Carmelo Anthony struggled to find his rhythm in his first game with the Houston Rockets, as his new team lost 131-112 to the New Orleans Pelicans in their first game of the season.

Carmelo Anthony Houston Rockets
Carmelo Anthony came off the bench on Wednesday for the Houston Rockets, scoring nine points on 3-of-10 shooting. (Image: CBS Sports)

Anthony scored nine points on 3-of-10 shooting in 27 minutes while coming off the bench for Houston. It was the first time in his career that he had been held to single digits in scoring in a season opener.

Rockets Fail to Defend in Season Opener

The Rockets signed Anthony during the offseason, after the 10-time All-Star proved to be a poor fit with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The forward was unhappy with his role with the Thunder, while the team was dealing with a bloated payroll. After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks and clearing waivers, Anthony was able to sign with Houston for $2.4 million, the minimum salary for a veteran player.

The signing puzzled some analysts, who wondered how Anthony would work in Houston’s system. He seemed like a redundant offensive option on a team that already had superstars like James Harden and Chris Paul on the roster, and he had never been a great defender – making it unlikely he could replicate the defensive contributions made by outgoing players like Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute.

Opening night won’t ease any of those concerns. Houston gave up 131 points to the Pelicans, a shocking number for a team that had one of the league’s best defenses last season. The Rockets were particularly porous on the inside, as Anthony Davis, Nikola Mirotic, and Julius Randle combined to score 87 points.

“We know that we are one of the top offensive teams, but we want to mirror that with our defense,” Anthony said after the game. “Tonight wasn’t an indication of that, but we’ll get better. There were some small things that didn’t go our way or we didn’t do tonight. We didn’t communicate enough on the defensive end.”

Anthony ‘Accepting’ Challenge of Bench Role

One of the biggest questions heading into the year for the Rockets was how Anthony would react to playing a reduced role on the team. The 34-year-old is coming off the worst season of his career, and while he indicated a willingness to do whatever he could for the team, his diminished playing time was one of the factors that added to his frustration in Oklahoma City.

Asked about coming off the bench for the first time in his career on Wednesday, Anthony told reporters that the new perspective wasn’t easy to get used to.

“It’s challenging mentally more so than anything, having to prepare for the game differently,” Anthony said. “It’s just a matter of how I’m going to react to that challenge and accepting that challenge, which I am, which I will do. For me, at this point, it’s more about what I have to do for the sake of the team, instead of trying to just go out there and do whatever or trying to have a specific role.”

The Houston Rockets remain one of the leading contenders to win an NBA championship this season. While the Golden State Warriors are an overwhelming 8/15 favorite to win the title according to William Hill, both the Rockets (6/1) and Boston Celtics (6/1) are expected to be serious challengers for the crown.