Carmelo Anthony entered the NBA as a 19-year-old superstar-in-waiting when the Denver Nuggets drafted him third overall in 2003.
Eighteen years later and a few months shy of his 37th birthday, he is a veteran cementing his legacy with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Anthony is not the No. 1 option in Portland as he was in Denver for more than seven seasons, but he is playing his role well for the Trail Blazers. He will head back to his NBA roots when Portland visits the Nuggets on Tuesday night.
Anthony returned to Portland in the offseason despite having a chance to sign elsewhere, and he is happy he did. The Blazers have surged this season, despite losing their last two games, including a 132-100 blowout defeat at Phoenix on Monday night.
Before those losses, Portland won eight of nine, even without having CJ McCollum since Jan. 16 due to a foot injury.
Having Anthony fill some of the scoring void has helped, and the way Portland has played validates his decision to return.
“We have an opportunity to do something special here with this group and this team,” he said recently.
The Blazers have a chance to get back on the winning track against a banged-up Denver squad that just finished a 1-3 road trip. The Nuggets looked sluggish in a 123-115 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night after grabbing their only win of the trip in Cleveland on Friday night.
Jamal Murray, who scored a regular-season-career-high 50 points in the lone win, has combined with Nikola Jokic to carry the Nuggets. The duo will be asked to do it again Tuesday as Denver will be without Paul Millsap (knee), JaMychal Green (shoulder), PJ Dozier (hamstring) and Gary Harris (adductor).
Harris will miss his 10th game in the past 11 after aggravating his injury on the road trip. He played 28 minutes and scored two points in a loss at Washington on Wednesday.
Because of the injuries, coach Michael Malone has played Will Barton at power forward when Denver has gone small, and Zeke Nnaji, R.J. Hampton and Bol Bol have seen increased playing time and should get more Tuesday night.
“We got a lot of bodies out,” Murray said. “You guys don’t take that into consideration sometimes. We got a lot of guys out. We have Thrill (Barton) playing the four. Bol hasn’t played all season, getting in there and doing a great job. Sometimes it’s a chemistry thing.”
The Nuggets could have used Harris to help contain Damian Lillard. Portland’s leading scorer has reached double figures in every game this season except the opener, and he ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring at 29.8 points per game after a 24-point effort Monday.
This is the first meeting of the season between the teams and the start of a two-game homestand for Denver. The Blazers are in the middle of a tough three-game trip that started in Phoenix on Monday night and finishes Thursday in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
–Field Level Media