On Nov. 8, 2018, Carmelo Anthony played his 10th and final game for the Houston Rockets, and for a while it seemed like that would be his final game in the NBA too.
“I honestly never understood it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said of Anthony’s year-long absence from the NBA. “I really didn’t. I actually thought that when he went to Houston, with his shooting ability and their capacity to shoot threes that he would have been a great fit.
“I don’t know what really happened there, but when he got to Portland, he gave them really good minutes and production. He’s obviously got a lot in the tank and we’re excited to have him. I just never understood it.”
Fast-forward three years to the date, and — as Vogel’s comments about how much he has left in the tank make clear — the thought of Anthony not being in the league seems foreign.
In the Lakers’ 126-123 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Monday, Anthony scored 29 points off of the bench on an efficient 9-13 shooting from the field. It was his fifth game with more than 20 points off of the bench this season, which has led to him having the second-most point off of the bench (194) in the league. Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro, who’s 16 years Anthony’s junior, is ranked first with 203 points.
This Anthony certainly isn’t the one that was struggling to get any offers as a free agent in 2018, but that concept that he ever was is still hard to grasp for his teammates.
“It’s definitely surprising,” said Anthony Davis. “He’s a great scorer, he’s a great mentor for guys. Great leadership. He’s savvy, he’s a vet, he knows the game. And he brings so much to a team... It’s shocking that nobody wanted him a couple years ago, but we’ll be more than happy to have him.”
It’s unclear how much more robust Anthony’s market was this past summer, when he was unrestricted free agent, but the deal he signed with the Lakers was for the veteran’s minimum, or roughly $2.64 million. While it’s still early in the season, he looks like a steal in his current form.
Anthony’s teammates don’t look at him as a bargain free agent or a reclamation project, though. To them, he’s just Carmelo Anthony, one of the greatest scorers in NBA history.
“He’s a Hall of Famer,” said Russell Westbrook. “He knows his worth. He’s never wavered since I’ve known him. He’s always kept his head in the right place, and that’s why he’s been playing well for the last couple of years, regardless of what other people may think of him and his game, or what they see his value as.
“Us here understand his value. We understand how to use him,” Westbrook continued. “We’ll do a good job all year long of continuing to make the game easy for him.”