The Portland Trail Blazers have been hit with a ridiculous amount of injuries to start the season, which has been a reason the team has gotten off to a woeful 5-10 start. Damian Lillard missed Tuesday night’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans because of back spasms, Zach Collins will be out at least four months after having surgery on his dislocated his left shoulder, Jusuf Nurkic is still rehabbing from a nasty leg fracture he sustained last season and there’s still no timetable on when Pau Gasol will return from a foot injury.
To put it mildly, the Blazers have been in need of some help, so when they, the thought was that he could provide another scoring option off the bench for a team that has been lacking just that. Instead, Anthony made his debut for Portland in the starting lineup on Tuesday, and as it turns out, him starting was a factor in agreeing to sign with the Blazers in the first place.
Before the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts was asked if Anthony would be a starter going forward, to which he replied, “I don’t see why not.” When asked about it after the game, Anthony confirmed Stotts’ comments.
“That was something that was established out [of] the gate,” Anthony said. “When we had that phone call, it was ‘Let’s be transparent.’ That was the miscommunication over the last couple of seasons about what my role would be and things that are expected of me. That was a big point in talking to those guys: Be transparent.”
Anthony is, of course, referencing his last two stops in Houston and Oklahoma City where there was some disagreement on whether or not he should be playing in the starting lineup. When he played with the Thunder, Anthony scoffed at the idea of coming off the bench. In Houston, Anthony started in just two of the 10 games he played in before the Rockets released him.
“It’s not nothing I won’t be willing to do, but just let me know up front, and whatever it is, just let me know,” Anthony said about his conversation with Portland. “Put it all on the table and we go from there. Nothing was ever questioned. It was ‘OK, we want you to come in, we want you to play, we want you to start, we want you to get going. That was that and that was a big reason why I made that decision to come.”
In his first game in over a year, Anthony finished with 10 points, four rebounds and five fouls in 24 minutes of action. He posted a team-worst plus/minus value of -20 and also turned the ball over five times. There were some bright spots on the offensive end of the floor, and it didn’t look like he showed much rust in his shooting touch. On defense, however, it was apparent that Anthony hasn’t played in an NBA game in over a year.
The real test will come when Lillard is back at full health to see if Anthony can build some chemistry with Portland’s leading man, and if he can still be productive in the starting lineup. If not, then Portland and Anthony will have to have another discussion about what his role will be on this team going forward.