Carmelo Anthony is so desperate to join an NBA team right now that he went on ESPN's "First Take" to make his pitch not only to executives but also owners, fans, fellow players and whoever might be watching. So far, he has not been successful. Anthony remains unsigned. There are several reasons why that could be the case. Anthony is not the same player he once was, and his fit on a modern roster is questionable. But according to Damian Lillard on "The Joe Budden Podcast," the Portland Trail Blazers are just over the effort of recruiting him after multiple failed attempts in the past.
"I tried, two years ago I tried to get 'Melo to come to Portland, and he went to Oklahoma City," Lilard said. "Then after that, I tried to get him to come to Portland again, and he went to Houston. So at this point…"
"You're not putting your hand out again," Budden asked.
"The team or me," Lillard replied. "I'm like, 'he ain't coming here,' you know what I'm saying? He deserves to be in the league, but he ain't coming here."
Adrian Wojnarowski reported for ESPN in 2017 that the Blazers wanted to trade for Anthony, but that he would not waive his no-trade clause to play in Portland. That was not for lack of trying. C.J. McCollum famously posted a photoshopped image of Anthony in a Blazers uniform on Instagram to try to sell the superstar on playing with him and Lillard.
Anthony, who had initially only been willing to accept a trade to the Houston Rockets, eventually expanded his list. That expansion obviously included the Thunder, where he ended up, and Wojnarowski reported that it also included the Cleveland Cavaliers, who at the time had his close friend LeBron James. There is no indication that the Blazers ever earned his approval.
Anthony's 2018 free agency was not nearly as protracted as those trade talks. He received a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks late in July, and soon after, he had agreed to join the Rockets.
The Blazers technically could still sign Anthony. They have only 14 players with guaranteed contracts, meaning that they have a roster spot that they can use on him if they'd like. But if they were interested in doing so, they likely would have by now. Instead, the Blazers will likely either use that spot on a training camp standout or hold it for a midseason addition.
Aside from the questionable fit of adding another all-offense perimeter player to this roster, there are cultural questions here as well. The Trail Blazers, led by Lillard and McCollum, have cultivated an identity that is extremely loyal to Portland. Neither has ever reached unrestricted free agency, and thanks to the extensions they both signed this summer, neither will during their primes. It would seem almost antithetical to that identity to bring in a player who twice rejected Portland. Anthony had his chance to join the Blazers. That window now appears closed.