Carmelo Anthony is becoming a jack-of-all-trades kind of player for the Los Angeles Lakers, taking on challenges he hasn’t faced often during his 19-year career.
Anthony initially transitioned into a catch-and-shoot threat early in the 2021-22 season, becoming a leading scorer off the bench for the Lakers. But since L.A. embraced small-ball for good, the 37-year-old has put in many shifts at the five.
Anthony has spent 40% of his rotation minutes playing as L.A.’s center this season, according to Basketball-Reference — nearly double the time he clocked in as the Portland Trail Blazers’ big man in 2020-21. The forward said the role requires him to make changes to the way he usually plays basketball.
“We didn’t have seven-footers in my neighborhood when we were growing up (laughs),” Anthony said. “It’s a little different, man. A little different. Playing against those guys it’s a lot. It’s a lot of work. You got to be smarter on what you do on your schemes and how you defend that and how you play that.
“You can’t play it the same way every time down the court, so you got to try to use your smarts against seven-footers like that.”
Anthony spent a significant chunk of the 117-110 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the center slot, as knee injury sidelined LeBron James ahead of the clash. The forward was on the floor for 26 of the 31 minutes during which the Lakers played without a nominal center.
Anthony said James’ absence caught him by surprise.
“It’s day to day with us,” he said. “Tonight Bron didn’t play and guys were ready. Guys had to be ready. I could be here singing a different tune if one play is different or one shot goes in. One loose ball. One offensive rebound, one defensive rebound. I could be sitting here singing a different tune, but it’s like we own a fence.
“Again, you just don’t know who’s going to be in the lineup. We definitely didn’t expect Bron to be out. Nobody knew that and that was last second. At least for me, I found out last second, but guys still stepped up. Guys still came to play today.
“We fought and we fought to the end with the guys we had and the guys that’s out there.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel explains significance of James’ injury
James has been struggling with knee soreness for a large part of the 2021-22 campaign. Head coach Frank Vogel said the swelling in the four-time NBA champion’s knee was particularly problematic ahead of the game against the Spurs, leading to the 37-year-old’s absence.
“He typically has some soreness in the knee the day after the game that subsides by the next game,” Vogel said ahead of the Lakers’ contest against the Spurs. “When we got here to San Antonio, throughout the day, the soreness today was still significant enough for us to hold him out.
“With the heavy load that he’s carrying for us this year, we know that it’s always a possibility. That’s why we continue to list him as questionable to see how it’s responding over the 48 hours between games and this is just one of those days where like I said, it was significant enough to hold him out.”
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