Carmelo Anthony

After more than a year since his last game, Carmelo Anthony was signed to a one-year, non-guaranteed contract by the Portland Trail Blazers. In his first game, he scored 10 points and four rebounds against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Just weeks ago, it seemed like Carmelo Anthony’s NBA career was over. Anthony hadn’t played a game since Nov. 8, 2018. It seemed that the modern NBA had passed him by. Not many people doubted that Anthony could still get buckets. The question was always whether his liabilities and attitude outweighed his offense.

After a disappointing 5-9 start, the Portland Trail Blazers decided to roll the dice. The team signed Anthony to a one-year, $2.15M non-guaranteed contract. Anthony made his debut Tuesday night versus the New Orleans Pelicans.

In his first appearance in more than a year, Anthony scored 10 points, on 4-14 shooting, and four rebounds. He also added one block, five turnovers and five fouls. After his extended time off, Anthony cannot be blamed for being a tad rusty. The real question is whether he can still be effective in today’s NBA.

I recently had a conversation with some bona fide “Melo Stans” who argued that he is still a “killer” and could average 25+ points in the right situation. I could hardly contain my laughter.

Anthony is undoubtedly a future Hall of Famer but his days as an elite player are well behind him for a few reasons. It’s no secret that Anthony’s defense is porous. It’s also well-known that Anthony’s ego has sometimes clashed with his teammates and hampered his success.

Still, neither of those is the real reason why Anthony’s game has been passed over by the modern NBA. Melo is no longer an elite NBA player because of his passing – or lack thereof.

Think about it. We are in the midst of an era where gunners are flourishing all around the league. However, Anthony’s game lacks two key components that he must possess to be effective – passing ability and pace.

Iso ball is not extinct. In fact, players like James Harden, Russell Westbrook and LeBron James were among the league leaders in shot attempts last season. They also were amongst the assist leaders.

Harden, Westbrook and James can each get to the basket almost anytime they want. However, when they meet double and triple teams, they know how to find the open shooters.

In 78 games with the Oklahoma City Thunder during the 2017-18, Anthony averaged just 1.3 assists per game. In 10 games with the Houston Rockets last season, that number dropped to 0.5 assists per game.

For Anthony to remain in the NBA, he’ll have to learn to share the ball more. Yes, the Blazers brought in Anthony to bolster its scoring. But when you look at why James, who was drafted in the same class as Anthony, can be so successful in his 16th season, it’s largely because his extraordinary passing ability compliments his scoring prowess.

Anthony often slows the offense to a halt when he gets the ball. He dribbles and dribbles and dribbles until everybody else stops moving and waits for him to put up a shot. Today’s NBA is fluid and fast. Anthony will have to change his game if he does not want this season to be his last.

So far it seems as if he has said all the right things. It’s clear, that like Dwight Howard, he has adjusted his mind state and is willing to play a lesser role in the twilight of his career. In Portland, he has two outstanding shooters in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. For the Trail Blazers to be successful, Anthony will have to dribble less and pass more.

Too good to be true

Last week, I wrote about Colin Kaepernick’s then-upcoming and unexpected opportunity to work out for NFL teams. The NFL’s offer came out the blue. I noted the NFL’s pettiness in regards to some of the terms of putting the workout together. Still, I honestly believed the workout would happen, Kaepernick would prove that he still can play and his NFL career would resume happily ever after.

How naïve of me? One would have thought I would have learned better than to trust the NFL, even cautiously, after watching the league lie, cheat and steal to pave the way for the Rams to return to Los Angeles. The fairy tale ending Kaepernick deserves may only come to light on Disney+.

By now, you most likely know that Kaepernick’s NFL-sanctioned workout was scrapped. After being unable to agree to terms, such as media presence, who would be allowed to film and the language in the player waiver, Kaepernick called an audible and hosted his own workout an hour away. You can read more about the breakdown in my colleague Alvin Reid’s column.

Let’s focus on the waiver, which was likely the biggest reason Kaepernick chose to ease on down the road. In a release expressing it’s extreme disappointment in Kaepernick (imagine that), the NFL stated that waiver sent to Kaepernick’s team was “a standard liability waiver based on the waiver used by National Invitational Camp at all NFL Combines and by NFL clubs when trying out free agent players.” 

Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports pointed out that the words “based on” in the league’s statement, were not placed there coincidentally. Robinson and many media outlets have described the waiver that the NFL demanded Kaepernick sign as a “Trojan horse.”

Why? The waiver contained several clauses that would have taken away Kaepernick’s rights to litigation for any past, present or future wrongdoings. Attorney and ESPN contributor Howard Bryant stated that if Kaepernick’s attorneys would have allowed him to sign the waiver, as written, it should have been considered “malpractice.”

"When you are talking about this waiver, you are asking Colin Kaepernick to give up everything, and I think that when you go into a negotiation you are not expected to give up all your rights," Bryant said on ESPN’s First Take.

Remember, though Kaepernick’s settlement with the NFL is well-known, The Root’s Michael Harriot pointed out that it was the result of grievance arbitration not an actual lawsuit in a court of law. So it appears that the only way the benevolent brass of the NFL would allow Kaepernick to even try out, was if he signed away all of his employment rights.

That is why Kaepernick wore the Kunte Kinte shirt before the workout. Like he often did on the field with the 49ers, Kaepernick had the vision to see the blitz coming, rolled out of the pocket and connected down the field.

If Kaepernick never plays in the NFL again, it won’t be because he doesn’t have the skills. He proved in his workout that his arm is still legit. It will be because he is too smart, too woke and too revolutionary for the massas in the NFL.

Remember, it was former Houston Texas owner (now deceased) Bob McNair who said the NFL couldn’t “have the inmates running the prison.” McNair may have passed away in 2018, but it’s clear that his sentiments are still alive and well in the NFL.

Heavyweight showdown

Saturday night (Nov. 23), WBC heavyweight champ Deontay Wilder will put his title on the line against Luis Ortiz. The bout is a rematch of a March 2018 bout that saw Wilder (41-0-1, 40 KO) hand Ortiz the first and only loss of his career.

The 40-year-old Ortiz (31-1-0, 26 KO) is hoping to avenge his prior loss and spoil Wilder’s plans for a high-profile rematch with Tyson Fury in 2020.

Deontay Wilder and Luis Ortiz

WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder will defend his title against Luis Ortiz on Saturday night. The bout is a rematch of Wilder’s 10th round KO victory over Ortiz in March 2018.

An upset victory isn’t out of the question for Ortiz considering that the Cuban fighter is widely considered the more technically-skilled fighter. He also proved that he could hurt Wilder during the first fight by putting him on unsteady legs during Round 7.

The problem is the sleep-inducing right hand possessed by the 34-year-old “Bronze Bomber.” Thus far, Wilder has proven too strong and powerful for most opponents to handle. He always shows up in immaculate shape. Even when Wilder has been hurt, he’s shown the stamina and will to survive. He has also shown an innate ability to make his opponent’s go night-night.

Like his rematch with Bermaine Stiverne, the first man to last a full 12 rounds with Wilder, I expect the rematch to be a little easier for the champ. No, he won’t knock Ortiz out in the first round. But at 40-years-old, expect Ortiz to look a little older, slower and more vulnerable. Therefore, I’m picking Deontay Wilder to defend his title via 5th round KO.

Be sure to check In the Clutch online and also follow Ishmael on Twitter @ishcreates. 

Ishmael H. Sistrunk is a columnist and the website coordinator for the St. Louis American and www.stlamerican.com.

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