At first sight, Rockets Melo doesn’t look that much different than Thunder Melo or Knicks Melo. He waits at the perimeter. He rarely dribbles to the rim. He is an afterthought, recognizable by his headband and the same tired game that he has owned these last few Carmelo purgatory years. Blame us. Expecting different results when it is the same exact Carmelo Anthony thing is insanity. Ours. Not his.
Melo signed with the Houston Rockets over the summer because it gave him the best chance to be who he used to be, a knock down swish the net in your face scorer. Except Rockets Melo is not an identical replica of Nuggets Melo or D’Antoni Knicks Melo. He is average Melo and doesn’t move the needle much. That younger Melo is the stranger. This Melo we know is old Melo.
Of course, Melo wants a title and his fans want a title for him. He wants to be in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. He wants a ring. But his options narrowed given that the Celtics and the Warriors didn’t want or need him. The Rockets fit because D’Antoni is all offense all the time but even D’Antoni understands what Melo is capable of now in the swan song of his career.
The problem is whatever Melo can give the Rockets-a three here or there, a few rebounds- is far less than what they really need. It is their agony and ecstasy: the Rockets need defense. They need length. They need a disrupter of perimeter actions. Carmelo cannot help with that and is relegated to the bench until he is rescued and asked to score, rebound and then ordered back to the bench to cheerlead.
As in Oklahoma City, Melo is in the game for instant scoring and spacing the floor but rest assured this Rockets season will live and die with Chris Paul and James Harden. If they collectively score 65+, then Houston is in business. If not, then the Rockets are just a three point jack team that cannot stop anyone from scoring. Which leaves Carmelo Anthony where exactly?
Melo’s recent teammates are a list of top-10 players. Russell Westbrook. Paul George. James Harden. Chris Paul. Melo is the third option to their brilliance, and because of it, because the NBA when two elite players are on the court is all about them, Melo is the disappearing option, only trusted to drain a three point shot after long minutes in which he is ignored and Melo is just hanging around collecting dust.
It is a cautionary tale to be sure for elite scorers who do nothing else but score. You will become a 30 year old and then what?
None of this was accidental, what has happened, and it was Melo’s fault early in his career, not developing and establishing other skills so when this part of his career hit, he had more go-to moves. But Melo loved to score. It was what he did best. He was one-dimensional and now he is trying to recover something that has died.
It’s been a long time since Carmelo Anthony has really been a factor in games that really meant something. This Houston team will steamroll a lot of teams and then they will be helpless to defend strong front courts and will lose with their pathetic defense. The Rockets are all offense and not much else. But they will be in the playoffs and the games will matter, giving Carmelo Anthony another chance to rediscover his greatness while standing out on the perimeter and begging Harden or Paul to remember him.