There has been many a “Woj bomb” over the years that, upon popping up as a Twitter alert on phone screens everywhere, has caused eyes to bulge from sockets in disbelief and vocal cords to utter a befuddled “Whoa, really?!”
More rare, though, is the breaking news item from the official dispenser of informational NBA nuggets that precipitates a reaction along the lines of “Bwahahahaha!”
Thursday’s reality-reorienting tidbit about Carmelo Anthony’s yearlong exile from the league coming to an end thanks to his deal with the Portland Trail Blazers certainly could fall under both caategories.
It would be harsh and perhaps even unfair to call Anthony a laughingstock, considering his myriad accomplishments and status as one of the elite scorers in the history of the NBA. But, given that he seemingly flamed out of the league a calendar year ago in a disastrously spectacular mushroom cloud of bad habits and stubborn unwillingness to adapt, it wouldn’t be entirely untruthful, either.
Anthony had become an anachronism, a basketball dinosaur bound for imminent extinction owing to an unbending propensity for a high-usage, low-efficiency, ball-stopping isolation game. Whether due to outright refusal or simple inability to change, his old bad habits that were once at least somewhat tolerable on account of him being such an avowed bucket-getter were now a straight-up liability in the modern game.
As a result, the news of his joining Portland — a perennial playoff team struggling out of the gate this season — was met with a variety of reactions.
To be fair, there remains a considerable contingent of Melo fans, who hailed the announcement as a long-overdue, defensible, and justifiable opportunity for a talented player they believed to have been unfairly blacklisted.
Elsewhere, however, detractors were considerably less charitable.
The notorious parody account ‘NOTSportsCenter” tweeted out the following hypothetical interaction between team and player:
The Blazers, negotiating with Carmelo Anthony:
Melo: Would I have to play defense?
Melo: Would I have to pass?
Melo: What happens if I launch a bunch of bricks in the playoffs?
POR: That would mean you’re fitting right in.
Melo: Sweet! Deal!
Needless to say, there is considerable skepticism lingering over the transaction. While Melo supporters rightly point out that numerous players of less skill, less repute, and more baggage have consistently received more chances than he has, detractors inevitably counter that the biggest impediment to Anthony getting another opportunity was always Anthony himself, as opposed to some supposed shadowy, nefarious, conspiratorial cabal intent on impugning his character and ruining his career.
So then, the question becomes, can Anthony make this work? After all, he could not in Houston last season, the team jettisoning the infamous Banana Boat buddy of then-point guard Chris Paul after a mere 10 games because of his insistence on mostly opting for long 2s over 3s, an inability to consistently make those 3s he did take, and an increasingly olé approach to getting between opponents and the basket.
Further questions, then: Will Anthony know his role now and fit in? Can he break those bad habits? Will he realize that ball movement and spacing are paramount? Will he empower the Blazers’ offensive flow by taking in-rhythm 3-pointers? Can he make them at a better than replacement-level-player rate?
If he actually answers in the affirmative, it is a worthy gamble by the injury-stricken, 4-needy, lackluster Blazers. It will be a fitting and deserved final ride for the former All-Star. And it will cause some critics of the move to exclaim “Whoa, really?!” with a 180-degrees-opposite meaning.
And if he cannot or will not do those things?
Well, then Melo will be but the latest in a series of catastrophically dubious decisions from the Blazers’ brass, from the abandonment of versatile forwards Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless to the trade for mercurial headcase Hassan Whiteside to the curious free-agent investment in the chronically underwhelming and underperforming Mario Hezonja. And he will have exhausted his chances.
And then … well then, his remaining supporters will be treated to an unending supply of “Bwahahahaha!” from the nonbelievers forever more.