Carmelo Anthony: What we learned from the ESPN interview

Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Photo by Torrey Purvey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images /

Carmelo Anthony recently went on ESPN’s First Take to give his thoughts on his career, Houston and what his future holds. What are some of the biggest takeaways from that interview.

Carmelo Anthony has been on a roller coaster these last few years. Up to a few years ago, he was a 20-plus point per game scorer with a 43 percent or better field goal percentage. However, lately he’s seen nothing but setbacks for the now 34-year-old veteran.

He’s played on three teams over the last three years and more recently, has been downgraded from a bona fide starter to a rotation player coming off the bench to now not being on an NBA team since the Houston Rockets sent him home in November 2018.

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Last Friday, he joined ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith on First Take to discuss his career, his feelings about being cut from the Rockets, and what he envisioned for his future.

Anthony’s career hit controversy almost right away, when he signed a five-year, $80 million deal to stay with the Denver Nuggets after his rookie contract had expired.

The deal raised some questions at the time, because Anthony’s friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade both encouraged him to take a shorter three-year deal with a player option for a fourth year.

According to Carmelo, the plan was for Anthony to join Wade and LeBron when they paired up on the Miami Heat.

Chris Bosh had been the backup option, but Anthony’s contract at the time made it so that he couldn’t join his friends in Miami, when they joined forces in the 2010-11 NBA season.

That season, Carmelo Anthony would be traded to the New York Knicks, just days before the trade deadline.

In New York, Anthony flourished, and he had his sights set on winning a championship when his contract came up in the summer of 2014, and he hoped to do it with the Chicago Bulls, stating in that First Take interview:

"“I was going to Chicago. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, I was off to Chicago. Then I started getting rumors that this guy is going and that guy is going.”"

Anthony’s sources seemed to know what they were talking about, as just two years later both Rose and Noah had left the team. Because of this, Anthony decided to play it safe and re-sign with the New York Knicks.

Carmelo’s problems began shortly before the 2017-18 season. In September 2017, the Knicks traded Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, in a deal that saw Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott go to New York.

He played just one season with the Thunder, starting in all 78 games that he played. However, while there, Anthony’s stats hit a dramatic decline.

He went from averaging 22.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game on 43.3 percent field goal shooting in 2016-17, to just 16.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per game on 40.4 percent shooting.

After that season, the Thunder sent him to the Atlanta Hawks, where just five days later he was waived.

In the span of just two seasons, Anthony had went from a 20 point per game scorer, a feature on the Knicks squad, and having the potential to be one of the best players on a championship team to being a salary cap filler for a trade.

Anthony wasn’t a free agent for a month before the Rockets signed him.

They brought him on for one year on a veteran’s minimum contract. In one season, he went from being paid $26 million to just $2.4 million.

The string of bad luck continued for Carmelo in the 2018-19 season. He played only 10 games with the Rockets. Still, in that short run Carmelo seemed to prove he can still play, recording season highs of 28 points, 10 rebounds, and two assists in his first game in November.

One problem that arose while on the Rockets was the idea of Anthony starting the game on the bench. Of his 10 games, he only started two and according to Anthony, that came as a bit of a surprise.

During his interview, he told Smith that the Rockets had been talking with him about bringing to the team for three or four years at that point and that when he signed with them, they told him that he was the piece that he was missing.

Then, as his role began to diminish, he claims that the dialogue surrounding him became centered around whether he could come off the bench, a question which has plagued him for the last few years and is probably what is keeping him off an active roster today.

For his part, Anthony claims that he can come off the bench and that he has no problem with it. On First Take, Anthony said the problem with coming off the bench for the Rockets was that he was never told that he was going to play that role, so he assumed he’d be starting.

After he was released, his confidence took a major hit:

"“It felt like *expletive*, somebody in power telling you they no longer need your services, it felt like I got fired .. .I felt like I don’t want to do this no more. I felt like I loved the game, but the game didn’t love me.”"

After his tenure with Houston had ended, people began to wonder if Anthony could come off the bench, if he’d be willing to accept that role. Included in that was his former teammate for both the Nuggets and the Knicks, Chauncey Billups:

Anthony clams that he has accepted the idea of taking a lesser role on a team:

"“To come off the bench, that was a major ego hit. But I came to a point in Houston where I accepted that.”"

He then talked about what he took away from stars like Chris Paul, LeBron James, Damian Lillard and Dwyane Wade all standing up for him, yet none of them bringing him to their team. When asked if something struck him about that, Anthony responded:

"“It strikes me that I’m not on a roster due to my talent, due to my skill. You’re telling me there’s 30 teams in the NBA, and I can’t make a 15-man roster …1,000 percent [I can accept a lesser role]. I can do that.“I had to do that, I wasn’t willing to do that in Houston because that wasn’t what was relayed to me. It was, you are the piece that we need."

Now, Anthony is struggling to prove his worth in a hyper-competitive NBA landscape, in which he has to prove that he can be a team player, and come off the bench without creating any drama.

In his 17 seasons, Anthony has accomplished almost everything there is to do in the NBA.

He’s a 10-time All-Star, a six-time All-NBA player, was a member of the 2003-04 All-Rookie team, was the NBA scoring leader in 2012-13, and has been a member of four USA Basketball squads, including starting on two of them.

By any measure, he’s a future Hall of Famer. The only thing that he hasn’t done though, win an NBA championship. And Anthony is acutely aware of that:

"“Ultimate goal is to play and to win a championship. That’s all that’s left for me, to win a championship. But I also want to play.”"

Now, Anthony works hard to prove that he deserves to be one of the 450 men on an NBA roster. He’s in the gym every day, and he’s constantly training.

While he hasn’t been an active member of any NBA team, Anthony is working hard to leave behind a legacy of helping young talent. Among those players, he specifically mentioned Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma as two players who he has been training with.

Carmelo Anthony has been working hard since his release to improve his public image. In the cut-throat world of the NBA, it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’ve been doing and by all accounts Anthony has been trying the right way to get on a team.

He hasn’t gone to his friends to demand a spot, he hasn’t tried any sort of underhanded tactics, he took all the hits that came to him, rolled with them, and is working his way back to the top of his game.

Finally, after some major hits to his ego, Anthony is rebounding the right way. He understands that there may be too much damage done to repair, and he has an interesting view on how he would feel if his career ended here:

"“I think I would be at peace. Right now, I’m in limbo … but if I know that this was it, I would have to be at peace with that. I wouldn’t have to be in limbo anymore.“Right now I don’t know that so it’s hard for me to focus on anything other than keeping my body right and keeping my mind right.”"

In that struggle, Anthony is showing everyone that there isn’t any setback too big to work back from. He’s a player that deserves another chance, but instead of sitting around and whining about his situation, he’s hitting the gym and trying to fix it.

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An admirable route that hopefully will soon pay off.