“Off the Rim” is a column by Sarah Ko about basketball.
An NBA legend graced the Moda Center floor on Tuesday, Nov. 19 and it wasn’t for a jersey retirement ceremony or the last stop on a farewell tour. It was quite the opposite. A stranger to the Portland Trail Blazers stepped on the hardwood, sporting “00” in the black, white and red jersey—Carmelo Anthony made his return to the NBA after a one-year hiatus and intends to put a ring on his finger.
After being waived by the Houston Rockets in November last year, Anthony has spent his time out of the league steering away from the meme status the media bestowed upon him. He only recently began to open up to the public, posting videos on YouTube where he shows his fans his off the court adventures every Monday. Nonetheless, he still spent his departure in the gym and working on his game, making him an obvious addition for the injury-plagued Blazers.
However, his opening performance was mediocre to say the least. After just one game back, critics slammed him, saying he doesn’t have what it takes to save Portland basketball.
But they’re forgetting how Anthony became a legend in the first place: his talents completely turned around the loss-ridden New York Knicks, and he redeemed the Denver Nuggets in a similar fashion.
Plus, they need to be reminded that his impact on the team was far greater than playoff appearances. He fostered a hopeful community, bringing Manhattan dwellers together in the heart of New York night after night.
And remind them he did. The Player of the Week has scored double digits in nearly every game since, proving he can and will reignite fan enthusiasm and save the Blazers.
Rip City’s performance this season has been disappointing following their near-NBA Finals appearance in 2019. The Blazers currently sit at the bottom of the Western Conference, and cheers and enthusiasm have left the arena. But Anthony’s arrival is the turnaround they need.
“I think being in a position where a lot of our guys are hurt, he can do something to help us with his size, his ability to space the floor and his ability to shoot,” Blazer’s star point guard Damian Lillard said in a practice interview before Anthony took the floor. “Regardless of what the last few years in Houston and OKC looked like.”
Not only does Anthony fill a necessary role as Jusuf Nurkic’s replacement, but he also fills the void of experience.
“I came into this game with a totally different mindset, totally different motivations,” Anthony said. “Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. The way that I’m able to see things, a lot of things are clear to me now so I can just go out there and play basketball now.”
With his recent performances and new psyche, Anthony’s debunked the assumptions that he finessed yet another NBA contract. Yes, Anthony hasn’t been the same consistent star player Madison Square Garden loved, but his mental preparedness is exactly what the dejected, wounded Blazers team needs.
“The greatest feeling of it all was to feel wanted by a group of guys who believe in me and my talent and what I can bring to the game,” Anthony said.
If Hoodie Melo continues his strong comeback with the Blazers, it would redeem his Hall of Fame reputation and allow him to join Michael Jordan as an icon coming out of “retirement”. He is mentally and physically prepared to facilitate the floor and help regain some of the Blazers roster’s optimism.
“Off the Rim” runs every Thursday.