Carmelo Anthony & Damian Lillard - Bruce Ely - Photographer for the Portland Trail Blazers
As the 10-15 Trail Blazers prepare to tip off against the 14-8 Nuggets in Denver, there’s many questions that lay ahead for this Portland franchise.
3 weeks after signing Carmelo Anthony and inserting him into the starting lineup, the Blazers have gone 5-6. On paper that doesn’t look impressive or blow you away by any means, but if that record in the 11 games disappoints you, keep in mind, the Blazers are without Zach Collins (shoulder), Jusuf Nurkic (leg), and now Rodney Hood (Achilles).
Carmelo has certainly passed the eye test. He’s fitting in almost seamlessly alongside Damian and CJ McCollum, allowing the Blazers to space the floor on offense, and has shown that he can even play some defense admirably.
As Mike Singer from the Denver Post mentioned, the Nuggets are well aware of Carmelo, saying “Real basketball heads know how good that guy is”. They’re not wrong, as he’s averaging 15.9ppg (40% from the field), 5.6rpg, 1.4apg, and 1.2spg in 31.2 minutes according to Basketball Reference.
The first time these two teams faced each other, the Blazers hosted the Nuggets at the Moda Center to kick off the season, losing 108-100. Now without Collins, Hood, and the addition of Carmelo, it certainly is a different match-up than before.
Although most NBA teams don’t make moves this early into the season, on December 15th the trade market opens up as teams can trade recently signed or recently acquired players. Since the Blazers are depleted by injuries, and facing the Nuggets, it reminded me of 2006.
In the 2006-07 season, Carmelo Anthony was in his 4th year with Denver. The Nuggets just got into a brawl with the New York Knicks a few days earlier, losing J.R. Smith and Anthony to a 15 game and 10 game suspension respectively. Due to losing two key players in Smith and Anthony, the Nuggets were players in the trade market. They specifically had one player in their sights, someone who was made available to the league a month earlier. On December 19th, the Nuggets pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, sending Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two 2007 first rounders to the 76ers for Allen Iverson and Ivan McFarlin.
If you remember that, you have a special place in my heart. My grandpa was in the hospital when that trade broke, and I’ll always remember it. It was a distraction from reality, and it started a love for the entire sport that still lives today. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing trades happen in the NBA? Even if it’s your arch nemesis.
Do the Blazers do something similar the Nuggets did over a decade ago? Do they make a move to light a fire under this 10-15 Portland team? Possibly. They’ve been linked to multiple players, even one that was in the blockbuster that sent Carmelo to New York in 2011 - Danilo Gallinari. It’s just a wait and see game at this point.
The last time Carmelo was named an All-Star in the Western Conference, it was while he was a member of the Denver Nuggets. Almost a full decade ago, in 2010. Maybe we’ll witness a throwback All-Star type of performance as he goes back to Denver.
Tune in tonight at 7:30pm PST on TNT.