If Carmelo Anthony was already at rock bottom, this latest development is the People's Elbow. No NBA team has signed the former All-Star to a free-agent deal, not even at a minimum salary. Now, a depleted Team USA has opted not to add Anthony to its Olympic roster – and that's after Anthony's camp inquired about joining the team, not the other way around.
Remember, this is a Team USA that can use all the help it can get. The country is sending its C team, not even its B Team, after stars like James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Tobias Harris and Bradley Beal withdrew from Team USA training camp to focus on the upcoming season. Anthony, who is at the tail end of his prime and coming off the two most embarrassing seasons of his NBA career, wasn't even invited. He was reduced to asking for a seat at the table, then was denied that seat because he's viewed as a side show.
"I understood why the agent, he's looking to get him the exposure, looking to get him another shot. But the only way (Anthony) can really be satisfied is for him to have another shot in the NBA, with another team," Team USA director Jerry Colangelo said. "With us, that would've been more of a distraction, as we discussed it. We need to focus on this team concept. We have a bunch of new guys and we're going to go with this new group. And when you insert a different element and it detracts in any way, you lose it.
"That was it. That's no reflection on Carmelo."
Yes. Yes it is.
Anthony has long been revered as a player bred for international competition. He is the only NBA player with three Olympic gold medals, and he's been successful overseas because he's one of the most unstoppable scorers of all time. Or at least he was as recently as three years ago. Anthony has aged, and the NBA has evolved. His style of play is no longer attractive. He hasn't conformed to what the league needs him to be, and his options have shrunk to zero because of it.
Anthony went on ESPN's First Take for a one-on-one interview with Stephen A. Smith, and to his credit, he said all the right things. He conceded that once upon a time, he was focused more on scoring 30 than getting the win, chalking it up to being a young player on a team that needed him to score to have a chance in a ball game. He talked through his side of the exile in Houston. He said he was willing to take a reduced role, acknowledging he came to that conclusion when he joined the Rockets last summer. He proclaimed his love for the game of basketball, that it would mean the world to him to have one more shot at proving his worth.
"It felt like s--- somebody in power telling you they no longer need your services, it felt like I got fired," he said. "I felt like I don't want to do this no more. I felt like I loved the game, but the game didn't love me."
Talk is one thing and actions are another. Anthony will have to prove all those things true, and he can only do so if he gets an opportunity. Truth be told, there should be room for Anthony in the NBA. He's a Hall of Fame-level talent, who just hasn't had the best go these past three years. Melo was unceremoniously kicked out of New York by Phil Jackson, then he was expected to be part of a Big 3 in both Oklahoma City and Houston, only to be shown the door in both situations. The dark cloud Anthony said hovered over the Knicks in his latter seasons in New York has followed him to Oklahoma City, to Houston and now into free agency. This summer has been a thunderstorm, and Anthony doesn't have his umbrella.
The league no longer views Anthony as an offensive talent at the tail end of his career, but as an off-court distraction who's inefficient on one end and a liability on the other. That kind of stigma takes years to dispel. Anthony doesn't have that kind of time. And it looks like Team USA doesn't either.