Recognized as one of the best players in NBA history, certainly one of its top scorers, the last year or so has been confusing to Carmelo Anthony and those who believe he still has a lot to give the game.
While tons of free agents were being signed during offseason, Anthony was left on the outside as if someone of his stature required more fermentation.
Anthony waited a long time for work after being shuttled between the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets last winter. The word was – the word has always been – Melo had become too selfish with the ball, too one-dimensional to compete in the modern-day NBA.
But then the Portland Trail Blazers interceded and offered him a contract on Nov. 19, hoping there was still something left in his tank, but offering no financial guarantees.
Turns out there is.
On Monday in Chicago, in just this fourth game with the Blazers, Anthony poured in 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds, leading his team to a 117-94 win. In doing so, he passed Alex English into 18th place in NBA scoring history.
Anthony was 10-of-20 from the field with four three-pointers and two assists in 31 minutes.
After the game, Anthony paid homage to his wife, La La Anthony, who he said was responsible for convincing him to stay positive while waiting for his next opportunity to arrive.
“Mentally, she kept me going,” Anthony said. “Emotionally, she kept me going. She was nudging me, ‘Don’t do it, don’t think about it, don’t do it, don’t you let that thought creep into your head.’ So she was a major, major part of why I’m here today.”
La La Anthony is an actress, and as it turned out she was in Chicago filming. And late in the game, while Melo was on the bench, she face-timed their son. Melo was able to see him on the screen.
“Who wouldn’t want to see this? It’s amazing and exactly how it should be,” La La told ESPN.
Anthony hadn’t scored as many as 25 points since getting 28 in a game against the Brooklyn Nets while with Houston over a year ago. It was one of just 10 games in played with the Rockets.
So excited by the performance were Bulls fans that some began taunting team management by chanting “Bring back Melo.”
“That support, that was the most important thing to hear that tonight from fans, (from) Chicago Bulls fans,” Anthony said. “That’s a big moment, to hear that chant. With me on a whole other team, Portland — it’s out West — those fans didn’t have to do that.”
The Bulls waived Anthony on Feb. 1, a short time after picking him up in a trade with Houston. Problem was, he never reported to the team.
“I think at that point in time, it was just like we’ll do it just to do it and it was no conversation with that,” Anthony said.
You may recall Anthony came very close to signing with the Bulls as a free agent in 2014.
“I think at the end of the day, I’ll always be connected to Chicago, some way, somehow,” Anthony said. “For years and years, my name has always been connected to the Chicago Bulls, and I was a Bull for 10 days. But some way, somehow, I’ll always be connected to them.”
After the game, Anthony was asked whether he might have considered re-signing with the Bulls after the way time with them ended.
“They didn’t ask,” Anthony said.
Bulls guard Zach LaVine told The Athletic he had lobbied the NBA to bring Melo back into the league.
“I always advocated for him to be in the NBA,” LaVine said. “He might not be the old Melo, but he’s still pretty goddamn good. He’s better than a lot of people in the NBA, and he’s still getting it done. I think it was just bigger than that, and I’m glad to see him back here. Just not tonight.”
Do the Blazers need him? You bet they do. The win snapped a four-game losing streak. They had also lost eight of their last 10. The 25-point performance was also a step up from what he’d done in his first three games when he averaged 13 points and was shooting 34.1 percent from the floor.
“It’s Melo,” Bulls guard Kris Dunn said. “Who wouldn’t want Melo on their team? It’s a lot of young guys who could learn from him. I’m just as baffled as y’all (why he was out of work for so long). “I have no idea. As you could see, tonight he showed what he can do.
“It’s like watching a future Hall of Famer, especially when he gets it going. It’s hard to turn that fire off. Once he gets it going, you can see it in his eyes. He knows its wraps: ‘Ain’t no turning me off.’ And then once I saw him dunk the f—–g ball, I’m like, ‘Either we gotta do something better or he’s really turning back the clock.’”