Melo is going to be alright, after all.
On Tuesday night at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Carmelo Anthony donned his fifth NBA uniform and returned to the place he’s most comfortable.
The starting lineup of an NBA roster.
Alongside new teammates Rodney Hood, Hassan Whiteside, CJ McCollum, and Anfernee Simons, Anthony took the floor for the first time in 376 days, as the Portland Trail Blazers took on the New Orleans Pelicans.
Portland didn’t waste any time getting Anthony involved, as he was the focal point of the first three possessions. After missing on a mid-range jumper off a curl, Anthony knocked down his first shot on the Blazers’ third possession when he connected on an open 3-pointer from the wing.
The early moment was one of the few bright ones for Portland, as they would fall 104-115 to the Pelicans. Anthony finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting, with 4 rebounds and 1 block in 23 minutes of action.
His game is still there, but the rust was apparent.
“I thought it went about as well as could be expected,” said Greg Anthony, who was calling the game on NBATV with Kevin McHale. “He didn’t shoot a great percentage, but I thought the quality of the shots were good. And I think with intergrading, it’ll only get better.”
“I thought he was playing composed with some missed lay-ins and some easy shots, said McHale. “I thought he looked good….I liked his shot selection, and he’s going to fit in well with this team.”
In his 17th season, Anthony debuted a new number as he’s switched to No. 00.
The reason Melo chose No. 00. It's deeper than basketball.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) November 19, 2019
The No. 7 is being held in Portland in honor of Brandon Roy, while his old No. 15 is retired for Larry Steele. The 35-year-old made it official earlier in the day when he signed a one-year, non-guaranteed deal for $2.15 million. He can pocket the cash if he sticks around past a guaranteed date in January.
“Let me just get three or four days of just, get back into it,” Anthony recently said about making the decision. “Mentally and emotionally I had detached almost myself from the game a little bit, just to give myself some sanity and not think about it. But once I got that call, the challenge was for me to flip that back mentally. There’s a big difference in training while you’re waiting, and training once you get the call and saying, ‘OK, we want to do this.”
And as it turns out, McCollum and Damian Lillard are a big reason why Anthony is back in the league.
“I always kept my eye on Portland,” said Anthony. “It just didn’t work out at other times, but now it seems like a perfect opportunity. Me and Dame, we’ve been talking for the past couple years, just off and on. CJ has been playing in my Black Ops runs for the past four years. I just look at that opportunity, that team and say, look ‘this is what I can bring to the team, this is where I can help it.’ It will only work if all parties see it the same way.”
While there still isn’t word if Anthony will be a starter when Lillard returns to the lineup, Portland is hoping Anthony can provide a spark for a team that is currently 5-10, and sitting at 14th in the Western Conference.
And if the Trail Blazers are still in need of some veteran leadership in a few weeks, there’s another seasoned scorer out there on the free-agent market, as Jamal Crawford is still waiting on his phone to ring.
“I know I can play. And I would think my reputation is still solid. It’s baffling to me,” he recently told NBA.com.