Blazers’ Carmelo Anthony on return to NBA: ‘I was ready to walk away’

Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony speaks with head coach Terry Stotts. (Steve Dykes/AP)

Six games into his NBA redemption tour, Carmelo Anthony is already making waves.

The 10-time all-star has impressed through the early goings with the Portland Trail Blazers, particularly over the past week, which saw the 35-year-old average 22.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists on 57.4-per shooting — that sterling stretch earning him Western Conference player of the week honours as his Blazers went 3-0.

Fresh off that standout week, the former New York Knicks star spoke with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols in an interview posted Tuesday, reflecting on his mindset during a 2018-19 campaign that left him on the outside looking in.

“I had prepared myself to kind of just walk away from the game if the right situation didn’t come about,” Anthony told Nichols. “I was ready to walk away. Because it’s hard waking up every morning not knowing what to expect, not knowing what to do, not knowing what to work on.

“You know, wanting to give up hope, wanting to give up faith and belief and just forget this whole basketball thing.”

While Anthony’s NBA career hasn’t gone as planned since he left New York for a tumultuous run in Oklahoma City and an unexpectedly brief stint with Houston, he says he doesn’t blame either organization for how it all turned out.

“I can’t blame Houston, I can’t blame OKC — it’s a business at the end of the day. And once you know that, everything just kind of falls by the wayside,” Anthony said. “After a while, I just was like, ‘You know what, I gotta let it go. I just got to let this go and kind of just continue on with who I am as a person, more so than a basketball player.’ That was important to me.”

Fellow Blazers stars Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have both heaped praise upon the veteran addition since he’s come aboard, helping the team string together their first three-game win streak of the season. For Anthony’s part, he admits stepping back into the league was an adjustment.

“Early on, it was a lot emotionally to deal with, kind of just being out of the game for, at that point in time, a year to that day. And then just getting the call and having to switch back mentally and emotionally.”

While all has seemed to go well for him in Portland thus far, particularly in a situation that saw him walk into the starting lineup given the team’s bevy of injuries, Anthony made clear he has no qualms with taking on a smaller role once the injury situation changes down the line.

“I’m open, and I’ve told those guys from the beginning — my big thing was just be transparent with me. Tell me what you need from me,” he told Nichols. “I think I’ve earned that right, for guys to just be open and honest — let’s put it out there on the table. And that’s something that the organization and the guys on the team and the coaching staff, we laid that out from Day 1. We got that clear before I stepped in the door, on that first phone call.”

Though far less effective than he was in his younger days, there’s no denying Anthony has found a way to meaningfully contribute for Portland. And the former league scoring champ cleared up any talk of his 2019-20 return serving as a retirement tour.

“I feel good, I just had a year off,” Anthony said. “I had year off resting my body. The most important part of that is I rested my mind, got my mind right. I don’t think people understand how strong that is.

“When you’re able to get your mind right, everything else flows.”

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