Anthony Returns To Where His NBA Career Started With 'Nothing To Prove To Anyone At All'

by Casey Holdahl
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Carmelo Anthony has returned to Denver, the city where his NBA career started, plenty of times since the blockbuster trade that sent the 6-7 forward to the New York Knicks back in 2011. But with the Trail Blazers drawing the Nuggets in the three/six matchup in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, this will be the first time that Anthony, who was selected by the Nuggets with the third overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, has faced his first pro team in the postseason.

So for Anthony, the series versus the Nuggets, which tips off Saturday night at Ball Arena, serves as as a reminder of where he’s been and how far he’s come since entering the NBA as a fresh-faced 19 year-old.

“(Denver) will also ways hold something special to me regardless of if I’m in that jersey or as an opponent,” said Anthony. “It’s a lot different now, it’s a lot different. My mindset is different, my goals are different. We going in there trying to win, so it’s a different type of mentality.”

Anthony changing his mentality has been a consistent theme at this late stage of his Hall of Fame career. When he spent a year out of the league, he had to contend with what his life would be like if he never played professionally again. Then he had to acclimate to a new team after only a few days of forewarning when he was signed as a free agent by the Trail Blazers in November of 2019 after a year away. And when he returned to Portland for a second tour, he did so as with the understanding that he’d be coming off the bench, a role he had never really played throughout his previous 17 seasons.

Those changes in mindset and mentality have resulted in Anthony playing an important role for a playoff team in his 18th NBA season, something few players in NBA history -- other than contemporaries such as LeBron James and Chris Paul -- have had the opportunity to enjoy.

“This is where I should be, I should be in the postseason,” said Anthony, who has appeared in 77 career playoff games. “That’s just me speaking from the heart and genuinely. If I’m not in the postseason then it should be a problem.

“Those years that I didn’t make it to the postseason it was very stressful. It was hurtful, it was stressful, it was painful because I had to go back and relive the moments of why I wasn’t in the postseason. So now, I’m in a familiar place, playing in the postseason, being able to do it at this level 18 seasons in and still going out there, having a chance to compete at the highest level and hopefully for a championship. There’s nothing more you can ask for that.”

Anthony has proven himself to still be a useful player on a playoff team at nearly 37 years old -- Game 4 versus the Nuggets is scheduled for his birthday -- and moved into the Top 10 in NBA history in scoring this season, passing the likes of Elvin Haynes, Hakeem Olajuwon and Oscar Robertson in the process. But while he’s highly motivated to help the Trail Blazers reach their ultimate goal of winning a championship, he doesn’t feel as though he needs to do so in order to cement his legacy. Maybe the 19 year-old who arrived in Denver in 2003 after one year at Syracuse would have felt like he needed to prove it in the postseason, but the 36 year-old who arrived in Colorado’s capital Thursday afternoon feels no such pressure.

“I don’t have to prove anything,” said Anthony. “I want to go out there and play good and hard, I’ll be prepared mentally and physically for the postseason. I know what I have to do in these situations, I know what my team needs from me.

“But other than that, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anybody. I just go out there, continue playing the way I’m playing. Of course dial it up to postseason mode. I am in postseason mode at this moment, there’s a lot more details that goes into that, a lot more preparation that goes into that. I prepare the way that I prepare. But other than that man, I have nothing to prove to anyone at all. There’s nothing for me to prove out there.”

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