Clippers' Paul George defends Carmelo Anthony: 'Let him hoop'

ByOhm Youngmisuk ESPN logo
Thursday, December 5, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Paul George doesn't hide how he feels about Carmelo Anthony. In fact, the LA Clippers All-Star is quick to point out how he wears a chain that Anthony gave to him when the two played together on the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"He was the big brother, he was the mentor, he was the one who got me this chain," George said, clutching a gold chain as he looked back on his one season with Anthony on the Thunder. "The list goes on for what Melo did for me there."

George was reunited with Anthony on a basketball court Tuesday night, and the two shared some laughs before George finished with 25 points to lead the Clippers to a 117-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Clippers' smothering defense held Anthony, who was named Western Conference player of the week, to his lowest total in his seven games back with just nine points on 2-of-9 shooting and six rebounds.

However, after the game, George came to Anthony's defense for the second time this week. On Sunday, George said he didn't like the narratives that have surrounded Anthony's style of play since he returned. He pleaded with critics to just let Anthony play basketball again.

"I'm not going to be happy with [the criticism], with how they tried to shoot him down when he first started," George said when asked if Anthony got credit for his play with the weekly award. "I am not going to be happy now that he's playing well and they want to be on his side. He is going to have a long season. Let him play. Let him hoop.

"Say what you want when he's finished, but let him hoop. It's great that he's getting that recognition now. When it is all said and done -- people, let him play and let him hoop. It's tough regardless when he came back; he had been out over a year, so there's going to be some ups and downs. But let Melo hoop."

During his return, Anthony has felt the love from his peers. Kawhi Leonard voiced his support on Sunday when he said he thought Anthony was treated unfairly by teams around the league while he was out of the game.

"It means a lot," Anthony said. "But also, the real ones know what's going on. It's not them. I never had issues with any of my colleagues saying anything about me. It's the narratives that surround the game of basketball, the opinions that everybody has. All of these cameras have their opinion.

"So it's those things that come into play, which can easily allow somebody to get down on themselves and want to give up and want to not be motivated. I was against all of that. I stayed with it. I stayed motivated. I pushed myself."

Anthony drew a warm round of applause from the Staples Center crowd when he was introduced in the Portland starting lineup. Anthony admitted he would have loved to have played here in Los Angeles alongside his good friend andLakersstar LeBron James.

"There were a lot of teams that I thought I was going to be on," Anthony said. "As far as LeBron goes, it's something we've talked about since we were in high school. It wasn't in his power. Some people might say it was in his power. But it's not something that I was calling him and talking to him about, asking him, 'Can you do this for me?' [But] I would've never put him in that position because a lot of times it's deeper than that, and I started understanding the business of basketball."

George, who hit 6 of 7 3-pointers to help the Clippers win for the ninth time in 10 games, spent a good portion of his postgame interview explaining how Anthony is more of a team player than his critics believe.

"Melo was the enforcer really [during] my time with him in Oklahoma," said George, who played with Anthony during the 2017-18 season. "When times were rocky, he was the one that kind of led with us and kept everything positive and smooth sailing. I thought him andRuss [Westbrook] did an unbelievable job of that."

George got to know Anthony when the two were on the 2016 Team USA Olympic roster that won gold in Brazil. But he remembers becoming a fan when Anthony was a star on theDenver Nuggetsand battled Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.

"I grew up with the Lakers playing the Denver Nuggets, in that era, and Kobe being my favorite player and Melo giving it everything, giving Kobe everything he had," said George, who grew up in Palmdale, a suburb of Los Angeles. "That matchup really was what made me the biggest fan of Melo. And then having the first opportunities to play against him, I understood why he's so hard to guard.

"His relentlessness, how hard he plays, and it was never a night off going against Melo. You were sore, you were bruised, you were hurting after playing against Melo. I think that is what kind of everybody remembers, the vintage Denver and then theNew York KnickMelo. That is what everybody remembers and what everybody has a heart for when you think of Melo."

ESPN's Baxter Holmes contributed to this report.

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