In response to a troublesome start to the 2019-20 season, the Portland Trail Blazers have reportedly decided to keep it Melo.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Trail Blazers are signing forward Carmelo Anthony, a 16-year NBA veteran and 10-time All-Star, to a non-guaranteed contract pending a physical. Anthony, a 6-8 forward who has played for the Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder and Rockets since being taken out of Syracuse with the third overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, will join the Trail Blazers at some point during their current six-game road trip, which starts Saturday night in San Antonio versus the Spurs. He joins Pau Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Mario Hezonja as players on Portland’s roster this season who the team had previously attempted to acquire via trade or free agency.
After trading or declining to re-sign four forwards from the 2018-19 roster, the Trail Blazers found themselves with few options at power forward with Zach Collins missing at least the next four months due to shoulder surgery and Pau Gasol, signed as a free agent this offseason, still rehabbing from foot surgery in May.
And while Tolliver, Hezonja and Nassir Little have all gotten a shot starting at four, and head coach Terry Stotts has tried to use small ball lineups as much as possible, the Blazers have struggled making up for the loss of Collins on both ends of the floor. While it is hardly the only hardship the Blazers have encountered three weeks into the 2019-20 season, lack of depth at the forward position has been the most glaring issue in Portland’s 4-8 start.
“I’m all for it,” said Lillard, who reached out to Anthony Thursday night, after practice in San Antonio Friday afternoon. “I think we’re in a position where we’ve got a lot of guys hurt. I think he can do something to help us with his size, his ability to space the floor, his ability to shoot. Another option to throw someone the ball who can score in isolation situations, good rebounder and just the experience. He’s a good player, regardless of what the last few years in Houston and OKC looked like. I didn’t think either one was a great fit. I think he can do things to help our team. We’re not in a position to complain about it. He’s a Hall of Fame player and he can still play.”
After being cut by the Houston Rockets ten games into the 2018-19 season, the 10-time All-Star has made repeated attempts to convince NBA teams he’s still got something left to offer. Between persistent questions about his defensive prowess, teams moving away from the style of offense he’s best suited to play and reportedly bristling at the notion of accepting a bench role – he started in every one of his appearance before coming off the bench in eight games during his short stint with the Rockets – Anthony found himself on the outside looking in for the majority of the 2018-19 season and the start of the 2019-20 season despite support from many high-profile players.
“I’m excited,” said Kent Bazemore. “It’s always good to keep our brothers in the league, getting another chance with everything that’s been going on. It’s good to see him kind of still have love for the game and it’s going to be good to see him take advantage of his opportunity.”
But after losing seven of their last nine games since Collins’ injury, the Trail Blazers are in desperate need of anybody who could conceivably provide any assistance on either side of the ball. With much of the team struggling to score, so much so that teams have started sending up to four defenders at Lillard one time, Anthony gives Portland a player who could potentially help break those traps, and if nothing else, has more experience shouldering a significant load on offense than any of the current forward options on the team.
“He’s a veteran guy, been in the league for a long time, can do a lot of things,” said CJ McCollum. “Rebounding – something he can do right away – pick-and-pop, obviously he plays in the midrange but can still shoot threes. We’ll see how he fits in when he gets here but I think there’s a lot of ways we can use him and utilize him.”
And on the defensive end, at the very least, Anthony, listed at 6-8, 240 pounds, gives the Trail Blazers a player with the size required to defend NBA power forwards. Portland has had issues rebounding as well, particularly late in games, something Anthony should be able to assist with.
All told, the signing gives Portland a low-risk opportunity to see if Anthony can still score and defend at the NBA level. If he can, the Trail Blazers chances of remaining competitive for long enough for players such as Collins, Gasol and Jusuf Nurkic to return from injury. And if not, they’re no worse off than they were before. For a struggling team with few options, it qualifies as a chance worth taking.