Oklahoma City Thunder

Carmelo Anthony says he won’t come off the bench

The player in the No. 7 jersey for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year didn’t look much like Carmelo Anthony, but he still sees himself as that former self.

After Russell Westbrook’s MVP season, the Oklahoma City Thunder put together their own “Big 3” by trading for Paul George and Carmelo Anthony last offseason. The results weren’t much different, though, ending in a first-round playoff exit again.

In his prime, Anthony was an elite though borderline inefficient high-volume scorer with little to offer otherwise. He started all 78 regular season games he played this year, but set career lows in scoring (16.2 points per game), field goal percentage (40.4 percent), free throw percentage (76.7 percent), free throw attempts (2.5 per game) and minutes (32.1 per game).

In the first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Anthony dropped off to 11.8 points per game on 37.5 percent shooting (21.4 percent from three-point range). Everything all season added up to Anthony being a slightly negative value player, and he’s set to make nearly $28 million next season in the final year of his contract.

Anthony has an early termination clause in his deal, but he’s expected to opt in since there’s no way he’ll get $28 million per year on the open market. With that as seemingly a foregone conclusion, Anthony was asked about taking on a bench role for the Thunder next season.

“Yeah, I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” Anthony said. “That’s out of the question.”

On his first day with the team, Anthony famously (and presumably somewhat with tongue in cheek) dismissed coming off the bench. But with the high-usage George (25.7 percent during the regular season) added to the whirling dervish that is Russell Westbrook, Anthony was the third wheel and struggled to find his way in a far less ball-dominant role.

From a certain perspective, Anthony also made some interesting comments about his future.

I think for me, my focus would be on kind of figuring out what I want out of the rest of my career, what I want in my future, what am I willing to accept, if I’m willing to accept that at all. I think everybody knows that I’ve sacrificed kind of damned near everything, family, moving here by myself, sacrificed my game for the sake of the team, and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything in order for this situation to work out. So it’s something I really have to think about, if I really want to be this type of player, finish out my career as this type of player, knowing that I have so much left in the tank and I bring so much to the game of basketball.

If he were to come off the bench for Oklahoma City, Anthony could fit as an offense-first player who can keep things afloat while guys like George and Westbrook get a bit of rest. But with his 34th birthday coming up (May 29), and plenty of money in the bank (over $205 million in career on-court earnings, via Basketball Reference), Anthony seems closer to announcing retirement this offseason than embracing a role as a reserve.

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