Carmelo Anthony spent the 2019 postseason at home, watching teams that let him go struggle without him. He remained convinced that he could contribute to an NBA team, after more than a year off, landed with the Portland Trail Blazers early in the 2019-20 season. That season, for Portland, just concluded with Anthony scoring 27 points in a Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Although he was far from perfect, it can at least be said for certain that Anthony’s time in Portland went better than his brief stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, and when you factor in the New York Knicks, the Blazers were his fourth team in four seasons. But after Game 5, Anthony revealed that he hopes there won’t be a fifth. He wants to return to the Blazers next season.
“I pray that it can be Portland,” Anthony told reporters after the Game 5 loss. “Honestly, I think I’ve found a home in Portland. I got comfortable with the organization, I got comfortable with the guys on the team, they got comfortable with me, and at this point in my career I do think that that’s the best fit for me, the best situation, especially having this experience now and kind of just getting my feet wet and just coming in and being who I am and staying true to myself. I really hope that it can be Portland at the end of the day where we give ourselves a chance to keep this team together, get guys healthy, and get another run at it.”
Anthony signed with the Blazers for the minimum this season. If he’s willing to accept that again, Portland would likely welcome him back with open arms. If he wants more, things get a bit more complicated. The Blazers have around $90 million in committed salary, and that’s before potentially re-signing Hassan Whiteside, and it assumes that Trevor Ariza is waived, which is no given. Portland would likely prefer to dedicate its midlevel exception to a defensive-minded wing than another scorer, as the Blazers had the NBA‘s 27th-ranked defense in the regular season. The coronavirus is likely to force most teams into cost-cutting mode, so for now, Anthony’s value to Portland or any other team is unclear.
But considering what Portland paid and what it got, the Carmelo Anthony experience has to be deemed a success. The Blazers were a lottery team when he arrived and a playoff team by the end of the season. He was a big part of that, and although his exact role on a healthy Portland team could change and so could its priorities, Anthony should, at the very least, have a standing offer to return to Portland’s roster next season. Both sides got more than they could have asked for out of this season’s arrangement.