Carmelo Anthony Is in a Great Place, But It Could Get Better

By Ben Stinar
Detroit Pistons v Portland Trail Blazers
Detroit Pistons v Portland Trail Blazers / Abbie Parr/Getty Images
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Carmelo Anthony has been on good teams and bad teams. He's been a coveted superstar and an unwanted veteran. He's seen everything the NBA has to offer.

Sitting down for a few minutes with two bandages on his knees after the Trail Blazers fell to the Pacers, 106-100, he still had plenty of optimism for a postseason run. With 22 games to play, Portland is three games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth playoff spot.

The window of opportunity is beginning to close, but Anthony is not feeling the pressure.

"Honestly, it doesn't feel like that," he said. "If it was, I would be the first to say that time is running out."

On a veteran-led team with Anthony, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard, there's plenty of experience to go around. They understand the situation and aren't fretting over what they can't control.

"We don't feel that pressure," Anthony said. "We know it. We don't feel it. That's not something that is in the locker room. That's not something that we talk about."

At the beginning of his career in Denver, Anthony was on elite teams that would regularly make the playoffs and once went as far as the Western Conference Finals. Early in his New York Knicks tenure, he was also in the playoffs several times before suffering a four-year drought. Seventeen seasons have shown him how much things can change down the stretch.

"I believe," he said. "I don't have hope. When you believe something, you know it, and you feel it."

Anthony has averaged over 15 points in what's been a redemptive season. He returned after not playing for a year. The circumstances were unusual and the challenges unique. None of that, though, has changed his love and appreciation for the game of basketball.

"The thrill is still there for me," he said. "Especially coming down to the wire. This last quarter of games makes it even more fun.

The value of a real star like Anthony is tough to quantify. His impact on younger guys in the locker room doesn't show up on the stat sheet. He spoke with pride about second-year sharpshooter Gary Trent, who has made major strides this year.

"He's developing right before our eyes," Anthony said. "I'm happy to be apart of his growth. From the first day I got here to now you can see a different type of person and a different type of player."

In terms of the 35-year-old's own happiness and fitness, he's doing great.

"I'm in top shape," he said. "Mentally, I feel good. I'm at a great place right now for me, physically and mentally."

The Blazers will need a productive Anthony in order to climb back into the playoff chase. All indications are that he's up for the challenge.

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