Carmelo Anthony recognized he needed to improve his decision-making and make strides on the defensive side of the ball to make a return to the NBA, and he apparently tailored his workouts to address those needs before joining the Portland Trail Blazers.
"He was completely bought into the (idea that on) the defensive side of the ball, he's got to get better," trainer Alex Bazzell said, per Ian Begley of SNY (h/t ESPN.com). "He was bought into not being able to hold the ball [on offense]. We would still work on his mid-post because I think that's going to be a part of his game that he's going to have to rely on to score every now and then. You don't take that away; you keep all of that fresh."
Bazzell acknowledged Anthony had the luxury of being one of the best players in the league and a dominant scorer in his prime but had to adapt his game at 35 years old.
"When we would play one-on-one scenarios, when he'd catch, it's hard because sometimes you just have a tendency to hold it, relax and kind of let the defense make a mistake," he said. "It was just trying to break habits that he's built up for so long and he was never defensive about it. He was always 100 percent in agreement with what I was saying."
Bazzell also pointed out playing on the Houston Rockets, where the "offense is four guys standing and watching James [Harden] dribble the ball for 20 seconds," meant Anthony had to improve on his movement away from the ball as well.
The Syracuse product made his season debut Tuesday in a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans and finished with 10 points, four rebounds and five turnovers on 4-of-14 shooting from the field and 2-of-3 shooting from three-point range. There was plenty of rust, which was to be expected seeing how it was his first game since November 2018, but he flashed his potential as a shooter.
In an ideal world, he can play off the attention Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum draw on a nightly basis and consistently hit open threes.
It is also no surprise Anthony focused on defense during the workouts seeing how he wasn't known for his prowess on that end even in his prime as a 10-time All-Star and six-time All-NBA selection.
While the Trail Blazers won't realistically expect him to contain the likes of Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James and Harden in the loaded Western Conference, they will surely ask for a better performance than when opponents shot 4.8 percent better than their normal averages when he defended them in 10 games last season, per NBA.com.
He will have the opportunity to show off his defensive improvements Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.