Carmelo Anthony wants to stay in Portland but Knicks, Nets could still be in play

New York Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony sported the New York Knicks colorway during the pregame and postgame of his final game this season.  But the Brooklyn native insisted that he wants to return to Portland next season.

Speculations of the 36-year old Anthony returning to New York for the last stretch of his career ran rampant once Leon Rose, his former agent, took over as the Knicks president. Fuel was added more to the fire when Mike Woodson, Anthony’s former coach in New York, was reported this week to be finalizing a deal to return as one of Tom Thibodeau’s assistants.  But Anthony made his intentions known to return to Portland as soon as his comeback season ended in a 131-122 Game 5 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.



 

“In my mind, I’ll be right back in the fray of things when next season comes,” Anthony said in his postgame interview.  “I pray that it can be Portland, I think I found a home in Portland.”

This is Anthony doubling down on his January statement that he wants to retire in Portland.

“I got comfortable with the organization. I got comfortable with the guys on the team. They got comfortable with me,” he added.

With a renewed confidence, Anthony averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.5 assists during the regular season. He more than proved his value to the Blazers in the Bubble where he hit two clutch shots during their wild run to the playoffs.

Anthony capped his comeback story this season with a vintage performance, logging in 27 points on 9-16 shooting, including 3 of 4 from deep while adding seven rebounds and one assist in a losing effort against his longtime friend and rival Lebron James.

Despite a disappointing end to Anthony’s otherwise magical season, the performance became a validation for the 10-time All-Star who returned to the league with a chip on his shoulder.

Anthony, who was out of the NBA for more than a year, revitalized his career in Portland. He came in to plug a hole in the injury-riddled roster and he’s exceeded expectations and outvalued his veteran minimum contract.

Along the way, Anthony was able to repair his tarnished reputation following his ugly exits in both Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets.  He showed he could co-exist with younger stars.  He even claimed that Damian Lillard is the top guy he’s ever played with.  After their loss to the Lakers, CJ McCollum described Anthony as “fantastic” while Portland coach Terry Stotts said he felt honored to coach him.

“At this point in my career, I do think that that’s the best fit for me, the best situation. Especially having this experience now and kind of just getting my feet wet, coming in, and being who I am and staying true to myself. I really hope that it can be Portland at the end of the day where we give ourselves a chance to keep this team together, get guys healthy, and get another run at it,” Anthony said.

The feeling may be mutual but returning to Portland next season is easier said than done from a financial standpoint and the new team optics moving forward.

The Trail Blazers already owe almost $110 million salaries to 10 players next season.  They also have to decide whether to bring Hassan Whiteside and Trevor Ariza back. Unless Anthony is willing to accept another veteran minimum contract (Portland can pay him 120% of his current veteran’s minimum contract if over the cap, otherwise, they use cap space to re-sign him for more) to play a reduced role next season, his dream of returning to Portland might remain just a dream. Rodney Hood and Zach Collins are expected to eat up on Anthony’s minutes once they return from their injuries.

The Knicks, if the rumors are true, could offer a larger one-year or a two-year deal and a more significant role in a young team in need of a veteran presence and outside shooting in the three and four spots.  Or Anthony could ride the sunset and make a grand Brooklyn homecoming. Teaming up with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in a much lighter path in the East to chase a ring could also be a good situation at this stage of his career.

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