On a team that’s currently missing LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony has filled in the leadership role that the former occupied these past couple of years. Similar to the much-needed spark he provides off the bench, the veteran’s voice and locker room presence have been a welcome sight amidst all the discouraging times this season.
But unlike Anthony’s efficient scoring, his leadership isn’t backed up by statistics. In fact, it’s probably something that won’t be seen or heard by many people outside of the Lakers’ locker room, or anyone who isn’t on the basketball court. But still, this authoritative role that he has voluntarily taken on has contributed to winning basketball.
Just ask Anthony Davis, who praised Anthony for his overall influence and tutelage this season.
“He’s been a true vet for all our guys. He’s been a voice in the locker room, a voice on the floor and the way he’s still able to score the basketball,” Davis said after Wednesday’s vital (and ugly) victory against the struggling Portland Trail Blazers. “Guys try to pick on him on the defensive end, but the way he talks and reads defenses to where he can kind of manipulate the game, I think that part of his game is underrated.”
So whether he’s reprimanding Talen Horton-Tucker for turning the ball over multiple times, or encouraging Davis to run back on offense as seen on this clip below, there’s proof that Anthony’s voice has been integral for the Lakers this season.
Anthony Davis praised Carmelo Anthony for his leadership post game.— Nicole Ganglani (@nicoleganglani) February 3, 2022
Here's something specific I really liked from Melo tonight. He saw AD visibly frustrated at Monk (my guess) for making the wrong rotation on defense. Melo then tells AD to snap out of him and run instead. pic.twitter.com/4rdMZM9b6x
The Lakers would have probably lost Wednesday’s game if it weren’t for Anthony’s 24 points on 5-6 shooting from behind the arc. Heck, they probably wouldn’t have won 25 games so far if it weren’t for the way his 38.9% 3-point shooting has provided them with reliable spacing this season.
And it’s also fair to say that L.A. wouldn’t have walked out of Crypto.com arena with a win on Wednesday had it not been for Melo’s play-calling, IQ and physicality on defense. There’s enormous value in how the former scoring champion has led by example this year.
“He’s not the fastest,” Davis said. “But he talks to us and helps the team, and it’s been good for us, him scrambling. He’s able to guard bigger guys. On the perimeter, he’s talking, even though he’s guarding the ball he’s talking. Whether we’re trapping or showing bodies he’s been great for us, and we’re going to continue to need him to do the things that he’s doing for us to win basketball games and ultimately fight for a championship. So like he says, just Stay Melo.”
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Anthony’s body gave in the next night after Davis’ glowing comments. He left in the first half of the team’s loss to the LA Clippers due to a right hamstring strain that will be reevaluated on Friday. Now, Davis and the Lakers (who are already missing James) may have to gut out their next few games without either of their super senior citizens.
The good news is that injuries will probably not hinder Melo from leading the team, even if they require him to do it from the bench. That’s something he’s willing to do. He’s already been on Davis’ ear all season, giving the 28-year-old advice on how to improve his post offense — an essential part of Davis’ game. Anthony has taken it upon himself to help Davis counter double teams (something the superstar sees almost every game) and has basically poured in all the knowledge he’s experienced and learned throughout his impressive 19-year career to help Davis grow.
“It’s been great. He’s been helping me all year. Especially in the post. He’s been a dominant post player his whole career, and now he’s here and he’s helping me with double teams and moves and things like that,” Davis said. “He’s always talking. He’s always talking to me, to the guys, about what he sees on the floor, what he thinks we should do, what we should be running. He’s been great for us. His shot-making ability has been off the charts. He came here and he’s played extremely well for us.”
If there’s one thing that’s been fun to witness in this season full of mostly sighs and disappointment, it’s watching Carmelo Anthony in purple and gold. From giving fans reasons to celebrate after every made 3-pointer, to being the veteran voice the Lakers so desperately need, Anthony has been a star in his role. His scoring and physical presence on the court will be truly missed for as long as he’s out, but at least his impact will still be felt — in productive ways that don’t just appear on the stat sheet.