portland Trail Blazers that he’s kept his body in professional shape, and that he’s still more than talented enough to deserve a spot on not only an NBA roster, but a competitor.
Between CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, and Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers basically have as much offensive firepower as any team in the league. Add a defensive anchor to that core, like Jusuf Nurkic, still recovering from that tragic injury, and you’ve got a team that, at the very least, can be the foil for a a very fun second round match up. Melo also brings a true veteran voice to the Trail Blazers, something that they haven’t really had since LaMarcus Aldridge left for the Spurs. Above all, The Trail Blazers just had to do something to shake things up after season after season of ebbing between mediocrity and mild success in the postseason. Portland needed to shake things up, and they chose a dynamic and exciting way to do it. Maybe we can finally see Melo vs LeBron in the playoffs again, 17 years after both were drafted, and years since their Maybe. Maybe. A basketball writer can dream.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.