Thunder Basketball

Carmelo Anthony is exactly what he’s always been

Carmelo Anthony is exactly what he’s always been

Before the season started, everyone was convinced Carmelo Anthony was going to be different.

Anthony was going to be different for this Thunder team  because he was on a team full of superstars. He was going to be different because Anthony had never been part of a team that didn’t need him to be the lone star. He was going to be different and there was an expectation of wonder that surrounded him.

Now, about a quarter of a way through the season, there’s still a lot of wonder and there’s still plenty of expectation. But a different kind of each.

The expectation now has shifted from Western Conference finals, possibly even a championship for the Thunder, to expecting to make the playoffs. Probably. Wheeeee.

The wonder on Anthony has shifted, too – like wondering what it was that would make anyone think Anthony could change, despite saying he was going to.

Do you wonder if Melo is on the cusp of change? Do you wonder if he’ll be something he’s never been before? Do you wonder if he believes what he says? There’s really no reason to buy any of it, because Anthony’s actions don’t match up with his words. What is consistent, despite saying the opposite, is Anthony is the same player he always has been. Asking him to be any different is asking too much.

Before the season started, Anthony gave an indicator that seemed to against the conventional wisdom of Thunder fans. Most thought Anthony would be a “team” guy, even though he showed up in Oklahoma City after a deal in Houston couldn’t get done. Either way, it was a bonus for OKC. Anthony had never played with a group of stars like this before, so naturally, things would just fall into place. He was set to break out, to change, to be different. At least that’s what everyone oddly assumed, despite there being no good reason for it.

Well, Anthony laughed off the idea he would ever consider coming off the bench. He giggled, most everyone else did, too, but the next day, coach Billy Donovan made it a point to say Anthony wouldn’t be anything but a starter. Anthony wasn’t going to change in that regard.  Asked once again, at the end of November, about a lineup change which would have Anthony coming off the bench, Anthony responded, “Hell, no.”

And last week, while the Thunder were in the middle of their best stretch of the season, a three-game winning streak, moderate by most metrics, Anthony said, “it was all about doing something different,” and ” seeing where this team really needs me on a night to night basis, and just be willing to sacrifice.” That was after Anthony had attempted just 17 shots total in two games, scoring just 18 points. In the three-game streak, Anthony scored 32 points and took what most consider a light amount of shots for him – 36.

Perhaps this was the indicator of success. Perhaps coach Billy Donovan had figured something out, had reach Melo, convinced him that somehow 36 shots over a three-game stretch was not that many. Laughable, really.

The result of this “sacrifice” Anthony was suggesting he was so selflessly involved in? Well, he took 20 shots the next time out (Paul George was injured and didn’t play) and made just five. The Thunder lost to lowly Brooklyn. Anthony followed up that performance by shooting it 20 more times (Paul was out again), making seven as the Thunder won in overtime against Memphis.

Anthony’s sacrificial period lasted all of three games. The short trip he spent distancing himself from being that volume shooter he’s always been known as, was over in a hurry. Maybe it’s because Paul was out. If so, it’s a good reason, but consider, Anthony has never sacrificed in is career, so thinking it would happen in Oklahoma City was more blind optimism than legitimate realism. Asking a player like Anthony who has never been efficient to be that way here, and to fall in step behind Russell Westbrook as the leader, is like asking a Baptist church to get rid of its bus – never been done before, won’t happen.

Teams get better without Anthony than they are with him. Check the records at both Denver and New York. The Nuggets got immediately better with Anthony once he was traded during the 2010–11 season. The Knicks got worse. Last season, with no help for Westbrook at all, OKC was 15-10 through 25 games. This season, with more superstars and more expectation, OKC is 12-13.

Anthony’s efficiency rating is at an all-time low. He’s a career 45 percent shooter, shooting 40 percent this season. Never much of an assist guy, Anthony is getting only 1.6 per game, compared to the more than three per game he has averaged for his career. Another metric, effective field goal percentage, is another sign of problems. Austin Rivers is ranked No. 100 in the league in EFP at 49.2 percent. Anthony is at 48 percent. Yes, Anthony scores points. No, he’s not not effective.

Anthony’s efficiency has always been questionable, but now, after saying he was willing to sacrifice, Anthony comes off as disingenuous.

Wonder why anyone thought this was going to be a good idea?

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