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During his introductory press conference earlier this month, new Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony was asked when he had truly accepted the idea of coming off the bench and committed to contributing in that role. He told reporters that it didn’t happen until last season when he started only three of 69 games for the Trail Blazers. It wasn’t an easy transition for the future Hall of Famer, but he embraced the new challenge, averaging 13.4 points per game while shooting a career-high 40.9 percent from 3-point range.
“You go 16, 17 years, and you’re the guy on the team. You’re the star,” Anthony said. “Then, all of the sudden, somebody’s like, ‘Listen, come off the bench.’ I had to swallow that ego. I had to swallow that pride. But I also had to use that ego and that pride to keep me on edge and keep me motivated. I’ve accepted that. It played out well in Portland. That was my first time doing it and experiencing that at that level.”
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Anthony has come a long way since his infamous 2017 media day appearance with the Thunder when he answered a question about being a reserve by jokingly saying, “Who me?” He has run the NBA gamut, going from franchise player in Denver and New York, to secondary option in Oklahoma City and Houston, to completely out of the league.
“Ego is checked. My ego has been checked because I understand it’s all about having perspective on your situation,” Anthony said. “Again, most things, a lot of things in this league, it’s not in our control. We’ve gotta control what we can control, and I’ve learned that over the years.”
Russell Westbrook, another offseason addition for the Lakers and Anthony’s former teammate, knows a thing or two about control. He is a man who has been particular about his approach, style, parking spot and pregame sandwiches. In order for Los Angeles to reach its full potential, though, Westbrook must learn from Anthony and relinquish some on-court control to LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the dynamic duo hoping to hang another championship banner in the Staples Center.
When posed with questions about fitting alongside James and Davis during his own introductory press conference, Westbrook brushed off any concerns.
“Me being their teammate, my job is to come in and uplift them, and they’ll do the same with me, vice versa. As the season prolongs, we will figure it out,” Westbrook said. “There will be ups. There will be downs. That’s normal. That’s OK. We will figure out how to play the best way that we want to play to be able to win a championship.”
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Westbrook is undeniably talented and hard-working, and he genuinely cares. That shouldn’t be dismissed. The problem is that, to this point in his career,