Before reviving his career with the Blazers, Carmelo Anthony had what he describes as his worst exit on a team while with the Houston Rockets.
In 2018-19, the Houston Rockets looked to integrate Carmelo Anthony into their elaborate system, which didn’t end well. Signing the 10-time NBA All-Star for the veteran’s minimum, the move was low-risk and high-reward but ultimately left a sour taste in the star’s mouth while ending up a failed experiment for the team.
The Rockets decided to part ways with Anthony after he showed up in just 10 games, causing many to question whether his NBA career was over at age 34. After a bounce-back season with the Portland Trail Blazers this year, Carmelo has answered that question with an emphatic no.
Anthony played a pivotal role on a Portland team that fought its way through the bubble and into the playoffs, averaging 15.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game through 58 games as a starter. With the 2019-20 season finally winding down, Carmelo sat down with J.J. Redick on his podcast, The Old Man and the Three, to discuss several key moments of his illustrious career.
In the conversation, the topic came up about his tough times with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, and Carmelo didn’t hold back about either experience.
Carmelo explains what went wrong with the Houston Rockets
After discussing his career with Denver and New York, J.J. began asking Carmelo about his two most recent teams:
“Which of those exits was more difficult for you?” asked Redick regarding OKC and Houston. “Oh, Houston,” responded Carmelo without missing a beat. “Personally, I actually really enjoyed my time in OKC.”
After going into detail about his 78-game tenure with the Thunder, Anthony shifted his focus to the Houston Rockets:
“When I get to Houston, now I really feel like an outcast,” he began. “I am the piece that the team needs. But that wasn’t their thinking. They wanted me to be a spot-up corner shooter.”
Considering Anthony’s resume up to that point, it’s hard to blame him for not wanting to be reduced to a simple spot-shooter, assuming his recollection of the situation is accurate. Since entering the league in 2003, he accumulated averages of 24.1 points and 6.5 rebounds per game over 15 seasons in the league.
“It didn’t work at all,” continued Carmelo. “I used to tell them ‘throw me a bone. I need that feel. I need that touch. I’m a rhythm player.’ ”
As Redick then broke down, Anthony essentially went from being the go-to guy his whole career to being a third option with the Thunder. In Houston, he was demoted even further to a spot-up shooter with no chance to catch a rhythm. Carmelo, however, knew a career transition was part of the deal, given the toll NBA basketball has taken on his body since 2003.
“I already had in my mind, anywhere I go, I’ve got to sacrifice because now I want to win,” said Anthony. “I could’ve just stayed in New York and been the first option. Now I want to win.”
While he wasn’t quite able to make the situation work in Oklahoma City, he still had an optimistic tone about the city and his experience alongside Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Houston, however, was a different story.
“When I get there, I honestly didn’t feel like I was a part of Houston at all,” said Carmelo. “I was already starting to doubt myself. I went to Mike [D’Antoni] and said tell me my role on this team. What do you need? He said I need you to be you.”
While he started to feel better about the situation during the preseason, one major decision halted Carmelo in his tracks.
“It never was communicated to me that I was coming off the bench,” he said. “I don’t want to make it seem like I was against it. I just wanted that upfront because I never came off the bench ever in my life. Do you know the pride and ego blow that had on me?”
We’ve discussed the Carmelo situation often since the situation took place, from giving our own analysis to defending the Rockets’ decision to waive him. While it all worked out for Carmelo in Portland, he explained to Redick that he was just starting to finally accept his role when Houston made the call to let him go.
“I was just getting comfortable in accepting my role. I’m coming off the bench. Let me try to make this fun. Let me get the crowd into it. Let me wave the towel for the first couple of minutes.”
Who knows how it would’ve worked out if the Rockets ended up keeping Melo around for a little bit longer. One thing is clear: he wasn’t thrilled with being waived so quickly.