After a surprise run to last season’s Western Conference Finals, things have been steadily going from bad to worse for Terry Stott’s men.
The Blazers are in the middle of a devastating downward spiral that has seen them lose 8 of their first 12 games and 6 of their last 7 (including an embarrassing 123-114 loss to a Warriors team led by… Eric Paschall and Ky Bowman!?!).
They still have one of the league’s most dynamic starting backcourts: Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have both had excellent starts to the season, averaging a combined 50.6 points and 10 rebounds per game on 45% shooting.
The frontcourt, however, has been absolutely decimated. Starters Al-Farouq Aminu and Moe Harkless were lost in the offseason, along with key bench players Seth Curry, Meyers Leonard, and Enes Kanter, while long-term absentee Jusuf Nurkic has been joined on the sidelines by Zach Collins. This has left Portland relying on a rather underwhelming combination of Hassan Whiteside, Anthony Tolliver, Mario Hezonja, and Nassir Little to fill out the frontcourt. And the results have gone how you might expect.
Teams are forcing the Blazer’s backcourt duo to essentially beat them by themselves (see Lillard’s 60-point effort in a 119-115 home loss to the 4-7 Brooklyn Nets).
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Which brings us to Thursday.
Adrian Wojnarowski once again sent NBA Twitter into a frenzy, tweeting that 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony was to be given one more shot in the NBA with the Portland Trailblazers. Despite this fervour, it’s a move that is likely to have minimal impact on the season, if any at all. After all, Melo hasn’t played in an NBA game since an 80-98 loss to OKC with the Houston Rockets last November 8th, in which he totalled just 5 rebounds and 2 points on 1-11 shooting in 20 minutes. He had a game-worst plus/minus of -22. He is now 35 years old and hasn’t looked like a genuine difference-maker in the NBA for at least 3 years.
Portland knows this. They have offered him a non-guaranteed deal that will see him paid around $15,000 a day until January 7th. If he is still on the roster on that date, the rest of the deal becomes guaranteed. No one should be expecting the Carmelo Anthony who was a 10x All-Star, dragged Denver to the Western Conference finals, and once led the league in scoring. Instead, people will have to get used to seeing him as a bit-part bench player who has a defined and limited role.
Of course, we all heard the rumours of discontent and saw how quickly he was turfed out of Houston. The drop off in his already below-average defence was too much for a Houston squad that was already suffering from the recent departure of former defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik. Insiders at the Rockets were quoted as saying that ‘had they known he’d struggle so much in their defence, Anthony wouldn’t have been brought aboard’ (Baxter Holmes, ESPN). Given that he is now 12 months older and not-at-all in game shape, you wouldn’t have to be too much of a gambling man to bet on Melo’s time in Portland, ending in a similarly swift fashion. Will he get another chance? It seems unlikely.
But it isn’t just Portland who are hoping for Melo to succeed up in the northwest. A number of stars around the league, including Lebron James, Donovan Mitchell, and the recently-retired Dwyane Wade, have all voiced their excitement at Melo being given another crack at the NBA. Even in his brief stint with the Rockets, he demonstrated that he was still an excellent one-on-one scorer and, recent years aside, has had a phenomenal career.
Unfortunately, however, things aren’t likely to get better for Melo’s new team any time soon: Portland is about to embark on a 6-game road trip, which includes visits to the Spurs, Rockets, Pelicans, and Bucks. With the playoff race in the West arguably more crowded than ever, there is little margin of error for Portland to right the ship. Melo has been brought in to try and help stem the tide that is pushing Portland out of contention. If (or when) that fails to happen, expect him to be jettisoned as abruptly as he was brought on board.News Now - Sport News