Carmelo Anthony once bristled at the mere concept of coming off the bench. He has done so precisely eight times in his NBA career, all during his failed stint with the Houston Rockets. He conveyed a willingness to serve as a reserve under the right circumstances in a 2019 interview, but blamed the Rockets for failing to communicate those expectations.
"I wasn't willing to accept that role of coming off the bench in Houston because that never was relayed to me," Melo said on ESPN's "First Take." "It was 'you are the piece that we need to get us over the hump and win a championship.' I went in with that mentality. 'We need Melo to come in here and get us over this.' I watched the previous year. I saw where I can plug myself in there, and I really believed that we were gonna do that. But when I get there, it was something totally different. The dialogue started getting less and less. There was no more conversation. It was just doing it, and then I got to react to the things that are being done."
Hardly a ringing endorsement of his bench role. The Portland Trail Blazers never even bothered asking him to replicate it. Anthony played 63 total games as a Blazer last season, and he started in each one. He averaged 32 minutes per night and took the third-most shots on the team. The Blazers may have signed him for the minimum, but they treated him like a full-fledged starter.
Circumstances dictated that. Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic were both out with long-term injuries. Rodney Hood joined them soon after Anthony's signing. Gary Trent Jr.'s breakout was still months away. So thin were the Blazers in the frontcourt that Mario Hezonja, Caleb Swanigan and Skal Labissiere all started games for them last season. All three could be out of the NBA next season. The Blazers didn't start Anthony out of deference to his resume. They did so out of necessity. If he wasn't going to play 32 minutes at forward for them, who would?
Portland now has half a dozen answers to that question, none of whom need to be Anthony. Collins is recovering from ankle surgery, and while he may not be back in time for opening night, he won't miss much more time than that. Hood is back as well on a hefty short-term contract. Trent, one of the bubble's standouts and Portland's best young player, is due a substantial role, and 2019 first-round pick Nassir Little will push for any role whatsoever. Those are just the players they're bringing back.
The more impressive portion of Portland's offseason revolves around the two forwards added over the past week. The Blazers gave up two first-round picks to swipe Robert Covington away from Houston. They spent their non-taxpayer mid-level exception importing Heat reserve Derrick Jones Jr. Their merits as players aside, Portland's expenditure suggests its recognition of the need at forward. The Blazers made substantial investments in both. They've made investments in every other forward on the roster, spending draft picks on Trent and Little, trading two first-round picks to get Collins and giving Hood over $10 million. Anthony, for the second consecutive season, is reportedly signing for the minimum.