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Nuggets’ Will Barton, Mike Malone talk about Carmelo Anthony in advance of Denver return

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The Denver Nuggets have wondered about Carmelo Anthony’s return to the league, an unexpected, yet fascinating story of a star player finding his path back to the NBA. Forward Will Barton, who began his career with the Portland Trail Blazers, the team Anthony now plays for, as well as head coach Mike Malone, mused about his return.

“The NBA is tricky, man, you never know,” said Barton, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “Guy that’s a Hall of Famer, one of the best players probably to play this game; it’s crazy that it took that long (to get back), but things happen.”

Only a decade ago, Anthony was swishing jumpers and draining buzzer-beaters in front of fans at the Pepsi Center. Since then, he played six-and-a-half seasons with the New York Knicks and had a one-year stint with the Oklahoma City Thunder and a 10-game debacle with the Houston Rockets before landing with the Blazers after a one-year absence from the NBA hardwood.

Things have come full circle for Melo, who earned the Western Conference Player of the Week award for the first time since 2014, a testament to his mettle and capability to play the NBA game.

“Here’s a guy that was out of the NBA,” said Nuggets head coach Mike Malone. “You look at his body of work, whether it’s in Denver, whether it was in New York, his primary stops in his NBA career, and now in Portland, he’s an impactful player and the best thing about watching him now is I think, he’s understanding of where he is in his career, what’s needed of him, not just on the court, but off the court, in the locker room, to be a mentor, to be a leader, to help the young guys.”

Melo is no longer a No. 1 option, but he’s done just fine as a contributing player in Portland’s lineup, with a coach that has been willing to let him play his natural game and make the most of the areas where he thrives.