For half the season, Carmelo Anthony was not only a bright spot for the Lakers, but arguably one of the best players on the team. “Staples Melo” was more than just a fun nickname, as he routinely knocked down a barrage of long-range efforts in front of a hometown crowd that adored him.
But as the season progressed, Staples Center changed its name and the Lakers continued to struggle, the excessive amount of minutes required of Anthony caught up with him, resulting in a rather poor finish to the year. It was a frustrating end to a story that had such a fun beginning.
That frustration may have soured Anthony on a potential return to the Lakers next season. As he spoke about his future and whether he’d like to return to L.A. during his exit interview prior to the team’s game against Denver, he didn’t exactly sound 100% committed to coming back.
“Me personally, aside from just us not getting it done as a team, this was another chapter for me,” Anthony said. “This was another situation that I could say I experienced. I could check the box and say I played with Bron, played with AD... we were phenomenal on paper. So, me personally, I had a good year. Like personally. Like just as far as happiness and being able to go out there and compete and do my part and play my part on this team. Being able to be around the guys on this team and build camaraderie, build a bond, new friendships that we created on this team.
“So from that standpoint, those were all the things that I felt very good about. Coming to practice, coming to the gym, coming to practice, working, enjoying the process, dealing with the process and everything that comes along with that process, I’ve experienced it,” Anthony continued. “There was good days, there was bad days, but we got through it and I got through it.”
Any answer about returning to a team that includes the phrase “we got through it and I got through it” probably tells you all you need to know about the person’s thinking.
As he stated, Anthony did have success alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis, with the trio having a net rating of +2.3 in 119 minutes. Pair that trio with Russell Westbrook and the net rating is at +14.3. But the story of the season is that quartet only saw 63 minutes together on the floor.
The more the season played out, though, the more Anthony’s effectiveness and efficiency deteriorated. His 3-point shooting percentage steadily declined each month aside from a brief renaissance in February, though he played just four games in that span. Over his final 17 games of the season, Anthony had a team-worst net rating of -16.
Compare that to, for example, his first 11 games with the Lakers when he had a net rating of +1.2. Only Malik Monk played all of the team’s first 11 games and had a higher net rating.
That isn’t entirely Anthony’s fault. The 26.0 minutes per game he played this season was more than last season and, Anthony played each of the team’s first 36 games and averaged 27.5 minutes per game. At a point in his career where he should be slowing down and monitoring his minutes more, the Lakers needed the 37-year-old to play a level of minutes that was unsustainable, resulting in his late-season slump.
In all, it probably adds up to a departure that makes sense for both sides. It was a fun season in Los Angeles with many fun moments for the fans and Anthony alike, but it’s sour ending is reason enough for the two sides to move on. Or, at least that’s certainly what I’d expect, reading between the lines of Anthony’s responses as beat reporters continues to probe for his intentions, asking if he’d prioritize a title, or if he was ready to move on from this team.
“I don’t even know. I haven’t thought about next season at this point. I’m speaking very truthful and honest here, I haven’t even started thinking about my decision about next season, or what’s gonna happen, or where I’m at. I’ll have time. I’ll have a whole offseason to think about those things,” Anthony said.
“As far as me, yeah, I want to win a championship. I’ve been trying for 19 years to win a championship. But I’m blessed. You understand? I’m blessed. I’m still able to do this 19 years in, and still able to enjoy it and still get motivated by it, and love to go to work and love being around the guys. So a lot of times I’ll take that over a championship, if I could, because that’s my happiness. If I’ve got to be unhappy to try to go fight and win a championship, I don’t want that. I don’t want that unhappiness. I don’t want that energy around me. So do I want a championship? Hell yeah. I don’t think that’s a question I even have to answer,” Anthony continued. “But I think at this point in my career, it’s about just being happy, and being able to come to work every day with a good attitude, be positive, bring guys along with you, teaching, talking, learning, those are things that I actually look forward to now at this point in my career.”
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