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Carmelo Anthony has been the No. 1 option for whatever team he has played on during most of his basketball career.

He knew that wasn’t going to be the case when he arrived in Oklahoma City Alex Cappa Color Rush Jersey , though it’s safe to say things haven’t gone as he expected when he signed up to be part the league’s next Big Three.

Playing alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Anthony and the Thunder are headed to the playoffs . He is the Thunder’s third-leading scorer, yet at times it feels like he the fourth option behind center Steven Adams.

Anthony isn’t complaining.

”Acceptance of what I have to do here and what is needed of me,” Anthony said. ”I think the other guys on the team, after they started playing with each other more and more, we started figuring out each other’s game. We figured out what each other brings to the game.”

He has said he wants to win, and he is not just talking the talk.

Late in a critical game against the Denver Nuggets a few weeks ago , Anthony chose not to re-enter in the closing minutes of regulation. Instead, he walked away from the scorer’s table and let 24-year-old Jerami Grant stay in the game.

”I didn’t want to break his rhythm,” Anthony said. ”A lot of guys when they have it going like that, especially role player guys, bench guys, that gives them confidence. You believe in those guys.”

Anthony returned to action when the game went to overtime and his actions left little doubt where he is mentally. A likely future Hall of Famer, Anthony is one of the top 20 scorers in NBA history, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and former NBA scoring champion in 2013.

Not long ago, the thought of Anthony being out of a game at crunch time would have been dismissed as senseless. Now, he’s 33 years old Dalton Schultz Color Rush Jersey , no longer in his prime. He averages 16.2 points per game, by far the lowest of his career, and his minutes also are at a career low.

He’s fine with it all because his goal is his first NBA title.

Anthony’s teammates respect how he has adjusted.

”He’s just an overall good guy,” Westbrook said. ”Does a lot of different things that goes unnoticed. His ultimate sacrifice is number one, and his being a team guy is always important as well.”

Anthony has been an isolation specialist for most of his career, having the ball in his hand and his team clearing out so he can go one-on-one. This season, he has been at his best when taking advantage of the attention Westbrook and George have drawn.

”Those guys are finding me in transition, they’re finding me in when guys collapse on the defensive end and we’re just sharing the ball,” he said. ”I think when we share the ball and we move the ball, everybody feels a part of the game. The rhythm comes, the flow of the game comes because the rhythm is a lot different than what we (the Thunder) had in the past, so we’ve got to find ways, find that rhythm.”

Anthony has had struggled at times finding his rhythm – he’s barely shooting 40 percent from the field. Still, he has shown glimpses of being the prolific scorer he once was. In Sunday’s win over the Houston Rockets, he scored 22 points on 7 for 14 shooting. He scored a season-high 29 points in a win over Cleveland on Jan. 20.

And there are times where his track record still matters.

In a loss to Portland on March 25 , Anthony missed what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds after Westbrook fouled out. Coach Billy Donovan was fine with Anthony having the ball in his hands.

”Carmelo is a proven scorer in this league and has made shots, big shots for a large portion of his career Chris Sale Jersey , and I’ve got confidence in him,” Donovan said.

The coach also believes Anthony is a team player.

Donovan said he was fine with when Anthony chose not to re-enter the game against Denver ”because to me, that’s a sign of unselfishness – wanting someone else to do well.”

Grant is averaging 9.4 points per game since the All-Star break in just under 20 minutes of action per game. Anthony is teaching him to be more assertive.

”Since I’ve been here, he’s been with our group – me, him and Paul – the shooting groups,” Anthony said. ”Just talking to him and encouraging him to take a little bit more.”

Anthony believes mentoring is as important as anything he does at this point in his career.

”I’ve been around for a long time,” Anthony said, ”and I want to give that insight and that knowledge to the young guys.”

And capture his first NBA title along the way.

Not until Nate McMillan began being fitted for custom-made suits a few years into his NBA career three decades ago did he understand just how far his arms reached.

When Bill Walton dominated at UCLA in the 1970s, no one ever measured his wingspan – from fingertips to fingertips and arms outstretched.

Neither knew their wingspans then, and they still don’t. That is not the case for young players.

”Yeah, I found that out once I bought my first suit,” the 6-foot-5 McMillan, a 12-year pro now coaching the Pacers, said with a chuckle, realizing his arms stretched more than 3 feet each.

Once limited to descriptions of birds, wingspan has become one of the most important measurements for basketball prospects over the past decade. Coaches marvel at players with long arms, figuring they will more easily grab rebounds Ryan Switzer Color Rush Jersey , block shots, steal passes and shoot over defenders.

The average man has a wingspan about 2 inches more than his height. But several NBA players pop off the chart because of their long arms.

It’s no coincidence that Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who stands 7-1 and led the NBA in blocks last season, has the longest wingspan in the league at 7 feet, 9 inches.

The NBA playoffs begin Saturday, and an extra inch of reach can lead to a blocked shot or steal that might alter a series or a season.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo is nicknamed the ”Greek Freak” in part because he stands 6-11 with a 7-3 wingspan and giant hands. The explosive Russell Westbrook is 6-3, with a wingspan of 6-8, which helps him be one of the best rebounding guards in history.

”Every asset that a player has might make up for something else. If somebody’s short, hopefully they’re quick. The wingspan sure helps a lot of people,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said . ”You look at size of hands, wingspans. Look at John Stockton’s arms or Avery Johnson’s arms and they’re very long, and their hands are very big. They can control the basketball, they can do things with it.

”A wingspan always helps people, whether it’s blocking shots or deflections on defense.”

In recent seasons, Warriors high-scoring All-Star Kevin Durant has become more determined to use his 7-5 wingspan to make more of an impact on defense.

Durant, the reigning NBA Finals MVP , is quick to point out that his length allows him to make up for other areas Brian McCann Jersey , including being far leaner than most NBA players.

”You make up a lot of ground. I’m not as fast laterally, I’m not as athletic, I’m not as quick as guys up and down but I think I make up for it with my length,” said Durant, a defensive player of the year candidate. ”There’s a lot of guys, Draymond (Green) is the same way, small, undersized power forward but can guard plenty of guys because of his length. His arms are long and he can block shots. We’ve seen him block guys at the rim and also get his hands on some basketballs off the dribble.”

Raised in France, Gobert kept growing from ages 15-19. He didn’t often hear the term wingspan, finally understanding how special his measurement is when he got to the NBA.

”I think it’s something that makes a big difference, especially defensively,” he said. ”You’re able to deflect the pass or block shots.”

Warriors 7-foot center JaVale McGee went through only a handful of pre-draft workouts for NBA teams, hardly a prized prospect after a career at Nevada. Yet each visit he made, among the first things measured was his wingspan, 7-6.

One of the benefits is his ability to corral and slam home lob passes that are high and might be off target. Before he got to the NBA, McGee wasn’t even aware of his wingspan.

”I’ve always been tall. I was born tall,” he said. ”It’s nothing that I heard about until I got to the league Mike White Jersey Cowboys , or right before I got into the league, they’re like, `We’d like to measure your wingspan.’ They don’t really bring it up to us about that in college or high school.”

Walton is in the Hall of Fame, but he never had his arms measured end to end.

”At one time, they were long enough, and I can still put my own shoes and socks on,” he quipped. ”It’s not how big you are, it’s how big you play. Any time you think you’re too small to make a difference in the world you’ve never spent the night alone in bed with a mosquito. But when you have the great game of basketball with all the ultimate winners of the genetic lottery … it’s not how high you jump, it’s where you are and when you jump.”

Wingspan is one detail Warriors coach Steve Kerr takes seriously and might consider when deciding on lineups and rotations for the defending champions. He has been going with a center by committee based on matchups.

Some of the best players Kerr faced had incredible reach.

”It’s legit. It’s much more important than your height,” Kerr said. ”If your wingspan is more than your height, that’s kind of abnormal. Most of us have the same wingspan as our height. That’s kind of a rule of thumb. A lot of basketball players don’t, though, they have wider wingspans. And they’re able to get their hands on balls or shots or loose balls. … I’m a big believer in that.”

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