Carmelo Anthony Ready To Accept Role Thanks to Honesty And Past Experiences

If you follow professional sports long enough, you eventually come to the conclusion that statements made by players about their futures are not to be taken too literally. People and situations are always changing, so while it might be nice for players to adhere to their words, it’s also not a realistic expectation. And to be fair, teams don’t have any problem trading even the most loyal players if the right deal comes along. After all it is, as they say, a business.

But that reality makes it even more satisfying when a player says something and then sticks to it, as Trail Blazers forward and future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony did when stating after the team's run in the Orlando bubble that he would like to return to Portland for another season. It sounded nice, but considering Anthony’s options after proving he still had plenty to offer on the court and his close ties to New York City, which shares little in common with Portland, some skepticism was warranted. But according to Anthony, the choice to return was never really in doubt.

“It really wasn’t a tough decision,” said Anthony. “It was something that I always felt like I would be back, I was coming back. It was something that we talked about, we discussed after what went down in the bubble and even after, so it was always a part of the plan.”

However, it wasn’t guaranteed. When he signed with the Trail Blazers early in the 2019-20 season after injuries fell forward Rodney Hood and Zach Collins, the team stated in no uncertain terms that Anthony would be a starter, a promise that they ultimately kept. But the situation had changed coming into a new season, both for Anthony and the team, and thus, a conversation needed to be had.

“The decision wasn’t tough, the only thing that was tough was just really figuring out where the team and the organization was going,” said Anthony. “What direction they wanted to go in, how they foresaw me being a part of this organization, if it was just a one-time thing last season or if it was something that all parties felt the need, that this was something that we needed to do. And we came to that agreement.”

While Anthony wouldn’t go into specifics, that “agreement” seems to be that, while he likely won’t start, at least not regularly, he will be an important part of the rotation. A perceived unwillingness to accept a role off the bench is one of the reasons Anthony went almost a year without playing after being cut by the Rockets at the start of the 2018-19 season, so before re-signing, both the player and the team needed some assurances that the most likely course of action was amenable to both parties.

“It was very straight to the point from my side and from their side, very honest with each other,” said Anthony of conversations with Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts. “Both parties was very honest, lots of transparency. But again, it was just coming to an agreement, coming to a mutual agreement about what this situation would be. And then at the end of the day, just going out there and wanting to play basketball, wanting to be a part of what’s happening and be a major part of our team success. Whether it comes in different ways, shapes or forms, me personally, I had to kind of swallow that pill. Like ‘Okay, let’s go, let’s make it happen. I feel comfortable here, you guys feel comfortable with me being here. Let’s make it happen.’”

To his credit, rather than opting for the more standard NBA boilerplate of claiming it doesn’t matter -- which everyone knows is a boldfaced lie -- Anthony was honest about the sting of coming off the bench this season after starting in all but eight of his 1,222 career games over the course of 17 NBA seasons. But it was his past experiences with the Blazers that made it possible for him to accept what, for all players, is an inevitability.

“I had to swallow that pill,” said Anthony. “We need to balance. You can’t bring CJ and Dame off the bench. I’ll do it! I’ll make it happen. But honestly, I had to really sit down with myself and think about that because it’s new. I’ve tried it in Houston, I only did it for seven, eight games. This is new for me. If I sit here and say that the thought of that wasn’t hard or difficult to hear and take, does that play with your pride and your ego? Yes it does, especially coming for someone like myself. But I had to take a deep breath and we’ll figure it out. We’ll make it work.”

Considering how well things worked out the last time Anthony and the Trail Blazers entered into a new situation by stating their intentions honestly, there’s reason to believe the transition from starter to reserve will be mutually beneficial.

“When you have people in the organization that want to go side by side with you through this, this journey, and be a part of your legacy, it gives you a different type of confidence,” said Anthony. “It gives you a different thought process. It eases a lot of thoughts and questions when you know you have people who really, truly care about your legacy.”