If You Want To Stay Melo, Sometimes You Have To FOH
Since joining the Trail Blazers in November, Carmelo Anthony has treated the team and their fans to the full Carmelo experience. Jab steps into jumpers. Three to the dome. Baseline fadeaways in the post. Head-butting the ball after made baskets. Wearing a wide headband on the court and designer labels off of it. Stay Me7o. All those small parts of Anthony's game and personality that he's become known for during the course of his Hall of Fame career made the move with him to Portland, bringing both skill and levity to a season that has often times been short on both.
And of course, there's Carmelo's on-court talk, specifically his exclamations when he intends on grabbing a defensive rebound. Much like calling for a pop fly in baseball, Anthony has become known for yelling out three words that have become something of a catchphrase to make everyone well aware that he intends on grabbing a rebound.
"F@#& OUTTA HERE" (which will heretofore be shortened to "FOH" for the sake of the children).
Carmelo doesn't remember exactly when he started yelling out expletives to let his teammates know when he's in position to grab a rebound, but he very clearly recalls why he started.
"I've played on team where guys, I won't say steal rebounds, but guys was real intense when going for the rebound," said Anthony. "You had to really go get it and so I figured the way I could let everybody know that I'm going to get the rebound is saying that. It just happened."
It's a habit that continues on to this day, and has become such a part of Carmelo's on-court routine that he says sometimes he doesn't even realize he's yelling "FOH" while going up for the rebound. But it seems to be working, as Anthony is grabbing 6.4 rebounds per game this season, the most he's averaged since the 2015-16 season, his penultimate with the New York Knicks.
What's more, Anthony's rebounding numbers have ticked up despite playing alongside Hassan Whiteside, who is second in the league in rebounding this season at 14.2 boards per game. It's something of an unwritten rule in the NBA that centers get first crack at uncontested rebound, but Anthony and Whiteside have come to an understanding, partially due to Carmelo's flag-planting.
"I'd rather have a guy rebounding down there than not rebounding, so it's all good," said Whiteside. "I always seen it on TV, but he be doing it to me a lot. I joke with him, I tell him I'd lead the league in rebounds if it weren't for him. I be joking with him, he do it by hisself."
In general, NBA players love to put up stats -- the lengths some player will go in order to complete a triple-double is proof enough of this trait -- so it would be naive to think there wasn't some part of Anthony's rebounding histrionics that can be traced to a desire to pad numbers. But there are also some very valid reasons for making sure there's no confusion about who is doing what on the court.
"I think it's a good thing, the fact that I can attack the defensive rebound like that or just go rebound like that," said Anthony. "But it also puts everybody on alert. I have this rebound, same team, don't come knock it out the hands. It alleviates a lot of those issues."
Few things are more frustrating in an NBA game than two players on the same team going for a rebound, only to have the ball go out of bounds in the tussle and be awarded to the other team. Carmelo's verbalizing his intent helps lessen the chances of that happening.
"He's done it for a while now, and it's a great thing that he's doing because it communicates with your teammate, let them know get the FOH, I got the rebound," said Gary Trent Jr. "There's so many times when you see both guys go for it or fighting for it or it goes out of bounds. Doing that clears up the confusion."
It also provides some amusement to Portland's bench. Being around a player of Carmelo's reputation is in and of itself a treat for the players, and getting a front row seat to watch him do the same things in his 17th season that he was doing in his seventh is a bonus not lost on the players, especially those who have been watching him play for the majority of their lives.
"It's just what he does but to us it's a little bit comical every time he does it," said rookie Nassir Little. "The funniest ones be where nobody is around him and he be like 'FOH!' Who you talking to? You the only one on defense right now! Those be the funniest ones, uncontested and he still say it. We get a little chuckle on the bench every time.
"The way he rebounds it, it's so elaborate. He slaps the ball, he jumps hard, lands heavy, that's what makes it so funny to me."
And as for his more veteran teammates, they see it as not only a bit comical, but as a way to stay motivated after grabbing 7,240 rebounds over the course of 1,111 career games.
"It did start off as funny when I first heard it," said Trevor Ariza. "Obviously he knows the mic is up underneath the basket. It just became a thing that grew for him, something he does. Maybe for him it keeps him locked in, it gives him another element to look forward to to make the game a little bit more competitive for him."
After sitting out the majority of the 2018-19 season, there were significant concerns about whether Anthony would ever play again in the NBA, let along be an important contributor. But his play this season with the Blazers has quelled those concerns, so much so that he's likely to have a number of offers this offseason after starting the 2019-20 season as a free agent. At his current level of play, Anthony could be yelling "FOH" on NBA courts well into the 2020s.
"It wasn't something that was planned, it just started to happen," said Anthony. "I enjoy it, I like it, I like when other guys go get the rebound. But if it's same team, it's the same team."