A lot has been made about 17-year NBA vet Carmelo Anthony’s current physique.
And rightfully so.
‘Skinny Melo’ was trending following a few photos that were circulating on social media after Portland’s first practice last Saturday.
“The pictures are obvious that you’ve seen of him on Instagram or on social media. It’s obvious that his body has changed a little bit,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said after the team's practice Thursday.
When the topic of Melo looking a bit more slender came up during CJ McCollum’s Zoom interview Thursday, he had a big smile on his face when gearing up to answer the question of whether or not he had noticed the change about the future Hall of Famer.
He’s tightened up his diet. He’s experimented with some different diets throughout the quarantine and I think the biggest thing is his body mass. I told him it looks like he lost weight, but he hasn’t lost that many pounds, it’s more so turning some of the fat into muscle and leaning out, but he’s always around the same weight, he just carries it different. So when he has those tights on and the muscle shirt, he looks thinner, but he’s moving well, he’s in good shape, he’s ready to go. -- Trail Blazers shooting guard CJ McCollum on Carmelo Anthony
Now with Melo sliding over to play the three for the Blazers instead of the four like he had done all season, putting more of an emphasis on his physique can only help the 36-year-old and in turn help the Blazers.
As Coach Stotts pointed out, Antholny had been out of basketball for a year before signing with the Blazers in Nov., and he was still able to have his body right to make a return to the court.
Thus, four months of quarantine meant Melo knew what to do.
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“He’s moving well,” Stotts continued describing his veteran wing. “He’s in good condition… He took care of his body for a year being out of basketball, but I do think it’s obvious that the change of his body is noticeable and he’s moving really well.”
Being able to move 'really well' will certainly help on the defensive end.
Yet, there may still be some question marks with Melo defending mismatches on the perimeter. But with the addition of Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins, the two big men are a focal point of the Trail Blazers current defensive schemes.
Trail Blazers floor general Damian Lillard isn’t concerned about Melo being a defensive liability at the three.
For one, Melo’s a really smart defender, so it’s not always about, ‘oh he’s getting older, or he’s not athletic, or any of those things.' He’s smart. He knows personnel, he plays his angles well, he recognizes actions that’s coming at him. So, I think that’ll be on his side. I think the three is his natural position, so he’ll be able to navigate that pretty easy. But I think the biggest thing is even if there is somebody on the perimeter that could give him trouble, I think the fact that we're getting two seven footers back and one is always going to be at the rim that can cover up for that. – Trail Blazers All-Star point guard Damian Lillard
The Trail Blazers have been ramping up their intra-squad scrimmages in practice over the past few days.
Coach Stotts has mentioned that the Blazers are implementing a few new defensive schemes to better fit the team’s personnel.
Having two seven footers with one always there to protect the rim will allow Portland’s guards to be up tighter on their defender and take more risks on the perimeter.
Anthony has been tasked with guarding Gary Ternt Jr., and Mario Hezonja, as well as switching onto both Lillard and McCollum.
Both Lillard and McCollum mentioned Thursday that knowing they will have two fairly agile bigs behind them will be a huge key to the success of their new defense.
“I think we’ve made some adjustments with our size that we’ll have coming into this restart that will really help our team,” Lillard mentioned. “The way practice has looked, [Melo has] been guarding the three, been chasing Rio and GT and CJ and myself. He’s been switching and guarding all of us and he’s taking the challenge, and I think that’s the most important thing, but what we’ve added with our bigs coming back will be really helpful too.”
McCollum believes the Blazers are “heading in the right direction.”
“The changes were making fits our personnel,” McCollum said. “Obviously, having those bigs out there, to protect the basket, make things much easier for us and guards got to do a better job of ball pressuring and that’s something that we’ve been working on – dictating the ball handler and trying to funnel him towards our bigs.”