OKLAHOMA CITY — Carmelo Anthony‘s season has been about acceptance with the Thunder as he adjusts to a new role as an auxiliary scorer featured on most nights as the third option behind Russell Westbrook and Paul George. And as Anthony grows more comfortable with it, he said Wednesday the game is getting “fun again.”
“Once you accept something, regardless of what it is, I think you become comfortable with it,” he said. “You start putting your all into it, you start working on that role and on that acceptance, and it becomes fun. I think right now, after accepting that role, I think early in December, the game is starting to become fun again for me, fun for us as a team. Any time you get to making shots and winning basketball games, it makes it that much more fun.”
Anthony was dominant on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Lakers in the Thunder’s 114-90 win, leading all scorers with 27 points on 10 of 15 shooting, including 4-of-6 from 3. As Anthony heated up, especially in the third quarter, both Westbrook and George deferred to him, trying to find shots to keep Anthony cooking.
“I think any time you’re making shots you feel good about yourself and what you’re doing, what the team is doing,” Anthony said. “Tonight was just one of those nights where the shot was falling and the game was fun. And we took advantage of that.”
A big part of the process for the Thunder’s big three has been Anthony’s adjustment to more of a catch-and-shoot spot-up option, moving him away from the isolation scorer he has been for most of his career. It has been an adjustment that has proved uncomfortable for Anthony at times. But it started to click for him in December, following the Thunder’s trip to New York, where he addressed the team about accepting roles.
It also has been more of a focus to find Anthony in those spots, as the Thunder have run more sets to free him up on the perimeter, while also prodding opponents into switches that create mismatches.
“I think he’s finding opportunities to get 3s,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said, “but I think the other part of it too is having an awareness of when there’s matchup problems against him where we can go into some areas where he’s got a smaller guy on him or it’s a tough matchup against him.”
Anthony is averaging 17.4 points per game this season, a career low, while also taking the fewest shots per game of his career. Since Christmas, as Anthony has settled more into his requested role, his efficiency has gone up (47 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3). The Thunder are 17-8 since Dec. 1.