A lot has already been made about the differences and similarities between now and the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets.
But as both teams have discussed their very different looking rosters heading into this year’s first round series matchup, there's something else, or someone else, who isn't flying under the radar when thinking about this series.
Carmelo Anthony will head to Denver to face his former team in the playoffs for the very first time in his 18-year career.
Melo described his emotions heading into a playoff series against the team that drafted him.
“I haven’t even thought about it from that perspective,” Melo explained following Wednesday’s practice. “Just the fact that I’m able to be back there, on the other side though, competing in the playoffs, knowing that the time that I’ve… my first seven and half, eight years in Denver -- knowing just how in-tuned I was to the city, to the organization, to the people, to the fans.”
After losing in five straight playoff appearances from 2004 to 2008 with Denver, Anthony won his first playoff series when the Nuggets beat the New Orleans Hornets in 2009. In that Game 5 victory, Melo finished with a playoff career-high 34 points, while also notching four steals.
Leading the Nuggets in 2009 to their first Conference Finals since 1985 before losing to the Lakers in six games is the farthest Melo has reached in the postseason.
So, at this point in Melo’s career some may wonder if he feels extra pressure to improve his playoff results.
“But other than that, I don’t feel like I need to prove anything to anybody,” Melo added. “I just go out there and continue playing the way I’m playing, of course, dialing it up to postseason mode. I am in postseason mode at this moment.”
The future Hall of Famer wouldn’t go into further details on what it’s like being in ‘postseason mode’ other than to say there’s a lot more preparation that goes into it.
But here’s the thing:
The NBA world shall not forget that there’s only one Carmelo Anthony – postseason success or not.
Even though last summer in the Orlando Bubble, Anthony was referred to as ‘Skinny Melo’ after coming into the NBA restart looking more slender than before the league's hiatus, but that doesn’t mean Anthony’s game changed.
No matter what type of Melo the NBA world is talking about, his preparation and mindset, no matter what time of year, remains the same.
And now, fortunately, for Melo and the Trail Blazers they’ll have a total of six days off to work on their bodies and minds before tipping off Game 1 on Saturday.
“I’m utilizing this week to the best of my ability,” Anthony explained with a smile. “We’ve got to get the proper recovery, the proper work, but you’ve also got to understand you as an individual and what you’re doing, and what you need, and the preparation you need to go out there and be prepared for this battle.”
"Postseason Melo" definitely knows how to get right before a playoff series.
Or really we should say, Melo knows what it takes.