Melo's Portland Debut

A lot of questions.

Jim Rome
November 20, 2019 - 10:04 am
Carmelo Anthony

USA Today


Carmelo Anthony made his debut for the Portland Trail Blazers last night against the New Orleans Pelicans. It was a debut that was coming with a lot of heat, including a YouTube HYPE video with a lot of heat. And a lot of hype. But a lot of questions.

And at least one question was answered – what number would he wear? Because the two numbers he’d worn in the NBA, 15 and 7, are both retired in Portland. And the number he wore at Oak Hill, 22, is also retired. 

So he went for double zero. Which took a moment to get used to. S0 what was that about? A tribute to Tony Delk or Greg Ostertag? Nope. There’s a reason for double zero. Actually, Melo has a lot of reasons for it and he broke them all down in an Instagram post.

You see, for Melo, double zero is:

A number greater than any assignable quantity or countable number

Without end

Process that never stops

Can never be given an exact value

Simplicity and balance

The mysticism of our past and the possibility for an eternal future give the infinity symbol a sense of awe and wonder

Infinite nature of (God)7

We cannot stay away from God without him trying to bring us back to him

The chance to have a new and great beginning with the pass left behind where it belongs

Beginnings or end

Alpha & Omega

Wow. That is heavy. That is more than just “hey, I’ll take whatever you’ve got.” Or “I always liked how Robert Parrish showed up in the low post.”

But I guess it all makes sense. Even knowing the reasoning behind it, seeing Melo getting all Benoit Benjamin with it was a little funky.

But sure enough, he made his debut last night and just over a minute into the game, he got his first look. And drained it.

That is why Portland brought him in. That’s what he’s there to do. Hit threes, stretch the floor, and create space for Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

And that first shot felt like the start of a Hollywood story. The guy who’d been out of the league for more than a year, getting a look, and lighting it up.

Unfortunately, this was not that. He finished the night 4 of 14 for 10 points, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls, and 5 turnovers. Not great.

And if you’re a Melo hater, you’re probably already pounding the digits on your phone to call in and clown him. And bring up the team worst minus-20 that he had last night.

And to that I would say, you’re right: that’s a pretty heinous number. But that’s also not a great stat. And only two guys in Blazers gear had positive ratings last night.

There are going to be a lot of takes flying around about what Melo did last night, saying “see, he’s terrible on defense, he didn’t pass, he didn’t change, he’s still the same,” this isn’t going to work. There are going to be people pulling quotes from his YouTube video, like the one where he says, “What happened before is the past. I can’t dwell on that. I learned from that. This happened at a point in time in my life where I do have a lot of clarity and understanding of different situations, and just life. My approach is totally different.”

They’ll take that clip and last night’s box score and say, see? He hasn’t changed. His approach isn’t totally different, it’s the exact same. Shoot first, defend never.

And to that I would say: relax.

It’s one game. It’s his first game in more than a year. And not only is it just one game, its one game without Damian Lillard, so it’s not even one game with a full strength team.

I don’t know if Melo has changed or not. I’m not sure that 24 minutes in a game with a group of guys he barely knows is enough to make that determination. Yes, I know that he didn’t have an assist and he was slow rotating on defense.

But I also know if you were expecting him to show up and dish out assists like Jason Williams or lock down guys like Gary Payton, you were begging. If that was your expectation or you’re going to bash him for not doing either of those, you’re a fool.

Melo isn’t there to do that. Melo is there to space the floor, be an offensive threat from behind the arc, where he was 2 of 3, and to create problems so that teams can’t lock down on Lillard and McCollum. He’s there on a non-guaranteed contract with a team that has a ton of injuries and needs a spark. They would love him to be Steph Curry at one end and Dennis Rodman on the other, but they aren’t expecting that. Nobody is.

Maybe it works. And maybe it doesn’t. But one game without Damian Lillard isn’t nearly enough time to judge.  Nearly enough time to rush in and say, see!  See!  Same as he never was, what the hell are they doing??/. I just told you what they’re doing. And that they I need to see more before I judge him and them.  No risk no reward: and by the way there’s almost no risk at all here.  I still like the move for them and let’s see how he looks next out and when he does run with Dame.