BEAVERTON – If Carmelo Anthony never joins the Trail Blazers, it won’t be because of a lack of effort from the Blazers’ two cornerstones – Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Through a series of cryptic and vague comments on Wednesday at Lillard’s youth basketball camp, both Lillard and McCollum said they have been in contact with Anthony in attempts to lure him to Portland via a trade.
“I spoke to him,’’ Lillard said. “Because obviously he makes us a better team. So obviously with that being out there and being a real possibility, I don’t see why I wouldn’t reach out to him and let him know the interest is mutual if he is interested in us.’’
What was Anthony’s response?
“I’m not going to share all that,’’ Lillard said. “We had the conversation about it because it’s something we need to talk about, so he knows it’s not something that just a team (is interested) ... it was myself and CJ would love to have him, so we reached out to him, texted him, that’s it.’’
McCollum, who was making an appearance at Lillard's camp, was more cryptic, saying he has spoke to Anthony “indirectly” through the trainer they both share. He added that he is flying to New York on Thursday to train and will “say hello (to Melo) if he’s there.’’
“If we get him … when we get him … I think we could be top three in the West, easy,’’ McCollum said. “I think he’s interested. Obviously I feel he wants to play with his team – the Banana Boat friends. I know he wants to play with CP (Chris Paul) and LeBron, and those are good options, but I feel we are a good option.’’
Anthony has a no-trade clause, and it is believed he wants to steer his destination toward Houston, where he can team with Paul and James Harden. But to get to Houston, a third-team will likely need to be involved in a trade, which is where Portland has entered the conversation.
The Blazers, however, do not want to help Houston gain another star, and instead are hopeful to convince Anthony that he can win, and perhaps win big now, in Portland alongside Lillard, McCollum and blossoming center Jusuf Nurkic. However, it is unclear whether Anthony would waive his no-trade clause to come to Portland.
That's why Lillard and McCollum reached out - to change his view of Portland by assuring him he would be wanted.
“He’s Carmelo Anthony,’’ Lillard said. “You add another guy who can score 50. Over the last decade, he’s been one of best players in the league. Playing against him he’s a cerebral player. He’s smart. He played in the triangle. I can only imagine what it would be like to have him isolating on one side, and CJ in the corner, and me in opposite wing and Nurk on the opposite … I could only imagine how tough it would be to guard us.’’
That Lillard and McCollum reached out privately to Anthony is consistent with their public pursuit of NBA stars this offseason since the Blazers were swept in the first round of the playoffs by Golden State.
On social media, both Lillard and McCollum pushed a pursuit of former Indiana star Paul George, a desire that Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey pursued by making a trade offer centered around the team’s three draft picks on the Monday before the NBA Draft. Indiana turned down the offer and instead traded George to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Later, in July, McCollum shared a promo on social media that showed Anthony wearing a No. 7 Trail Blazers uniform.
“I mean, what’s the worst that can happen?’’ McCollum said when asked about pursuing players via social media. “If you want something you go get it, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But I think it’s important if you want a free agent, you let them know, you have to express that. Sometimes (a player) is just reading articles and doesn’t know what going on, but if you speak directly you can give them an idea of exactly what you are thinking.’’
For Lillard, this summer has been another step in his becoming more vocal and more active in trying to recruit players to Portland. Last summer, he visited with Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons during free agency, and this season he has been behind pursuing George and Anthony.
“I want to win a championship. It’s that simple,’’ Lillard said. “After my rookie year I’ve been in the playoffs every year and the playoffs are fun … but at this point we need a breakthrough. I’m tired of watching … each year it bothers me more.’’
Both Lillard and McCollum said they feel Olshey is listening to them, and that he is trying to improve the roster.
“Like I said, I do my job and I’ll allow them to do their job, but there comes a point where we have to improve individually with what we have but also we have to improve as everybody else improves their roster,’’ Lillard said.