Tampering in the NBA is a serious offense. The Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday were hit with a $500,000 fine for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule after Magic Johnson, the team’s president, made comments about then-Indiana Pacers forward Paul George coming to L.A.
In that context, it’s hard to blame Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum for being more skittish when it comes to talking about New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, despite earlier this summer posting on Instagram a doctored photo of Melo in a Blazers jersey.
But if McCollum were to place Anthony on his team in a video game, the 3-point threat told amNewYork at Thursday’s “NBA 2K18” event in midtown that the digital Blazers would become “a very, very good team.” In that hypothetical scenario, McCollum was willing to open up on what Melo’s presence would do for Portland.
“It gives us another spacer, another guy who can create, draw traffic,” McCollum said. “One-on-one coverage with him is a bucket.”
Damian Lillard, McCollum’s two-time All-Star teammate, said adding Melo to the Blazers would free their starting backcourt, which combined to average 50 points last season.
“Teams would have a harder time controlling me and C.J.” Lillard told amNY at the “NBA 2K18” event, “... and just that [veteran] experience — when you get in those big moments, you’ve got somebody you can count on.”
Anthony’s departure from the Knicks is considered by many as an inevitability after several rocky seasons exacerbated by a public rift between Melo and former team president Phil Jackson. While the team parted ways with Jackson in June, speculation all summer has pointed to the 10-time All-Star being traded, although a full no-trade clause offers Anthony complete control over his destination.
Most reports have pointed to Melo wanting only to play with friends Chris Paul (Houston Rockets) or LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers). That didn’t stop McCollum and Lillard edging the Blazers into the conversation. At Lillard’s basketball camp in Portland in July, McCollum said he believed Anthony was interested in forming a Big Three with the talented young guards.
Lillard wouldn’t speculate on whether luring Melo to Portland would come to fruition, instead waiting to see what happens by the time the season starts in October.
“I know it would be great to play with him,” Lillard said. “We just don’t know a whole lot right now.”
Still, McCollum is high on the Blazers’ ceiling in the Western Conference if Melo moves to the Pacific Northwest.
“It would take us to the next level — in the video game,” McCollum said.