Paul George might be happier than anyone to see Carmelo Anthony back in the NBA. The former teammates played together in Oklahoma City and while Anthony didn’t play well that season, he clearly left an impact on those in the Thunder locker room. It’s clear that at this point in his career that might be what matters most: he’s someone that everybody respects.
Players all across the NBA felt that Anthony deserved to be on a roster somewhere and weren’t happy he essentially spent a season in exile after a brief stint with the Houston Rockets. That included George and his Clippers teammate, Kawhi Leonard. He too felt that Anthony was being mistreated despite a Hall of Fame career, and they both spoke about Melo’s return.
George personally didn’t like the “narrative” that’s surrounded Anthony and his reputation the last few years.
“I mean, it’s great,” George said of Anthony, who is averaging 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in six games since joining the Blazers after not playing since November 2018. “I just hate how [his] first game, Melo came back, the whole media was [focused on] his plus-minus was this and him being on the floor, Portland generated this, and now he’s playing well and the media is [pointing out how] three games straight where he did this.
“I just hate the narratives that’s created by him being back,” George added about critics focused on Anthony’s style of play. “Melo has been a great player, he’s going to be a great player, he’s playing terrific from start to finish, and shoutout to Portland for opening that door back up for Melo and prolonging his career.”
Anthony is playing well for the Blazers right now, and considering the struggles Portland had gone through this season, it’s a nice story. His play at this point of his career, however, really doesn’t speak to the kind of impact Anthony has had across the NBA. George only played one season with him. Leonard has never played with him at all and yet they’re both thrilled to see him back. You don’t earn that kind of praise from your peers by just being a good basketball player.. You have to be someone that players enjoy being around on a personal level. Anthony is beloved by his peers and he’s earned that by being the kind of teammate that players gravitate towards.
Leonard also didn’t think Anthony was “treated the right way” last season and spoke positively about his return to the league.
“He is able to get an opportunity and get a chance to go out there and pretty much be himself,” Leonard said. “I’m just happy for him that he was able to get back in the NBA. It is well deserved. I don’t think he was treated the right way, how they left him out there being a future Hall of Famer.
“As you can see, he’s still running up and down the floor, so he’s still got a lot of basketball left in him. It’s going to be a fun matchup for us.”
George is right that many focused on Anthony’s usage and defensive metrics when he returned, something that doomed his brief time in Houston as well. And it’s hard to agree that simply narratives impacted his career. During his stints in OKC and Houston, his jumpshot had abandoned him. It felt like he just didn’t have the legs to keep up at top NBA speed anymore. In Portland he’s back to making a lot those shots he was missing and it’s leading to him having a positive impact on the team. It’s a results oriented league and as long as Anthony’s results lead to success, he’ll find somewhere to play.