Marc Stein from the New York Times reported that Carmelo Anthony’s time with the Houston Rockets “will soon be ending.” The Rockets started the season 5-7 and went from the highest-scoring offense in the league to the lowest scoring.
Stein tweeted, “The Rockets have denied they are waiving Carmelo Anthony, but two sources close to the situation say Anthony has been informed that his brief time with the team will soon be ending.”
Anthony missed the last two games due to an “illness” and he did not travel with the team for their game in Indiana on Saturday. Anthony is expected to miss the next game against the Nuggets.
In his last game on Thursday evening, Anthony shot a horrendous 1 for 11 from the floor in a loss to his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Anthony’s lack of production (13.4 ppg, 40.5 percent shooting, and 32.8 percent three-pointers) is not the primary reason the Rockets got off to a slow start. However, his removal is the first step in a long process to correct the ship in Houston.
The Rockets were 7-1 favorites to win the NBA championship before the season began. Since then the odds dropped to 12-1 according to the South Point Casino in Las Vegas.
Melo vs. D’Antoni
Anthony and D’Antoni have history together with the New York Knicks and it’s not a good one.
“Melo essentially ran D’Antoni out of town,” said radio personality Mike Francesa. “Melo was a ball hog in Syracuse. He was ball hog in Denver and he was a ball hog with the Knicks.”
D’Antoni’s spread offense revolutionized the NBA and it’s a part of the reason scoring is drastically up this season. D’Antoni brought his philosophy to the New York Knicks, but Anthony did not prefer D’Antoni’s style. Melo basketball entailed ISO and post ups where he went one-on-one. Melo excelled as a traditional scorer in the old-school world, but it was the beginning of a new school era. Anthony’s skills were quickly passed by and his flaws were glaring during the age of analytics.
Despite the fact that everyone knew Melo was the problem and not D’Antoni, Knicks owner James Dolan and management sided with their star player. D’Antoni resigned mid-season in 2012 after an 18-24 record.
In 2016, the Houston Rockets hired D’Antoni and in a short time, he turned around the franchise to one of the most exciting teams in the NBA. The Rockets are 120-44 in two seasons under D’Antoni.
Melo the Dinosaur
Anthony had become a dinosaur in a league that focused on up-tempo, spread offense, catch-and-shoot three-point shooting, and constant switching on defense. None of those attributes meshed with Anthony’s own skills. Either he was too stubborn, or unwilling to change.
The Oklahoma City Thunder expected Anthony to be a valuable contributor alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Anthony’s career numbers were down (16.2 ppg and 40.4 percent FG shooting) and the metrics told the truth, that the Thunder were a more efficient team without Anthony on the floor.
During the playoffs, head coach Billy Donovan benched a struggling Anthony (11.8 ppg, 37.5 percent shooting, and 21.4 percent from 3-point range) in the fourth quarter. The Thunder were crushed by the Utah Jazz and eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
The Thunder traded Anthony to the Hawks in the offseason for Dennis Schroder in order to get under the luxury tax. The Hawks bought out Anthony’s contract and put him on waivers.
Mental Challenge for Melo
The Rockets won 65 games last season and locked up the #1 seed in the playoffs. They lost in the Western Conference Finals to the inevitable champions, the Golden State Warriors.
Anthony signed a one-year deal with the Rockets. Anthony was close friends with James Harden and Chris Paul, who lobbied heavily for their friend to join them in Houston. They argued that Melo would be the player that would finally help them beat the Warriors. Despite the obvious flaws with Melo’s game, Harden and Paul were convinced they could get Melo to adjust to a new role.
As much as Anthony tried, it did not work out.
“It’s challenging mentally more so than anything, having to prepare for the game differently,” Anthony said after the Rockets were blown out in the season opener.
“Melo’s been great here,” Paul said. “That’s like a brother to me, know what I mean? I don’t know what’s being said or whatnot, but Melo’s been great, working hard every day.”
Undrafted rookie Gary Clark has been getting the bulk of Anthony’s minutes during his absence.
Morey Folding a Losing Hand
Rockets general manager Daryl Morey gambled on Melo and it did not pay off. Morey hoped Anthony could be the third leg of a Rockets’ Big Three along with James Harden and Chris Paul.
It was evident from the first couple of games that the acquisition of Anthony was not helping the team. Even though he was coming off the bench in a reserve role, Anthony’s contributions were slim to none. His lack of scoring was not enough to make up for his defensive liability.
When asked if Anthony would be cut, Morey gave an evasive answer. “I would answer that the same as every player on the roster. We have to figure out… everything.”
Morey is willing to take risks many other GMs are unwilling to do. That’s a part of what made him successful in Houston. However, Morey also knows when he makes a mistake and he’s willing to correct that error in a swift manner. Hence, why Anthony’s tenure is expected to last only ten games.
Future for Melo
Anthony, 34, is currently ranked #19 on the all-time NBA scoring list. The 16-year veteran is eventually bound for the Hall of Fame in Springfield. But where will he end up?
Maybe Anthony should consider playing overseas in China? Stephon Marbury rejuvenated his career in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Most recently, Jimmer Fredette dropped 75 points over the weekend for the Shanghai Sharks, while Jackson scored 63 in a winning cause for the Beijing Dragons.
Anthony has been on the short list of potential veterans, along with Kawhi Leonard, who might join LeBron James and the Lakers in Los Angeles next season.