Carmelo Anthony had to have been devastated that his request to join Team USA for the FIBA Basketball World Cup was turned down. Even as he had been experiencing one rejection after another of late, he figured with no small measure of optimism that Jerry Colangelo, managing director of USA Basketball, would consider adding him to the roster headed to China late this month. After all, he isn’t just any 35-year-old journeyman pro whose best days are decidedly behind him; he’s the country’s best-ever international player, among only four in hoops annals to have four Olympic medals and the only one in history with three golds in the Summer Games.
As decorated as Anthony has been in red, white, and blue, however, Colengelo didn’t think he would be helping the cause, even as a valuable mentor in the sidelines. In fact, he was seen as a negative. “I love Carmelo,” the executive told SI.com last week. “He made a great contribution. He was a very good international player. But for where we are and what we’re doing, that conceivably could have been a distraction. I understand why the request was made. He’s trying to reestablish himself. I think that has to be done in the [NBA].”
Indeed, Anthony’s ultimate goal is to latch on to a roster spot in the league. And, to this end, he, agent Leon Rose, and others in his team have been making the rounds and stirring up the pot in order to get traction for his campaign. He even appeared on ESPN First Take, fielding questions on his motivation to suit up anew even though he already boasts of a Hall-of-Fame-worthy resume. No doubt, his intent to redeem himself after an ignominious exit from the Rockets after just 10 games last year provides him with motivation.
The problem, to be sure, is Anthony’s age and dwindling skill set. The game has sped up considerably, and in such a way that his strengths — which manifest themselves most in midrange isolation situations — have become weaknesses. Pace has become much faster, with increased emphasis on high-efficiency shots either in the paint or beyond the three-point line. Unfortunately, these are areas where he doesn’t excel, and where he hasn’t seen fit to emphasize even when the writing on the wall was evident years ago. It’s why he flubbed his lone season with the Thunder, why he was then unceremoniously dumped by the Rockets, and why the rest of the NBA are wary of taking him in.
Enter Team USA and its seeming need for Anthony’s services. Thirty of the 35 players it included in its World Cup pool last year have withdrawn, and the dearth of marquee names looks to set him up for, at the very least, a leadership position for flag and country. Not so, and with reason. After all, he thrived in his Olympic Melo persona because he served as the escape valve of star-studded squads. With opponents focusing on teammates, he wound up taking open shots as an offshoot of decisive ball movement. And, needless to say, the shorter three-point line — coinciding with his sweet spots in NBA courts — helped.
Perhaps Anthony should prep himself for retirement. No one’s taking the bait stateside, and he’s too proud to take his talents to, say, Europe or China, where his career will most certainly find new lease on life. Considering how much he’s working to stay in shape, though, he’s bent on keeping his dream alive. And, for all his exertions, it’s just too bad the market isn’t.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.