When Melo officially became a Laker, the headline on this very blog was centered on what felt like an important question at the time: “The Lakers have officially signed Carmelo Anthony, which will put his ability to sacrifice to the ultimate test.”
Seven games into the season, it’s fair to say that Anthony is passing that exam with flying colors. Anthony is shooting a team-high 52.2% from three on 6.6 attempts per game, and averaging 16.7 points in 27 minutes a game off the bench. The team is in awe of the way he’s given them a “fearless sniper,” but for Anthony himself, there was never any doubt that would happen. Actually, it’s fair to say he probably would have disagreed with the premise that there were any tests left for his ability to sacrifice, or to fit in.
He says that’s never been a problem for him, and seems to dislike the narrative that it ever was.
“I think people don’t really understand me. I think there’s a misconception out there about me not being able to adapt to situations, but I’m easily adaptable, to any situation,” Anthony said after his 23-point scoring outburst gave the Lakers a Halloween treat, helping them beat the Houston Rockets, 95-85, on Sunday night.
“I’ve always tried to adapt to every situation that I’ve been in. Some were better than others, but this is just an easy adaption for me to just be here, be around the guys, the basketball minds that I’m around alongside myself,” Anthony said. “I think for me, it’s just all about being mentally prepared for what is being thrown at us, and the rest will take care of itself. It’s basketball at that point. If you’re open, shoot it, if not, make a play for yourself, if not, make a play for others.
“The more that I can simplify the game of basketball, the easier the game becomes, especially at this stage in my career.”
Russ says since he first talked to Melo to come to OKC to now, he's always been willing to do what's needed to win.— Jacob Rude (@JacobRude) November 1, 2021
"To see him just really take in and own this space is amazing because I know he's at peace and that's the only thing that matters."
Anthony’s fellow 19-year veteran, LeBron James, agreed with that last part. He has assisted Anthony more than any other teammate (nine of his 41 baskets so far), and is happy with what his longtime friend has given the Lakers. James says he and his co-stars to just have to continue to make life simple for Anthony — and all of the team’s other role players.
“As the playmakers of this team, myself, AD and Russ, it’s our job to get our guys great looks, where all they have to do is just catch and finish, or catch and shoot. Try to not make them do too much, even though Melo can do a lot with the ball obviously,” James said. “But when it comes to efficiency and as far as what he’s doing for our team right now, we’re just trying to break down the defense, and he’s finding himself. Either his man is guarding him and leaving him, or he’s in a great rhythm so he’s just taking his shots and he’s knocking them down.
“It’s definitely big for us, especially having some of our other playmakers out, having two of our snipers out as far as Wayne (Ellington) and TA (Trevor Ariza),” James continued. “Melo has definitely stepped it up from the perimeter.”
Anthony has done it by doing the little things, from being a willing and active screener on offense, to shooting quickly and decisively off the catch, nearly doubling the amount of shots he’s taken within two seconds of catching the ball. Head coach Frank Vogel says that’s allowed the Lakers to leverage his shooting ability to make him a huge threat for the team.
“He knows the right spots to be in. We always try to put him on the backside when we’re running certain actions, knowing that the defense is going to collapse,” Vogel said. “We want him to be the recipient of those types of plays. It’s a little bit of him finding windows to get himself open and a lot of (that) we’ve got three guys that can put pressure on the rim in Russ, Bron and AD.”
Carmelo Anthony now leads the NBA in catch-and-shoot 3s (20).— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) November 1, 2021
He's also 4th in total 3s (24) and 6th in 3P% (52.2). pic.twitter.com/SeoPwzNOu6
Exel*— Ioua Lagazo (@IouaLagazo) November 1, 2021
For Anthony, there was never any doubt that all this would happen. He’s fitting in with the team, and enjoying himself while doing it.
“It was all about me being able to adapt. to a new situation, new environment, new players. Just being here, what makes it easier for myself is that I have the minds that I have on the team. The fact that we can be honest with one another, that we can hold each other accountable... That’s something that people take for granted when you’re on a team and you’re trying to win,” Anthony said. “But for me, I always just go back to just being able to adapt to whatever situation that I’m put in.”
If he keeps this up, no one will ever question his ability to do so ever again.