It’s become a late-summer staring contest among some of the splashiest, most-followed franchises in the NBA. One of them will sign erstwhile star Carmelo Anthony, who is 35 and has not played since he was set free by the Houston Rockets after 10 games last November.

Anthony is said to be in good shape and his resume as a scorer is sterling. But some feel Anthony won’t play in the NBA again, despite his latest push to find a contract. His representatives are fighting the perception that Anthony can no longer be a functional team player, that his scorer’s mentality and past complaints about his rolesmake him a net negative for any team with high aspirations.

According to league sources, his representatives are fighting that perception, “aggressively.”

“He has been the scapegoat for a few teams that didn’t play up to their potential,” one source said. “Obviously that is sticking with him. They’re showing teams he can play, but they’re also making the case that the negative reputation stuff is BS, that he is not a team-killer, that other people put blame on him the last few years that he didn’t deserve.”

Carmelo Anthony Portrayed as a 3-Time Scapegoat

The case is two-fold, the sources said. First, there is the idea that Anthony was used as a scapegoat, which began in New York after the 2016-17 season, then for the Oklahoma City Thunder the following year. Last season, it was Anthony who took the fall for the 4-6 start in Houston. He was let go after 13 games and no other team re-signed him.

But Anthony’s camp has been pushing the line that he got more blame than he deserves in each case. The Rockets eventually righted themselves without Anthony, but that did not happen until long after he was gone. After the 4-6 start, Houston went 7-8 in its next 15 games.

Anthony also got the blame when the Thunder won 48 games in 2017-18 and proceeded to get knocked out in the first round of the postseason. But last year’s OKC team did no better, winning 49 games and losing in the first round of the playoffs. The Thunder blew up the Paul George-Russell Westbrook core after that.

Anthony also took the blame when the Knicks went 31-51 in his final year. But, his reps have been pointing out to teams the fact that New York has hardly bounced back since. They were 29-53 without Anthony the following season and won 17 games last year.