Plenty has changed since Carmelo Anthony last played an NBA game.
Zion Williamson had just made his Duke debut. Kyrie Irving had said only a month earlier he planned to re-sign in Boston.
There’s been turnover all over the league — including a blockbuster trade between Anthony’s last two teams that sent Russell Westbrook to Houston and Chris Paul to Oklahoma City.
When Anthony joins the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday in New Orleans, he will come to an NBA that’s much different since Nov. 8, 2018, and he will try to show he still fits in it.
“I just look at that opportunity, that team, and say, ‘Look, this is what I can bring to the team, this where I can help,’ and it will only work if all parties see it the same way,” Anthony said in a video posted Monday.
Plenty of fellow players think he can. A former coach hopes he will.
“Hopefully this is a good situation,” Houston’s Mike D’Antoni said. “You never know why this didn’t happen before. For whatever reason. Maybe he wasn’t ready. I hope it works out.”
Anthony had played 10 games for D’Antoni when his season abruptly ended. Anthony hadn’t played terribly, with three 20-point performances before the Rockets decided it wasn’t the right fit.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist has kept himself in shape by working out with NBA players, but going from pickup play to NBA action is a major step. He’ll be trying to make it at 35 and will be attacked defensively by players a decade or more younger — and he wasn’t a great defender even at their age.
But he’s a top-20 scorer in NBA history and can perhaps provide some needed punch to a Trail Blazers team that is 5-9 after losing Monday in Houston, where the last team to give Anthony a shot had no complaints about his effort.
“He’s a leader,” D’Antoni said. “There was nothing at all, not even a hint of him not doing what we asked or trying or all that. It was just for us, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t going to be a fit here.”
Maybe it will in Portland.
San Antonio has games this week at Washington and New York, a pair of last-place teams.
The Spurs aren’t much better than either.
Their losing streak is at six following a 117-110 loss in Dallas on Monday that started a four-game trip. At 5-9, San Antonio is off to its worst start since 1996-97, the season before it drafted Tim Duncan.
San Antonio hadn’t dropped six straight since late in the 2010-11 season. The Spurs still won 61 games that season, but that was with a veteran squad.
This one is much younger — its youngest ever under Gregg Popovich — with nine players under the age of 25. That means the Spurs, with a record-tying run of 22 straight postseason appearances, have been in the playoffs almost every year of their lives.
There’s plenty of time to turn things around and make sure that streak continues.
“You know, it takes one to change the course, change the momentum and the feeling around here,” said LaMarcus Aldridge, one of the few veterans. “So, just got to get that one and try to build from there.”
OTHER GAMES TO WATCH THIS WEEK:
New Orleans at Phoenix, Thursday. Monty Williams, engineering a terrific turnaround in Phoenix, faces his former franchise.
Houston at Clippers, Friday. Teammates last season, Russell Westbrook and Paul George meet as opponents.
Miami at Philadelphia, Saturday. Jimmy Butler visits the team he helped to the second round of last season’s playoffs.
Brooklyn at New York, Sunday: Knicks fans can let Kyrie Irving know how they feel about him choosing the Nets.
Philadelphia at Toronto, Monday. The 76ers will need to look down to avoid seeing pictures everywhere of Kawhi Leonard’s buzzer beater in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semis.
Glenn Rivers has joked that “Doc” is just a nickname and doesn’t mean he has any medical knowledge.
The NBA doesn’t require it, but does insist that what he or any coach says about a player’s health be accurate.
That was the lesson from the $50,000 fine the league levied on Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 7 for statements, including by Rivers, that were inconsistent with Kawhi Leonard’s health status. Rivers essentially said that though Leonard was sitting out games, he was healthy. The Clippers determined that Leonard, who has missed three straight games with a knee injury, was actually hurt and the league agreed that sitting him was allowable under the league’s resting rules.
The league prefers healthy players to play, and if not, wants them to rest at home. But Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, the president of the National Basketball Coaches Association, said the Mavericks got in no trouble when they sat Kristaps Porzingis on Nov. 9 at Memphis.
“We rested KP on the second night of a back-to-back on the road, but we went through the proper channels to communicate it to the league,” Carlisle said. “They understood and it was fine.”
Coaches are generally uncomfortable providing too many details about a player’s status — “Of course, because there’s no point in talking too much about anything,” Carlisle said. A hockey absence is sometimes simply reported as an upper body or lower body injury.
But Carlisle understands why the NBA wants specifics. National TV partners are disappointed when the marquee attractions don’t take the court, and the growing gambling industry relies on accurate intel.
“We’re in a different reality than some of the other sports,” Carlisle said. “But that’s what makes the NBA so compelling and it makes it one of the best sports to watch.”