Carmelo Anthony reflects on connection with Chicago after vintage performance against the Bulls

Carmelo Anthony reflects on connection with Chicago after vintage performance against the Bulls

Entering the United Center for a Bulls game, one can usually assume the crowd surrounding them will form a living, breathing canvas of red and black. Especially on a night when the Portland Trail Blazers are in town.

That wasn't the case on Monday.

Sure, you had your Damian Lillard classic home jerseys, your CJ McCollum red alternates. And, of course, the majority of those gathered were dressed in their finest Bulls threads.

But spattered across the arena were flecks of color from a wider palette: Nuggets powder blue, vibrant Syracuse Orange, electric Knicks azure — all bonded, not by a team, but by a player.

Somehow, they were the loudest. 

And who could blame them? The man they all came to see and raucously support, Carmelo Anthony, turned back the clock in Portland's 117-94 drubbing of the Bulls, scoring 25 points and snatching eight rebounds on 10-for-20 shooting (4-for-7 from deep). Mere weeks ago, he was deemed out of the league for good. Tonight, he received "Bring Back Melo" chants, even from fans who never saw him play for their favorite team.

"That support, that was the most important thing to hear that tonight," Anthony said of the chants. "From fans, that's Chicago Bulls fans, with me on a whole other team... Those fans didn't have to do that."

He's certainly correct in that, especially given that Anthony never suited up for the Bulls in his career. But the ten days he spent technically a member of the team back in January, after being unloaded in what was effectively a salary dump by the Rockets, are not lost on the Chicago faithful. Nor are they lost on Anthony.

"I think at the end of the day I will always be connected to Chicago some way some how. For years and years my name has always been connected to the Chicago Bulls," he said. Then, with a chuckle, "I was a Bull for 10 days, so, some way some how I will always be connected with that."

That's one connecting point. Another is that tonight's performance marked the fourth team (Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder, Blazers) for which Anthony has dropped 20 points on the Bulls. And he did it in the quintessential Melo fashion — burrowing his head into the belly of opposing defenders, jab stepping to create space, pulling up from behind the three-point line, stroking turnaround jumpers out of the post. At one point, he drove and plastered a dunk across Wendell Carter Jr.'s face, then sank a three-pointer seconds later after Carter turned the ball over trying to inbound.

"I think he likes playing in this building to be honest with you. He's had a lot of good performances in this building since I've been here," Jim Boylen said.

"It felt good. I mean, I been working man. I don't wanna sound arrogant or cocky or anything like that, but it's a humbling situation for me and it's just a testament to all the work I've been putting in," Anthony said of having all his old moves working. "My body feels good. Mentally, I feel good. But that dunk felt good.

"I just, I haven't had an opportunity to do that stuff. That stuff never goes nowhere, you always have that, you just gotta continue perfecting it and stay with it. I just haven't had the opportunity to be in those positions... I have the opportunity now."

His numbers weren't empty, either. With the Bulls actually firing on all cylinders offensively in the first quarter, Anthony notched 12 points in the game's first 12 minutes to keep it a back-and-forth affair. Then, in the third, he caught fire again. The aforementioned five points-in-15-seconds sequence effectively put the Bulls' comeback hopes to bed.

"The boost at the beginning of the game was good, but third quarter was really good to get us — you know, Chicago's a feisty team, the way they came back against Charlotte — to get some separation," Portland head coach Terry Stotts said. "He had good rhythm all game."

"Seeing Melo out there in his bag like that, just in a good rhythm, you know, to see him out there, it was fun to watch," Lillard said. "Our whole bench we were just excited to see him get it going. You know, him being here, it's been fun, and we all welcome seeing his bounce back happen and it's gonna be fun to watch." 

With his 25 points, Anthony passed Alex English for 18th on the all-time NBA scoring list. He acknowledged that milestones of that ilk have started to carry more weight the further along in his career he's progressed, but also stressed that his focus was on the win, his team and his family. Anthony's wife, Lala, was in attendance and, after the game, the two FaceTimed their son on the court.

"It's a great night. I think, for me, it's just taking it one day at a time," Anthony said. "Today was being in the moment, being in the now and focusing on what we need to focus on, which was getting this win, and doing what I have to do — my part — to help this team win. And the ball went in tonight."

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How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

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How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

The 2020 WNBA season is one like no other. While the league is playing out its truncated, 22-game campaign in a bubbled campus at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, it’s also dedicating the proceedings to social justice advocacy.

To name a few ways the latter has come to fruition: Players across the W have honored the lives and called for justice for Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and other victims of police brutality and racial violence with jersey messages, on-court demonstrations and comments to the media. The Sky, specifically, launched a fund to benefit Chicago-based community organizations based on team performance called #SkyTakesAction. There was even a leaguewide thrust to publicly endorse Raphael Warnock, a Democratic challenger for Kelly Loeffler’s Senate seat in Georgia, after Loeffler repeatedly came out in opposition of the W’s social justice initiatives and the Black Lives Matter movement. Everything enacted by the league on this front has been pointed and unified.

Meanwhile, there’s basketball to be played, as well. And the Sky is on the rise. Despite dropping two of its last three contests, the team is off to a 5-3 start to the season, with mammoth victories over the Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics embedded in. It’s a group with championship aspirations one year after bursting onto the scene under first-year coach James Wade and bolstered by a high-octane, free-flowing style of play; and it returned much of the core of that breakout squad, even as many stars across the W traded threads.

Sky forward Gabby Williams recently joined the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss all of the above — from her commitment to pushing for change to the high hopes, and strange circumstances, surrounding the team this season.

“Our decision to come to the bubble really was, if we're going to go, fighting for social justice is going to be at the forefront of our season,” Williams said. “That's going to go hand-in-hand with the WNBA.”

And on grinding through a season with games near every other day: “It’s going to be hard on our bodies, it’s going to be hard mentally, it’s going to be hard physically, emotionally, everything, it’s going to be exhausting. So we’re just going to try to keep each other up. It’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be a season that we have to grind out, and it’s not going to be easy for anyone. So we’re just focused on our bodies, and staying healthy and staying together.”

Listen to the full conversation here or via the embedded player above.

Bulls Talk Podcast


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Bulls Talk Podcast: Sky forward Gabby Williams on WNBA Wubble and social change

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Sky forward Gabby Williams on WNBA Wubble and social change

The Chicago Sky are dominating in the Wubble on the court, but also are doing some great things off the court as well. NBC Sports Chicago Bulls and hoops writer Rob Schaefer is joined by Sky forward Gabby Williams to discuss everything that's going on in the WNBA's Wubble as they get through their season and the many social justice initiatives the league and the Sky are pushing to help promote social change.

(2:20) - Difficulties of starting the WNBA season when so much has gone on in the world

(7:10) - The Sky are trying to motivate people and other athletes to push for social change in Chicago

(11:55) - The Sky have championship aspirations

(15:40) - Keeping the pressure on people to continue to promote change

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.