The Houston Rockets, panicking on cue or refusing to take blame for poor decisions, are resolutely and unashamedly divorcing their summer pick-up, Carmelo Anthony. It would be a stretch to say their latest move is a surprise. It is the timing that raises eyebrows since the season isn’t one quarter over. But the decision itself was expected when free agent Carmelo was searching for a new home to showcase his very mundane basketball skills. We knew this would happen at some sad point, that both Melo and the Rockets would waste energy pointing fingers at each other while ignoring the harder task of looking in the mirror and being accountable.
No one who uses rational thinking truly believed what the Rockets were selling this summer. They were like a bunch of used car salesmen asking us to not believe what we were seeing. We remember Mike D’Antoni’s hatred of Carmelo. He had to be akin to a priest to forgive him for the New York debacle that ended in bitter shame for D’Antoni. D’Antoni never let go of Carmelo got me fired.
Now that we are at another Carmelo-D’Antoni divorce but with Melo having bitterness this time, the conspiracy theorists and Melo apologists see D’Antoni as wanting revenge at Carmelo’s expense and orchestrating all of this. Now Melo is the one fired. How’s that feel now that the shoe is on the other foot?
It feels like one of those Tyler Perry soaps on the OWN network. Dwyane Wade has chimed in with what you would expect from a friend, Carmelo as the scapegoat for the Rockets underachievement. But both things can be true at the same time. Carmelo was a disaster in Houston and he isn’t the reason they can barely score 100 points. The Rockets did this to themselves when they made some curious moves to save money. Everyone has failed everyone.
Erasing Carmelo from the Rockets which is nearly accomplished- his reps are looking for another home- won’t change the Rockets. Their offense is predicated on scoring the ball on the perimeter and Clint Capela dunks. The offense doesn’t believe in mid-range shooting, just high volume perimeter shots, James Harden and Chris Paul iso mania, and James Harden tricking the refs into calling fouls. It’s not complicated.
In the summer, Daryl Morey had a puzzle. The Rockets had to pay Chris Paul. They had to pay Clint Capela. Only so much money to go around. Everyone else had to suffer because new ownership wasn’t going to get into luxury tax suffocation. Paying Trevor Ariza was out. Ryan Anderson’s salary had to get off the books. Luc Mbah a Moute wasn’t valued the way he should have been. The Rockets gutted the part of their team that was the glue and then had to find spare parts and hope they could fill in the blanks.
Their stunning reversal of fortune is predictable more than it is ironic, kind of a chickens come home to roost sort of thing. The Rockets don’t draft well. Of their key players, only Capela is home grown. The rest were pulled from somewhere else. That says something about the Rockets ability to scout and develop players. Consider the Rockets were the team that drafted Royce Alexander when he had mental health issues that weren’t a secret. They decided to forgo all the scientific evidence about stress and anxiety triggering mental health episodes, as if being a NBA player is a piece of cake and doesn’t mess with your mind. Royce Alexander failed miserably.
Other poor choices that have nothing to do with Carmelo:
They drafted Larry Sanders instead of Eric Bledsoe. They drafted Marcus Morris instead of Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler. They drafted Sam Dekker (he was traded). Instead of developing players, they work the free agent market which is why they thought it reasonable to give Minnesota four 1st round picks for Jimmy Butler even though Butler doesn’t fit their system.
This is their fault.
This is Melo’s fault too.
He isn’t the player he used to be. He hasn’t been that player in five years. His last worthwhile season was in 2013. As much as Melo has been lauded for his offensive talent, he has never posted an offensive rating higher than 114. The bad of Melo is he dominates the ball in order to get the shot he wants; that is his game. But with Harden and Paul dominating the ball, and Russell Westbrook and Paul George doing the same last year, Carmelo Anthony as a third wheel just doesn’t work.
Melo is to blame in that he hasn’t prepared for this part of his career, the getting older part. He never expanded his game. He thought Melo ball would last 15 years and often seems shocked he doesn’t have a NBA home, that his last two seasons as a third option has been a cruel anecdote to his pristine offensive legacy.
He’s a bench player, nothing more or less. To some of his fans, and surely to his friends, it’s a sad state of affairs what has happened to Carmelo Anthony. But for the rest of the rational world, no one is buying into the Carmelo superstar rhetoric anymore. He has to make peace with what his career has done to him or maybe it is the opposite, what he has done to his career.
So here we are. Houston swung at a fast ball that was high and inside. They struck out. Absent another defender and scorer, their roster is a mess. They are 29th in scoring, last in shooting percentage, 25th in three point percentage and fast break points. All things Mike D’Antoni rests his reputation on. They are 28th in pace and 24th in offensive rating. James Harden is shooting 41% and has an offensive rating of 108. Chris Paul is shooting 40%. That has nothing to do with Carmelo.
But blaming a MVP and a player you willingly handed $160 million is too much like looking in the mirror and telling the truth.