When it became clear that a long and convoluted process would end up with Carmelo Anthony exiting Oklahoma City to go to Houston this summer, there was plenty of head scratching and derision about the move. The Rockets are replacing Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute‘s defense with ‘Melo? The only way this works is if Anthony plays a role in Houston, and didn’t he just rant how he’s not a bench player after the end of last season?
“Obviously I’m a little biased because that’s one of my closest friends,” Paul said at training camp in Houston in an appearance on ESPN’s The Jump. “But you know, the disrespect that comes at him at times is unbelievable, you know what I mean? So for us, having one of the best players to ever play the game on our team, that’s a no-brainer…
“I think we just hoop,” Paul said. “I think that’s been the cool thing about bringing in different players that have played in different systems. Hell, me last year, I came into a different situation. I had seen it. Coach [Mike D’Antoni] had talked about it. But it’s a different thing to play within the system.
“With Melo, we just hoop, you know what I mean? If you’re open, you shoot it. If not, you pass it, you dribble — it’s a fun way to play basketball.”
Through the first couple of preseason games, Anthony has looked comfortable and like a good fit in Houston. Coach Mike D’Antoni is getting him into quality spaces. Anthony is hitting catch-and-shoot threes, posting guys up, and just seemed to be accepting of his new role. Maybe the most interesting turn was when the Rockets went ultra-small — Michael Carter-Williams, James Harden, Eric Gordon, James Ennis, and Anthony as center. The Rockets went on a 15-0 run with that lineup against the Pacers.
It’s just preseason. The Rockets did take a defensive step back and there are a lot of questions — but if the Rockets did slip it’s not going to be because of Anthony. The Rockets knew what they were getting, and he may exceed expectations. If the Rockets step back, it was management’s decisions that led to everything.