LOS ANGELES -- Last year, on the morning of Oct. 26, the first members of the Los Angeles Clippers' traveling party arrived for the team's shootaround inside Houston's Toyota Center.
At the other end of the court, as a Nas track played from a speaker, Houston Rockets forward Carmelo Anthony hoisted midrange jump shots while assistant John Lucas rebounded. The Clippers staffers began retreating into a hallway to give Anthony privacy, but Lucas waved them onto the court. Returning his gaze from the Clippers to the hoop, Anthony continued his morning shooting routine for a few more minutes.
Only in hindsight was the scene considered remarkable. Within two weeks, Anthony was out of a job after only 10 games with Houston. He didn't step foot on an NBA floor again for the next 12 months.
Kawhi Leonard, the most sought-after player in the NBA last summer, didn't understand how the 10-time All-Star had become one of the least.
"I don't think he was treated the right way, how they left him out there being a future Hall of Famer," Leonard said Sunday, after the Clippers' rout of Washington.
Anthony is no longer on the outside looking in. After his Nov. 19 signing with Portland, his return has not only injected life into his own career but into the season of his new team. The Trail Blazers have won three consecutive games entering Tuesday's matchup with the Clippers at Staples Center and Anthony was named the Western Conference's player of the week Monday after averaging 22.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists while shooting 57.4% from the field during the winning streak. It is the first time since 2014 that Anthony earned such an accolade.
"ALL PRAISE DUE To The Most High!!!" Anthony wrote Monday afternoon on Instagram.
Anthony has averaged 17.7 points, 6 rebounds and 2.2 assists through his first six games with Portland, whose unexpectedly gloomy start to the season, because of injuries and losses, made last season's Western Conference finalist need Anthony as badly as the 21st-leading scorer in NBA history wanted another chance and a 17th season.
"Melo's been a great player, he's going to be a great player, he's playing terrific from start to finish," said Clippers forward Paul George, a teammate of Anthony's during the 2017-18 season while in Oklahoma City. "Shout to Portland for opening that door back up for Melo and prolonging his career."
Throughout his unemployment, Anthony's highlights were relegated to Instagram clips. Now he's back playing on national television, and that alone was worth celebrating, suggested George, who has not appreciated the box-score scrutiny created so early in Anthony's return.