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Carmelo Anthony accepts reserve role. Will it lead to sixth-man award?

Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony tries to cut off a drive by Warriors guard Stephen Curry.
Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony tries to cut off a drive by Warriors guard Stephen Curry in the season opener on Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press)

Carmelo Anthony pondered the question for a brief moment before delivering an eloquent answer on what it would mean at this stage of his acclaimed career to be considered for the NBA’s sixth man of the year award.

For Anthony, this is all about what’s best for the Lakers and not an individual accolade. For Anthony, this is all about playing his role as the sixth man to the fullest and giving Lakers all he has as a teammate.

After coming off the bench for the Portland Trail Blazers last season, Anthony is comfortable with his station on the Lakers.

“[It’s] understanding what I have to do in those roles in order to help this team,” Anthony said after practice Thursday. “So, in my mind, it’s not about winning the sixth man of the year award. It’s about being the best sixth man for our team, if that’s the case. Knowing that, I have something to look forward to night in and night out, knowing that I got to come in fully prepared and ready to go.”

In his first game Tuesday night against the Golden State Warriors, Anthony came off the bench and delivered nine points on three-of-nine shooting, two for four on three-pointers. He had four rebounds and two assists in 26 minutes.

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Anthony signed with the Lakers knowing his days as a starter were a thing of the past. He was cool with that.

This week’s newsletter examines the Lakers’ slow start as they integrate Russell Westbrook into the rotation with LeBron James, Anthony Davis & Co.

“I think having that mentality kind of forces you or pushes you to play at a high level every night. Right?” Anthony said. “And not look in front of you or besides you and say, ‘I got so-and-so, I got this, I got that, I got that.’”

Now in his 19th NBA season, Anthony has come off the bench 75 times out of the 1,192 games he has played.

His role as an elite starter began to change last season, when Anthony started just three times out of the 69 games he played for the Trail Blazers.

It was a mental adjustment that Anthony came to grips with in Portland.

He responded by averaging 13.4 points per game and shot 40.9% from three-point range.

He had started in the first 17 years of his career as a big-time scorer, leading to him being selected as one of the NBA’s top 75 greatest players as the league celebrates its 75th anniversary season.

He is 10th on the NBA‘s all-time scoring list (27,379) and was the scoring champion by averaging 28.7 points per game during the 2012-13 season with the New York Knicks. He is a four-time U.S. Olympian, having won three gold medals.

Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis and coach Frank Vogel know the team is missing key defenders and it will be a battle against Phoenix on Friday.

When he was introduced as Lakers forward while checking into the game Tuesday night, the Staples Center crowd paid homage to Anthony by giving him a standing ovation.

Anthony said the fans “made me feel at home.”

“I didn’t feel like this was a new environment or new situation. I felt right at home. I felt comfortable coming right in and playing,” Anthony said. “Hearing the fans cheer for me the way they were cheering and stand up and give me that ovation. That always makes you feel good, makes you feel comfortable, makes you feel confident, especially coming from Lakers fans, because I’ve done battled with the Lakers so many times, so many years.

“So, for them to be cheering for me wearing a Lakers uniform, it’s a different feeling. I can tell you that.”


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