After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks, Carmelo Anthony was released by the franchise and is now free to sign with anyone he’d like; the favorite is the Houston Rockets. And if he were to join, the speculation is that he will have a lesser role, potentially from the bench, because he is not the same guy anymore and is a massive liability on defense. Plus Anthony would do better playing against second unit talent.
However, the small forward ended all that talk in a sit-down interview with The Undefeated:
I know how to play this game of basketball,” he said. “I’ve been playing it for a long time. When I feel like I’m ready to take that role, then I’ll take that role. Only I know when it’s best for me to take that role. I’m not going to do that in a situation where I still know my capabilities and what I can do. And at the end of the day, the people who really matter know my capabilities and what I can still do. You start getting to the media and debates, it’s going to always be kind of back-and-forth.”
This was a similar message to that of what he spoke of earlier in the year:
“Yeah, I’m not sacrificing no bench role,” Anthony said. “That’s out of the question.”
He had the worst season of his illustrious career this past year, averaging career-lows in points, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. He credited his struggles to not being a good fit with the Thunder. Per The Undefeated:
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t a good fit,” he said. “I think last year — and I haven’t talked about this before — everything was just so rushed, going to the team for media day and the day before training camp. Them guys already had something in place, and then I come along in the 25th hour like, ‘Oh, s—, Melo, just come on and join us. Like, you can figure it out since you’ve been around the game for a long time.’ That’s why it was so inconsistent. At times I had to figure it out on my own, rather than somebody over there or people over there helping me.”
Blaming his struggles last year on fit is correct, but he does not realize that that’s also mainly on him. He was not the best of teammates to play with during his prime, due to his game, so it was going to be harder when he doesn’t have the same capabilities. When you’ve had the success that Carmelo Anthony has had, an ego follows. When you’ve been the guy since you were a kid, it’s hard not to humble yourself.
Thus, the Houston Rockets may be the next-in-line to have a Carmelo Anthony problem, and they do not need one. The 34-year-old needs to realize that he isn’t an elite offensive player anymore. Anthony did not embrace that reality with Oklahoma City, so he did not fit in well. And he is only getting older.
But this type of attitude isn’t a new thing with Anthony. He’s been viewed as a ball-stopper, “me-first” kind of guy that was not the best of teammates. He’s always given off the vibe of “Buckets first, winning second.” Anthony has never understood that there’s more to winning than just scoring.
That’s why he has not had much success wherever he’s gone, whether it be Denver, New York, or Oklahoma City. He slows the ball down, is a ghost on defense, and is all about him. Unless he is playing with Team USA basketball, where he understands his role.
But he doesn’t understand it right now. And Anthony has had his fair share of problems with coaches too. Here is an excerpt from George Karl’s book:
“He was the best offensive player I ever coached. He was also a user of people, addicted to the spotlight and very unhappy when he had to share it.
“He really lit my fuse with his low demand of himself on defense. He had no commitment to the hard, dirty work of stopping the other guy.”
And Anthony’s issues with Mike D’Antoni when they were both with the New York Knicks are well-documented, which also makes the signing with Houston interesting since D’Antoni is the head coach. Carmelo will have to start fresh and buy-in to his former coach, something he didn’t do as a member of the Knicks.
He’s always been more prominent than the coach and the focal point of the team he was on (except for last year). He has to understand that D’antoni is bigger than him this time, and the Rockets will choose the coach over Anthony this time.
And this isn’t an article to bash Carmelo. He can be extremely useful if utilized correctly, which is in an off-ball, catch-and-shoot role. D’Antoni’s offense is essentially isolation with either Chris Paul, and James Harden with shooters camped out.
According to NBA.com’s Advanced Stats, Anthony shot 37.3% on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season, 42.3% the year before, and 38% the year before that. He would be an upgrade in shooting over Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah Moute.
And coming off the bench would seem like a better fit because Houston will need scoring off the bench and if he wants to run the offense through him, it’s not coming as a starter. Plus, matching him up against the opposition’s second units is something Houston would take all day.
But again, he has to embrace these roles, something he doesn’t appear willing to do. The Rockets front office needs to convey this message. If he doesn’t want to do this, is it worth even signing someone as stubborn as he? Even with close friend Chris Paul on board. Do the Rockets need Paul to relay the message?
This would be another instance where Carmelo Anthony has created some sort of a problem for a team. He isn’t going to replace what Ariza and Mbah a Moute brought to the team, and if he does not embrace a role change, he can have a negative effect on the team, which is the last thing Houston needs.
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