Carmelo Anthony Credits Blazers Success to Having 'Clear Mind,' 'Playing Freely'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2019

PORTLAND, OREGON - DECEMBER 04: Carmelo Anthony #00 of the Portland Trail Blazers smiles in the fourth quarter against the Sacramento Kings during their game at Moda Center on December 04, 2019 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
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Portland Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony said feeling "wanted" has played a major role in finding immediate success since signing with the Blazers in mid-November. 

Melo told ESPN's Baxter Holmes in an interview released Friday being treated like a key part of the team rather than a fringe roster player has made all the difference after failed stints with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets over the past two seasons:

"That's why I'm able to go out there and do what I do and play the way that I've been playing as of late—because I have a clear mind and I can just play freely. I don't have to worry about making mistakes and being pulled or just being on a string or being in a box.

"When you can just go out there and be free and play basketball and do what you do best, I think that's where the most joy comes from."

Anthony was inserted directly in the starting lineup by the Blazers, who were seeking some scoring depth behind the star backcourt tandem of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

The 10-time All-Star has responded by averaging 16.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists while shooting 44.8 percent from the field, including 38.7 percent on threes, in eight games. His 13.9 player efficiency rating is modest, but still on pace to mark his highest PER figure since 2016-17, per Basketball Reference.

"Tonight was a struggle for everyone, but there's no question [Melo] has been a positive addition," head coach Terry Stotts told Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer after Tuesday's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Anthony remains a lackluster defender—his minus-5.6 defensive rating in FiveThirtyEight's Raptor system moves his overall rating into negative figures, though the sample size remains too small to draw a definitive conclusion—but he's looked revitalized offensively.

The Blazers have also saw an uptick in overall play since the former NBA scoring champion joined the team. They've won four of their past five games following a 5-13 start.

He maintained throughout his extended stay on the free-agent market that he wanted another chance to prove he could make a positive impact in the NBA.

It sounds like both Melo and the Blazers are happy with the initial returns and, as long as the team keeps up its winning ways, he should remain a key part of the lineup.