With Carmelo Anthony’s solid start to his Lakers tenure continuing Sunday — his game-high 23 points helped lift Los Angeles to a 95-85 win over the Houston Rockets — the 19-year veteran wanted to clear something up about his reputation.
“I think people don’t really understand me,” Anthony said. “I think there’s a misconception out there about me and not being able to adapt to situations. But I’m easily adaptable, man, to any situation.”
After scoring 20 or more points per game for his first 15 seasons in Denver and New York, having the offense run through him and commanding star treatment from both franchises, Anthony’s past handful of years in the league have been a mixed bag.
In 2017-18 he played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and started 78 games for an OKC team that ended up losing in the first round of the playoffs. He scoffed at playing a bench role for that team, famously quipping back, “Who, me?” to a reporter asking about his willingness to be a reserve.
The following season he played just 10 games for Houston, starting only two of them, before he and the franchise parted ways, leaving Anthony without an NBA home for more than 12 months as teams passed on someone who was seen as a high-volume scorer uninterested in taking on anything less than a featured role.
Of course, the fact that Anthony’s “misconception” comment came after playing the team that gave up on him three years ago might not have been so coincidental.
Eventually, the Portland Trail Blazers resuscitated his career, and Anthony played his first season with Portland as a starter before transitioning to a bench role last season.
He has been an elite substitute in L.A., averaging 16.7 points on 50% shooting (52.2% from 3) in coming off the bench in all seven games, and he did something on Sunday he hadn’t since his rookie season in December 2003: register four blocks and two steals in the same game.
Which is another reputation — being a defensive sieve — that he is looking to shed himself from.
“I didn’t expect him to have a defensive performance like he did tonight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “It was great. I mean, forget about the steals and blocks and strips. He’s always good with his hands. But he’s in the right position. When you watch him on tape coming into this year, Iike, the effort’s there. He plays hard on that side of the ball. …
“And when he’s providing that kind of performance on the defensive side of the ball, with the way he’s shooting it, he’s a huge part of our win tonight.”
Anthony shot 8-for-14 from the field against Houston and 5-for-8 from 3. The Lakers improved to 3-0 this season when Anthony scores 20 or more points.
“When it comes to efficiency and as far as what he’s doing right now, we’re just trying to break down the defense and he’s finding himself, either his man is guarding him and leaving him or he’s in a great rhythm,” Lakers forward LeBron James said. “He’s just taking his shots and knocking them down.
Anthony, 37, has been one of the most consistently optimistic voices when it came to L.A.’s growing pains, and with the Lakers above .500 for the first time this season at 4-3, he explained his mindset.
“I think for me now it’s just about being mentally prepared for whatever is being thrown at us. And the rest will take care of itself,” he said. “It’s basketball at that point. If you’re open, shoot it. If not, make a play for yourself, make a play for others. The more that I can simplify the game of basketball, the easier the game becomes, especially at this stage of your career.”
Already seemingly at home in L.A., the man who goes by “Melo” wanted reporters to know just how malleable he considers himself to be. “It was all about me being able to adapt,” Anthony said. “I’m always going back to just being able to adapt to whatever situation that I’m put in.”
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