The season is over in Oklahoma City and the Carmelo Anthony watch begins.
Of course, the real watch lies with Paul George and his free agency plans in July. But Anthony struggled with a new role all season, his first in Oklahoma City, and was defiant after the Thunder were eliminated by the Jazz in the first round.
“I’m not sacrificing no bench role. That’s out of the question,” Anthony said when asked if he would be open to being a sixth man. Such a role was weighed in the preseason before Oklahoma City scrapped such plans, yet Anthony struggled to adopt a third-option role and posted career lows across the board.
Thunder coach Billy Donovan said Anthony deserves credit for making sacrifices to his game, but in Oklahoma City Russell Westbrook will remain the No. 1 option, of course, followed by George if the swingman decides to stay.
What happens to ‘Melo, who has a player option that he will most certainly accept for next season? Royce Young of ESPN spoke with Anthony and weighed the situation facing OKC:
“I think for me, my focus would be on kind of figuring out what I want out of the rest of my career, what I want in my future, what am I willing to accept, if I’m willing to accept that at all,” Anthony, 34, said. “I think everybody knows that I’ve sacrificed kind of damned near everything, family, moving here by myself, sacrificed my game for the sake of the team, and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order for this situation to work out. So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball.”
Asked how he thought this season went, Anthony lowered his voice a bit.
“Interesting,” he said.
From day one, the Thunder asked Anthony to change, starting with his position. He made a full-time move to power forward and slowly integrated himself as a catch-and-shoot option rather than an isolation-heavy volume scorer. Anthony struggled adapting to not having the ball in his hands consistently and didn’t shoot nearly as well from the perimeter as the Thunder expected.
“I think the player that they wanted me to be and needed me to be was for the sake of this season,” Anthony said. “As far as being effective as that type of player, I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”
Anthony saw his role significantly reduced in the postseason. He was seen campaigning to get back on the court in Game 5 against the Jazz as the Thunder went on a 32-7 run, and he remained on the bench for the majority of the fourth quarter in Game 6. Utah clinched the first-round series 4-2 on Friday. Anthony averaged 11.8 points in the series, shooting just .375 from the field and .214 from 3-point range. His 16.2 points per game this season was a career low.
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