(Photo by TorreyPurvey.com)
By Michael Kinney
Carmelo Anthony’s first season in Oklahoma City was by all accounts his worst in his 14 year NBA career. It was also one of the worst for the Thunder after the high expectations that were put on the team in the offseason after combining the ANthony and Paul George with Russell Westbrook.
So when the Thunder held their exit interviews Saturday after being eliminated from the playoffs the night before in Utah, Anthony, for the first time, showed the frustrations he had in trying to deal with the entire situation.
“I think this season, as an individual, it was very kind of challenging for me as far as kind of coming here at the last minute, right before training camp,” Anthony said. “You know, being willing to kind of sacrifice kind of my game and style of play, coming to a new situation, not — kind of not knowing what to expect, having to figure it out on the fly, figuring it out on the fly and accepting that, and kind of just taking the other challenges that comes along with that transition. I thought we did kind of a great job of just adjusting to that and figuring that part out.”
Anthony averaged a career-low 16.2 point per game this season, which is down from his 24.1 career average. He also shot .404 from the field, the worst of his career. He seemed to attribute much of that to the sacrifices he made this year.
“I don’t want to say stripped, but I think just challenging me to be a different type of player, a different caliber player,” Anthony said, “a guy who for 14 seasons has been a certain type of player and to kind of be challenged and tested and say, okay, we need you to be this player, this type of player, this caliber of player, very different than what I was used to before in the past. I think for me, that was the most challenging part of it. But also being willing to accept that, understanding the situation and the circumstances that I was handed to.”
The Thunder traded for Anthony right before training camp started. The suddenness of it, he says, was a contributing factor to the slow learning curve of him figuring out what the team wanted from him.
“I think the player that they wanted me to be and needed me to be was for the sake of this season, should I say, because it was just so — like I said, everything was just thrown together, and it wasn’t anything that was planned out,” Anthony said. “It wasn’t no strategy to me being here, me being a part of the actual system and what type of player and things like that. As far as being effective as that type of player, I don’t think I can be effective as that type of player. I think I was willing to accept that challenge in that role, but I think I bring a little bit more to the game as far as being more knowledgeable and what I still can do as a basketball player.”
Throughout the season, whenever Oklahoma City struggled, it was Anthony who received a lion-share of the blame from the fans and media. It led to debates on whether the veteran forward is now better suited to coming off the bench at this stage of his career.
For Anthony, that is not an option. He says he has sacrificed enough.
“I’m not sacrificing no bench role, so you can — that’s out of the question,” Anthony said. “I think everybody knows that I’ve sacrificed kind of damned near everything, family, moving here by myself, sacrificed my game for the sake of the team, and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order for this situation to work out. So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball.”
With a nearly $28 million still owed Anthony on his contract, most believe he will be back in Oklahoma City for his 15th year in the league. Even though he didn’t outright say it, Anthony gave every indication he will be returning.
If Anthony and George, who is a free agent, return next season, the year they have spent playing with Westbrook should be beneficial. Anthony says this experiment can still work. But, according to Anthony, they have to all figure out how to mesh their games together to get the most out of each of them.
“I think (Westbrook) established himself as playing a certain type of basketball. We’ve all — I think we’ve all established ourselves as playing a certain type of basketball,” Anthony said. “But I think in order for us to take that next level, we all have to sit down and figure out what do we — what each of us bring to the table. What can we bring to the table to make the pieces to the puzzle fit. I think we understand what we can be as a team. It’s just a matter of how are we going to implement that. How are we going to utilize each other’s assets and each other’s talents to figure that out.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Writer with EyeAmTruth.com