Before fans in many arenas get settled in their seats, Carmelo Anthony routinely walks to the scorer’s table, waiting for a dead ball rather than the opening tip, to take his place on the court.
When it happens early in the first quarter Thursday night, Oklahoma City’s punctual fans will no doubt notice not just the familiar face but that Anthony is serving as the Rockets’ sixth man, a role he so vehemently asserted he did not want with the Thunder.
How they’ll react to that, and his latest reunion with a former team, is uncertain, but they will surely react. Regardless, Anthony pledged he will arrive with appreciation for how he was treated when he played for the Thunder.
His time in Oklahoma City was brief, just one season that ended with a first-round playoff loss. It was in many ways unsatisfying as Anthony scored fewer points per game (16.7) than he had throughout his career, though more than he has averaged this season (14.2).
Still, his time with the Thunder is fresh enough for Anthony to know playing in Oklahoma City for the first time with the Rockets will not be just another game. It won’t, however, bring the sense of nostalgia from his return to Denver or the raw emotion of his return to New York.