Deep in the summer of 2003, I had lunch with Carmelo Anthony at a diner in Denver, where he’d been working out after having been drafted with the No. 3 pick by the Nuggets. After, he was giving me a ride to his place downtown, and as he backed out of his parking spot — he’d been worn out from a morning training session — he knocked the back bumper of his rental car into a tree, leaving a furrowed fender.I’ll never forget what kind of car it was: a white Cadillac. No, not an Escalade. A sedan. You know, with those classic, long, rectangular brake lights. It was as if Anthony should have had white shoes and a condo in Boca Raton. I should have known right then and there that Anthony’s game would prove, eventually, to be too old school for the NBA. TRADE GRADES: 76ers take calculated risk with Butler dealFifteen years later, that’s the sad truth of Anthony’s final days in the league. He’s had knee surgery and he’s 34 years old, but neither age nor injury have caused his career to hit the rocks, a reality that came into sharp focus this weekend. Just 10 games into his career as a bench player with the Rockets, Anthony was held out of back-to-back games in order to discuss his role with the team. That’s been translated to mean that Anthony soon will be cut by Houston, which has struggled to a 6-7 record after finishing last year with a league-best 65 wins. GM Daryl Morey labeled that speculation “unfair,” but Anthony remains away from the team. He has not been great for the Rockets, averaging 13.4 points in 29.4 minutes per game on 40.5 percent shooting and 32.8 percent 3-point shooting.But he’s hardly been the reason Houston has struggled, and should the Rockets choose to set him free, he will have been scapegoated for the team’s bigger problems.For Anthony, Houston might well have been his last chance. He was brought to the team, in part, because of his tight friendship with Chris Paul. Around the league, there won’t be teams clamoring to add him. You can only have so many pals with influence.League executives contacted by Sporting News speculated that Miami, which has been looking to add scoring punch off the bench, would be the most likely landing spot for Anthony. The Heat and Anthony’s representatives met to discuss the 10-time All-Star forward possibly joining the team before he signed with Houston last summer. Anthony, notably, also is a close friend of team mainstay Dwyane Wade.Even if he did get a new deal to finish this season elsewhere, glumness looms over this stage of Anthony’s career. He is a Hall of Famer just playing out the string. When next spring hits, Anthony probably will be wrapping up his time in the NBA, and he won’t be doing so on his own terms. A job with any of the league’s 30 teams will be hard to find, and Anthony’s best chance at a continued pro paycheck will be on foreign shores, possibly China.Thing is, even at 34, Anthony can still do some of the things he did a decade ago. He still has his old skill set. Anthony remains one of the league’s best isolation scorers, logging 1.14 points per possession, according to NBA.com stats. That’s in the 80th percentile. That number was not as good last year in Oklahoma City (0.89), but it was still well above average. It was 0.99, in the 78th percentile, in 2016-17 when Anthony was still with the Knicks.Back then, he was third in the league in isolation possessions, at 5.3 per game, behind only James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the top two vote-getters in that year’s MVP race.MORE: Mike D’Antoni rips Rockets’ offenseBut Anthony’s specialty is running isolation plays for midrange jumpers. According to Basketball-Reference.com, Anthony is a career 40.3 percent shooter from 10-16 feet and a 41.6 percent shooter from 16 feet out to the 3-point line.Those are good numbers for both ranges. In fact, Anthony has had his two best seasons from 10-16 feet in the last two years, and he was excellent from 16 feet out in his final two years with the Knicks, when he made 45.5 percent of those shots.Back in Anthony’s early days, that was remarkable shooting accuracy. You’d have to tap deep into your recesses to recall exactly what NBA basketball was like in that era. Consider the 2003 NBA Finals, in which the Spurs won by shooting 43.2 percent from the field, well ahead of the brick-happy Nets, who made 37.0 percent.During the Finals, Spurs center David Robinson wistfully remembered the lost art of the midrange jumper.”I’ve seen a dramatic lowering of the number of guys who can really shoot that midrange shot,” Robinson said at that time. “When I came in, there were a lot of guys who could make shots from about 17 feet — make them on the move. Now, it seems like there are a lot more extreme guys, either guys who can stand there and shoot 3s or guys who can get to the rim, but not many guys who are really good in-between shooters.”That was 15 years ago, just months ahead of Anthony’s NBA debut, when teams attempted an average of 14.7 3-pointers per game, a number that has more than doubled, to 31.4 per game, by this season. If Robinson and others like him wanted a triumphant return of midrange accuracy, at the time, Anthony was their messiah.Of course, as the game progressed, the midrange jumper went from lost art to NBA pariah, banished by the simple math of analytics. Players now might just as well punt the ball toward the rim from midcourt as attempt the much-scorned midrange jumper.MORE: What happens when NBA stars leave? Road back isn’t easyThat’s always been Anthony’s real problem. He was designed for the mid-2000s NBA, for gobbling up the shot clock while slowly backing a defender into a turnaround midrange jumper. Analysts, media members, fans and scouts have harped on his need to change his game, to adopt an approach that would take advantage of the game’s current emphasis on shots at the basket and 3-pointers.But Anthony never has had the physical skills — even in his youth he was not an elite athlete — to be a great finisher at the rim, and he’s never been much of a defender. Though he has put together some good 3-point shooting seasons, he’s a career 34.7 percent shooter from the arc and has finished above the league average only five times in his career. That’s why the teams for which Anthony has played have a sum total of one conference finals appearance, one conference semifinals appearance and nine first-round exits. In a league that demands more and more commitment to attacking the rim and shooting 3s, Anthony at his best has been only mediocre at both.Now, Anthony is far from his best. He is older and heavier in the foot. We’ve seen great players of the past arrive in their mid-30s a half-step slower but carrying a certain amount of accumulated wisdom that allows them to be effective by leaning on their brains as much as their physical talent.But Anthony’s accumulated experience is still stuck in 2004, still reliant on his ability to back down opponents and launch low-efficiency, closely-defended midrange jumpers. Coaches don’t want those shots anymore. No matter where he goes from here, whether he stays in Houston or moves on, Anthony remains a Cadillac sedan in a Tesla league. He has enviable scoring skill, always has. In the depths of the NBA’s mid-2000s shooting woes, there was plenty of reason to believe that Anthony would transform the game. Instead, the game transformed without him and rendered his talents useless.For a player as good as Anthony but so completely mismatched to today’s NBA, the goal must change. Anthony can’t keep trying to find a contender to which he can contribute. That time has passed.Now, he just must find a way to exit with some grace and dignity.