After 9 months without a team, the basketball world seems to have turned its back on Carmelo Anthony
- Carmelo Anthony has been without an NBA team for nine months, and it doesn't appear he's close to landing anywhere.
- Anthony reportedly expressed interest in a roster spot on USA Basketball for the World Cup, but was turned down, with team director Jerry Colangelo calling him a potential "distraction."
- Anthony has said he would accept a limited role, but has not proven effective in such a role.
- It's unclear if any team will have interest in Anthony, who is now a year older and further removed from the game.
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When Carmelo Anthony was unceremoniously released from the Houston Rockets after just 10 games last November, a league source (only half-jokingly) said of Anthony's best option moving forward: "China."
Few could have predicted at the time that Anthony, a 10-time All-Star and likely first-ballot Hall of Famer, might have fallen out of the NBA so suddenly. But after 10 months since his release, it looks more and more like his time in league is done.
As of this writing, with the scramble of free agency weeks in the past, Anthony remains un-signed. It's unclear how many teams even sniffed around Anthony this summer.
The latest rejection came this week, when Anthony, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, "expressed interest" in a spot on the bare USA Basketball roster heading into the FIBA World Cup. He was rejected, with USA Basketball direction Jerry Colangelo even calling Anthony a potential "distraction."
"I love Carmelo," Colangelo told Mannix. "He made a great contribution. He was a very good international player. But for where we are and what we're doing, that conceivably could have been a distraction. I understand why the request was made. He's trying to reestablish himself. I think that has to be done in the [NBA]."
Anthony appeared on ESPN's "First Take" last week and gave his most open interview yet about being dismissed by the Rockets, his NBA career, and his future in basketball. Anthony said Rockets GM Daryl Morey told him last November that his "services" were no longer needed. Anthony called it a hit to his ego and pride.
Yet Anthony also made clear that he thinks he belongs in the NBA.
"It strikes me [as odd] that I'm not on a roster due to my talent first, due to my skill, knowing what I can still bring to this game," Anthony said. "You mean to tell me there's 30 teams in the NBA, I can't make a 15-man roster, out of 30 teams in the NBA?"
Indeed, Anthony seemed to embrace playing fewer minutes and getting fewer touches the previous two seasons. The question remains if it's a role he can even play effectively.
Over the 2017-18 and '18-19 seasons, Anthony shot just 40.4% from the field and 34.2% from three. He shot just 34% from the field on catch-and-shoot opportunities last year.
Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is a flawed tool, but it gives some insight into a player's impact on the floor. Last year, Anthony was just one of five players to post an effective field goal percentage below 50% while taking over 10 shots per game and posting a PER below 12 (15 is considered average). In addition to shooting poorly, Anthony was not making up for it elsewhere.
There are concerns about Anthony's declining athleticism, too. He took fewer shots from 0-3 feet from the basket in the past two seasons than ever before. By the eye test, Anthony looked slower laterally, unable to stay in front of quicker players, only worsening his already subpar defense. In the 2018 playoffs, the Utah Jazz made it a point to go after Anthony when he was on the floor.
Teams turned down Anthony last season. The Rockets traded Anthony to the Chicago Bulls in January and the Bulls waived him. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly weighed signing Anthony, but only if they got back into the playoff race. Perhaps Anthony didn't have desire to suit up for a team that would miss the postseason, but taken another way, the Lakers didn't think Anthony would impact their ability to make the playoffs.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith asked Anthony on "First Take" about the teams that have passed up on him, but ended up summing up the position Anthony is in - even the teams that present the best fit have turned him down.
At this point in the offseason, when teams have mostly filled their rosters, Anthony seems unlikely to land anywhere. Perhaps mid-season, a team in need of scoring or depth or a veteran presence might call up Anthony. But it's hard to imagine that a player now a year older and further removed from the game, would be more appealing to the same teams that turned him down last year.