Carmelo Anthony watched the NBA continue to evolve with him out of the League for over a year, and the 10-time All-Star spent that time preparing “for this new game.”
One of his trainers, Alex Bazzell, says Melo “completely bought into” stepping up his defense and not holding on to the ball as he’d grown accustomed to throughout a Hall of Fame career.
The 35-year-old finished with 18 points Thursday night in his second game for the struggling Portland Trail Blazers, a 137-129 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“The biggest thing was making quick decisions off the catch. He’s had the luxury of being one of the top 10 players in the world, in my opinion — top 5 players at one time — in his career. So he just got accustomed to kind of holding the ball, letting everyone else clear out so he can kind of go one on one. In the new NBA, in the role that he’s being asked of, that wasn’t something he was going to be able to do more often than not.
“So we were working on moving without the ball because that’s something I saw on film he didn’t do very well. Especially coming from — let’s face it, Houston’s offense is four guys standing and watching James (Harden) dribble the ball for 20 seconds. It’s tough. So we worked on getting used to (moving without the ball). Getting used to the actions of catching. His footwork efficiency with rips and jabs and all of that off the catch. He’s as smart a player as you’re going to find. There’s a reason that he’s scored as many points as he has. So it was just getting him comfortable with moving in different ways than he has in the past.”
[Bazzell] says Anthony, 35, was very much open to making changes to his game:
“He was actually extremely receptive. I was actually kind of surprised that a guy who has had that much success playing a certain way (was so receptive). He was completely bought into the (idea that on) the defensive side of the ball, he’s got to get better. 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. 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. 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, which makes my job and my life 100 percent easier.”