Carmelo Anthony is the perhaps the most talented player Syracuse has ever had. He put together a season to remember in leading the Orangemen to the national title in 2003, then turned pro that spring. He was among the NBA’s elite for many years, but that is no longer the case. Melo is currently a legend with no home, and has not played since November when he was still with the underachieving Houston Rockets.
While Anthony may no longer be elite, former NBA all-star Joe Johnson believes he can still play in the NBA. “I think Melo still has a lot left,” said Johnson, who is now playing in the Big3. “A bona fide scorer. So, I know for a fact there’s a lot of teams that he can help.”
Former teammate Chauncey Billups shares the sentiment, although he may have also defined Melo’s shortcomings. Billips was a teammate of Carmelo in Denver, and says he is “still worthy” of a roster spot in the NBA. “Now the only thing I will say… scoring 30 meant too much to Melo,” Billups told SiriusXM NBA Radio. “I think now you look, fast forward the tape, and the reason why he’s not in the league because he’s still worthy, is he hasn’t mentally taken that step back to say, ‘OK, I’ll come in and play against back-ups. I’ll try to help the team out. I know I might not be able to close, but I just want to help.’ Well, he’s not there yet.”
In other words, Anthony needs to transition from leading man to a role player if he wants another shot. He’ll have to share the ball more too, as his jab-stepping, iso-heavy style is now unfashionable in today’s NBA. The fact that Melo is pushing back on that idea is understandable. He likely sees himself as still one of the game’s elite, much like 2003 draft mate LeBron James. The duo naturally commanded fanfare, media attention and gargantuan contracts. Anthony has made over $250 million in salary alone thanks to a pair of 5-year deals: $80 million with the Nuggets in 2007 and $120 million with the Knicks in 2014. James has made even more, and established himself as the NBA’s most recognizable player. Ladbrokes rank James among the highest earning athletes in the world, with his lifetime contract with Nike alone worth $700 million. He has also more than justified his enormous salary every season, as James has pushed himself into the league’s greatest of all-time. Anthony, on the other hand, proved to be worth every penny in his prime; but as he aged, his yearly salary became an albatross for the Knicks (and to a lesser extent, the Oklahoma City Thunder).
Now, a couple of months before the start of training camp, Anthony remains in limbo. He is listed by CBS Sports as one of the top remaining free agents this offseason, and there are potential suitors, notably the Lakers. The Purple and Gold, in fact, seem to be the best fit for the former Orange, who is still a good enough shooter at this stage of his career. But he’ll have to be willing to take on a lesser role if he wants to make it to the Lakers roster, or on another team’s lineup, for that matter.