Melo Is Back But Not Really, Really Back

Regardless of what happens to Carmelo Anthony in Rip City, whether he is the scoring punch they need in key situations, or he can’t fit in like he couldn’t fit in his past two stops (OKC and Houston), there is something important about Melo being allowed to come back. Short or long, playoffs or not, Carmelo Anthony’s legendary career demands he be given the luxury of one last shot. If Dwight Howard can be in the league and come off the bench and try to get back some of his past glory, why not Melo?

Not to diminish his ego which at times has been his worst enemy as it has run amok, I am anticipating humility. Very few teams wanted the Melo headache.  Portland is throwing him a lifeline only because they are desperate and Melo is ready to grab on and pull himself over the side of the boat. He is going to get his farewell tour after all if he plays his cards right. If he can adjust to being a role player on a non-guaranteed contract and at the same time be enthusiastic about it.

The Blazers and Neil Olshey aren’t stupid. They know what Melo brings and what his deficiencies are.  They have a strong locker room with Dame as its leader. The thing to worry about is if Melo has a couple of games where he is just sizzling the nets and draining jumpers from the elbow, can he stay in the present and not go backwards into nostalgia. The young look at me, I’m Melo, that player doesn’t exist anymore.

What Melo can do is give Dame Lillard and C.J. McCollum offensive breaks. He can run with the second unit if he doesn’t get himself all caught up in the old superstar trying to prove to everyone he is still a badass.

We know Melo can score. He was a brilliant scorer in his prime, the most effortless, the most talented jump shot maker. Scoring was his thing. It was easy for him. He’s currently 22nd on the all-time list, just below Alex English and 500 points behind Kevin Garnett. It’s the rest of his game that has created the Melo baggage and had him out the league.

That is the risk for Portland. If they somehow forget people don’t change.

The questions won’t go away.

  • What kind of shape is he in?
  • How many minutes does a way out of his prime Melo deserve?
  • What kind of mentor will he be to 20 year old Anfernee Simons?
  • What is Melo’s angle? What is he trying to prove? That he still belongs in the NBA? That he still matters? Or, that everyone was wrong about him? Everyone.

Melo is joining a team that is having trouble in multiple areas. The Blazers don’t have much of a front court except Hassan Whiteside. Everyone is injured. Only two teams average less than 20 assists per game. Portland is one of the them. (Utah is the other). 18 assists per game in a stretch the floor move the ball league is catastrophic. The Blazers are executing iso ball to its most unwatchable level and are losing. This from a team that was in the Western Conference Finals.

But back to Melo. I am excited to see him play. He was such an important part of the NBA the past 15 years. He should be able to retire the right way, on his own terms. Melo on standby always felt as if something was taken from him.

That said, I’m not sold on his game being anything more than a scorer who can make an occasional clutch bucket. There may be a game or two when he is that Melo, the Knicks scoring machine. But more than not, he’ll be who he is. Above average offense. Awful defense.

If things bend his way, he’ll solidify his place in the game as a top-20 scorer of all time. He belongs there. He belongs in the Moda Center. And in the NBA.

At least for a couple of months. To prove everyone wrong. And eventually, prove everyone right.