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Carmelo Anthony gets a last shot with the blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers stumble thanks to a flood of injuries that have devastated their forecourt. Coach Terry Stotts has asked role-playing players like Rodney Hood, Mario Hezonja, Anthony Tolliver and Skal Labissière, as former stalwarts Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless wear different uniforms and Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Pau Gasol are stuck in street clothes in the void and to play a place in the lineup. It did not go well: Portland ranks # 13 in the Western Conference with 4: 8 and only a 26% chance of reaching the postseason, as shown by the FiveThirtyEight projections. Given that the blazers were talking about winning the NBA championship less than a month ago, continuing the path to the lottery would be a pretty massive disappointment.

After six defeats in seven games, including one in which Damian Lillard scored 60 points against the nets, the blazers needed something, anything to shake things up and give them a chance Shock. Well, that's certainly a qualification:

The 16-year-old veteran and 10-year-old All-Star has not adapted for more than a year, but Carmelo Anthony has made it clear several times that he wanted to play again in the league after his 10-game flamenout with the Rockets last season. Anthony expressed a desire to return to an NBA court last week – and asked him if he wanted to be back in the NBA. "2,000 percent" – and announced TMZ Sports with Wednesday that he was "open to any opportunity" to join a team. This opportunity will be in Portland, the most meaningful place in the league for him – a franchise with established talent, championship aspirations and an urgent need for support. But Anthony has to earn it: his contract with the Blazers is not guaranteed, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN .

The contract pays him just under $ 15,000 a day he has in the team and is fully guaranteed by ESPN only if he makes it after January 7, according to Bobby Marks. In other words, this is a piece of evidence that relies entirely on Anthony, who in a short time shows a willingness to play the specific, circumscribed role that Portland asks him to do. And, perhaps more importantly, the ability to do so productively enough is an improvement over the under- and over-valued contributors Stotts relied heavily on in the absence of his main frontcourt players.

There is reason for skepticism on this front. After an up and down campaign in Oklahoma City in 2017/18, in which he repeatedly refused the idea of ​​leaving the bank, Anthony set off to Houston, to James Harden, Chris Paul and the former sparring partner Mike D & # 39; connect. Antoni on the rockets. There he teamed up with a reserve that immediately got a starting place when injuries and matchups required it. He tried, however, to produce in the role, with a few big nights surrounded by shaky shots and a very permeable defense.

The rockets were outscored by 63 points in Anthonys 294-minute ground time, a bleak 112.2 points per 100 possessions. Opponents repeatedly targeted him in the pick-and-roll – a strategy ironically made public by Harden and Paul himself when Anthony was with Oklahoma City, and which had devastating effects on Donovan Mitchell in against Melo and the Thunder The post-season 2018 made it hard for a Houston team that had suffered injuries and disagreements early last season to survive Anthony's minutes. Rockets sources told Baxter Holmes of ESPN that "they did not expect how limited [Anthony] would be their aggressive switch-centric defense," one speculated that "if they'd known he was that much For their defense, Anthony would not "They were not brought aboard. A 35-year-old who had difficulty playing the modern NBA defense before he played a year outside the game would be a tricky undertaking for a Blazers team. Cleaning the Glass is the non-garbage score in 19th place. Hassan Whiteside blocks many shots, but he is not the kind of elite defense center that can mask the mistakes of his teammates with intelligent positioning and deterrence. Portland is already starting a small backcourt without real defenders. Kent Bazemore is probably closest, but he beats his weight class and protects bigger wings. (One possible blessing grace: Stotts has long favored conservative defense strategies where his big boys fall back on pick-and-roll instead of stepping on the screen and inviting counters – an approach that could save Anthony from the routine burning on screen. ) Scope.)

Would it really make the Blazers much better to add Melo to an already contested defense without anyone protecting him? Maybe not, but Portland hopes Anthony will have enough petrol in the tank and enough intuition on his sweater to work the other end of the pitch. With the exception of Hood, who made a good start, they get virtually nothing from their 3s and 4s on offense. Bazemores shoot 35.8 percent off the ground and 34 percent out of 3-point reach. Hezonja fought even more, shooting only 32 percent outside and outside the arch. Tolliver was somehow worse and shot only 24 percent on 2 and 3. The three have combined for 39 templates and 41 sales. The opponents essentially ignore them, training their entire defensive attention on Lillard and CJ McCollum and venturing Portland's "others" to defeat them. On Wednesday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse even went as far as letting the lady "Steph in the Finals" treatment through to a small part of the old Box-and-One. It worked: the Raptors limited Lillard to only nine points in 2-on-12 shooting; Bazemore, Hezonja, Labissière and rookie Nassir Little scored 24 points in 7-on-28 shooting. and Toronto won.

This will continue when Portland does not find new answers on the forecourt. However, good help is hard to find – especially for a team that is already deep in the luxury tax, has little enticing trading ability, and does not want to part with what it has (good luck taking Simon's offshore Simons out of the Pacific) northwest the 20-year-old's outstanding start of the season), and its list of prospective trading goals is limited by league rules that prevent players who signed free agent contracts this summer from being dealt with until 15 December. The blazers needed someone who was cheap, who could score and who was available. Enter Melo, whom Portland had tried to land several times over the past few years. Lillard enlisted Anthony and endorsed for and is said to have supported his addition now – maybe because he saw more than enough Hezonja Time, thank you.

Anthony does not have to turn back the clock to help the blazers. Even the diminished form he showed in Houston – 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game in shooting assignments on 41st / 33rd / 68th. More than 50 percent of his shooting attempts were made from outside the bow, instead of insisting on midfield pull-ups he had in his heyday – would still make him the most prolific frontcourt offensive option for Stotts.

If he could bring his catch-and-shoot efficiency back to where it was in Oklahoma City When he turned down 37.3 percent of his triple attempts a few years ago, he could pose a valuable threat to Lillard and McCollum when they isolated or performed pick-and-roll. And while Melo has always been the first, second and third type, he's also an intelligent and seasoned offensive basketball player who has had an average of three assists per 36-minute playtime in his career and can score a productive pass as a trigger valve when opponents hit the ball catch from the hands of the Blazer guards. Whether he will make the next piece, I do not know. But he can and for a punchy team in Portland, all this is nothing.

This role is neither tremendous nor glamorous, but for Anthony it is currently on the table. If he gets involved, he could find a new life in the NBA, just as Dwight Howard – another former superstar whose relevance has diminished in recent years – has done so by calling life a rim-run, rim-protection and complementary form accepted piece in Los Angeles. If he refuses or can not cut off the mustard … well, his exit from Portland will probably be even faster than his Houston 10-game exit.

This was a disgraceful ending to a future Hall of Famer and you could tell it was straining Anthony. During an interview this summer, he told Stephen A. Smith of ESPN, "I felt like I loved the game, but the game did not love me." Now, months after, "to re-evaluate myself to re-evaluate. rate my career, reevaluate my life ", Anthony gets another chance to write something closer to his favorite last chapter. He believes he can still play at NBA level and help a team – an overlooked scratch card that can turn into a million dollar payday. The blazers' chances of getting out of the dive and getting back into the playoffs may depend on whether he is right or not.

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