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Carmelo? Now Houston Has A Problem

Carmelo Anthony’s NBA career has been celebrated for the skill that has led to 10 All-Star games and 25,551 points, 19th all-time. But it has also been perpetually characterized by his inability to make any team he plays for his home.

It was that way in Denver. It was that way with the Knicks. It was that way in Oklahoma City. And now the cycle has repeated again in Houston. Something always seems to be going on with and around him.

Carmelo Anthony

Bob Levey / Getty

When the Rockets acquired him before this season, after he was bought by the Atlanta Hawks, the thought was that Melo would fortify an already solid team. After all, before averaging 16.2 points for Oklahoma City in 2017-18, he had never averaged fewer than 20 points since he began his career with the Nuggets in 2003-04.

But on Sunday, the news was his time in Houston might be over after only 10 games and two starts.

Anthony, 34, who is making the veteran minimum $2.4 million, wasn’t with the Rockets for its two games last weekend and did not accompany them to Denver. This all happened after he shot 1-of-11 and scored two points in a 98-80 loss at Oklahoma City last Thursday. The Athletic said Anthony was so bothered after the game he stared at a wall for 10 minutes without uttering a word.

The organization’s explanation is he is ill, although there been no further elaboration. But what’s made his absence suspect is the admission by Rockets players and assistant coaches that they believe Anthony’s stay is over. The New York Times reported he could be on waivers as soon as Monday.

“Melo’s been great here,” said Rockets guard Chris Paul. “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. So we’ll see what happens.”

ESPN reported Saturday the Rockets and Anthony were discussing his role and how things should proceed for the remainder of the sesson. That was immediately disputed by GM Daryl Morey, who called it unfair and reiterated Anthony would be back once well.

But it’s clear Anthony’s status has changed. Always a starter in his first 15 seasons, he’s come off the bench in Houston and is averaging 13.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 29.4 minutes. Last season, he averaged a career-low 32.1 minutes with the Thunder.

Anthony’s notoriously immense ego would certainly not be happy about this, especially since he knows many of his minutes have been given to Gary Clark, an undrafted rookie currently earning the league minimum. Anthony’s time has also been threatened by Eric Gordon’s return from injury.

“He’s been great with us,” Morey said Sunday. “As Coach [Mike D’Antoni] said yesterday [Saturday] his approach has been great. He’s accepted every role Coach has given him – starting, off the bench, whatever it’s been. We’re struggling and it’s my job, it’s coach’s job to figure this thing out.”

The Rockets, one game away from the NBA Finals last season, are 5-7, currently 12th among the 15 Western Conference teams. They started the season by losing four streak in one stretch.

“We’ve been extremely happy with his approach,” said Morey. “Every reason we’ve brought him here, he’s followed. … It’s unfair that there’s all this speculation on just one player. I understand it, because he’s obviously a Hall of Famer, but it’s unfair.”

The main problem with Anthony has always been his reluctance to compromise his game, his style, to conform to team goals. That was particularly apparent in New York where his tendency to dominate the ball did not sit well.

Despite scoring 10,186 points in nearly seven seasons with the Knicks – including a team-record 62 at Madison Square Garden against Charlotte on Jan. 24, 2014 – and leading a struggling franchise to three straight postseasons, Anthony eventually got into a hassle with Phil Jackson, who was brought in as team president in 2014 to rebuild the franchise.

But Jackson had his own problems attracting free agents to the Knicks and soon the team was spiraling again. That led to a feud with Jackson, who was fired in June 2017, and facilitated Anthony’s decision to wave his no-trade clause.

While that doesn’t specifically seem to be the case it Houston, it is fair to say Anthony’s construction does not align with the team’s blueprint. Houston wants to run. Anthony loves to post-up. And remember this: Houston won 65 games without him last season. So why stick with something – or someone – who doesn’t seem to fit in.

Dwayne Wade doesn’t seem to agree with the premise that Anthony has had anything to do with Houston’s dysfunction. This tweet says it all.

“Trying to make my guy that fall guy huh!? Man y’all need to stop that. That’s the easy way out instead of addressing what the real problem is.”

The “real problem” is likely what’s caused the team to already call a pair of players only meetings.

We leave you with this: When Anthony played for the Nuggets he really didn’t get along with George Karl, the coach. In March 2009, the dispute reached its apex when Anthony refused to leave the court after being subbed for, resulting in a one-game suspension.

“In my mind, that crossed a line,” said Karl that night.

Earlier in his Denver career, he was forced to apologize after he refused to play in the final minutes of a game in Detroit. That was after he’d been suspended at the start of the season for drunk driving the previous spring when the Nuggets were fighting for the playoffs.

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. Maybe the Rockets have already figured it out.

 

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