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Carmelo Anthony makes return to Oklahoma City wearing Rockets’ red

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Carmelo Anthony laughed a year ago when he was asked about the possibility of coming off the bench for his new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.

After a season of struggles with the Thunder, Anthony returns to Oklahoma City with his new team, the Houston Rockets, on Thursday when the teams meet at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The 16-year veteran is adjusting to his role coming off the bench for the Rockets.

Anthony never quite found a rhythm with the Thunder, shooting a career-low 40.4 percent from the field and averaging a career-low 16.2 points per game, starting 78 games.

Through nine games this season — seven off the bench — Anthony is averaging 14.7 points and shooting 36.2 percent from behind the 3-point line. That’s a slight improvement from his outside shooting performance for the Thunder.

A year ago, Anthony didn’t have much time to process things after being traded from the New York Knicks to the Thunder in a package that included Enes Kanter just before training camp started.

This time, Anthony had some time to adjust after a late July trade sent him to Atlanta before the Hawks bought him out and Anthony signed with Houston.

“I never really had the opportunity to kind of just sit back and take everything in and decompress a little bit,” Anthony told reporters Wednesday. “Last year in OKC, I went there before media day, turn around and do media day, turn around and do training camp and then get right into it.”

Oklahoma City is hoping Russell Westbrook will be ready to go against the Rockets. Westbrook missed Wednesday’s first game of the back-to-back with a sprained ankle suffered late in Monday’s win over New Orleans.

In Westbrook’s absence, point guard Dennis Schroder — who was the main piece of the Thunder’s return in the Anthony trade to Atlanta — scored a season-high 28 points in Wednesday’s win.

The teams both seem to have turned a corner after rough starts.

Houston started 1-5 before winning its first three games on the current five-game road trip.

Anthony has helped the Rockets during the winning streak, averaging 17.7 points per game and 39.1 percent from behind the arc. In a 28-point performance in the first win over the streak, Friday in Brooklyn, Anthony hit six 3-pointers and finished with 28 points.

Oklahoma City has won six consecutive games since starting the season 0-4.

“Everybody’s on the same page,” Paul George said. “We come out here (and) we have an expectation of the level we want to play at. Regardless of how the game goes we find a way to take it to the next level. We’re getting the job done.”

While things didn’t go well for Anthony in Oklahoma City, he’s looking forward to making his return.

“Going back to OKC, that (holds) a special place because that was the kind of organization, the team, the community that opened their arms up to me last year, brought me in, took me in,” Anthony said. “I really felt part of that community last year.”

Carmelo Anthony’s Rockets tenure ends as an oddity

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Carmelo Anthony played 20-39 minutes in each of Houston’s first 10 games.

Then, the Rockets determined he couldn’t play for them at all.

It’s a steep drop from major contributor to exile. There was apparently no middle ground for Anthony and Houston, which finally acknowledged the forward is finished with the team.

Anthony averaged 29.4 minutes per game with Houston. The last time someone received so much playing time and lasted fewer than 15 games with a team before getting waived during a season? Dennis Rodman with the Mavericks in 2000.

Rodman, then 38, signed with Dallas in February. He got ejected from two games and suspended for another. He twice challenged then-NBA commissioner David Stern to a fight, even saying the two should be naked for the brawl. Then, Rodman accused Mavericks owner Mark Cuban of being too chummy with his players. Dallas went 3-9 with Rodman playing 32.4 minutes per game before waiving him in March. The Mavericks (40-42) missed the playoffs by four games.

At least it wasn’t that bad for Anthony and the Rockets.

But Anthony’s tenure in Houston still shows fragility.

Anthony is barely a year removed from literally laughing at the idea of coming off the bench. He struggled with accepting a buyout because of how it’d look. He still has outdated ideas about who he is as a player.

Though Anthony accepted a reserve role with the Rockets, he still received major minutes and took plenty of shots. Houston didn’t waste time trying to coax him into a narrower role. The Rockets just paid deference to Anthony’s future-Hall of Fame status, maybe internally considered his friendship with Chris Paul and cut bait.

Anthony just isn’t good enough anymore. He’s a defensive liability with poor all-around production. Even his scoring has become substandard. There’s nothing to hang his hat on.

Anthony now joins the list of former stars who seemingly got jobs based on prior accomplishments then quickly proved they could no longer hack it. But even by that standard, Houston moved on historically quickly.

Here’s everyone who made at least five-time All-Star teams then lasted fewer than 30 games in a stint with a team:

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Where Anthony goes from here is unclear. It’s easier to find teams that don’t want him than do. Tracy McGrady called on him to retire.

If Anthony finds a new team, Houston could waive him or trade him there. If not, it’d be more cost-efficient for the Rockets to trade him – with a sweetener like cash or draft considerations – than waive him, which would lock in a luxury-taxable cap hit.

The bad news for Anthony: Most of the stints in the above chart came during the player’s final season.

Houston gave him a heck of a shot with no shortage of playing time. Then promptly gave up on him. It’s hard to get past the absurdity of that.

But the Rockets will try.

Kevin Durant on relationship with Draymond Green: ‘Don’t ask me about that again’ (video)

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After their heated argument, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are on the same page in at least one regard: They won’t answer questions about each other.

At least Green explained himself before shutting down follow-up questions. Durant wouldn’t address it at all. He was terse.

Really healthy situation Golden State has going.

Of course, the Warriors also have a ridiculous amount of talent. That will help them win, feel good about themselves and get past this.

But until Golden State starts winning, this isn’t going away.

Three Things to Know: Warriors won’t escape Draymond Green-Kevin Durant questions by getting throttled by Rockets

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Warriors still have problems. Deep-seeded, dynasty-ruining problems? Not sure. But problems, nonetheless.

Draymond Green and Kevin Durant talked with each other. Green explained himself publicly. Durant wouldn’t address it in the slightest.

But a 107-86 loss to the Rockets leaves it difficult to feel good about the star forwards moving on productively from their heated argument.

This could be as simple as Stephen Curry being injured. Even before Green and Durant sparred, people were learning just how important the point guard is to Golden State.

And the Rockets are no easy out. They’re 3-1 since excising Carmelo Anthony, whom even Houston now acknowledges is done there, with three straight double-digit wins over Pacers, Nuggets and Warriors.

Still, it’ll be impossible to look beyond the Green-Durant dynamic until Golden State wins like it did before. In Green’s first game back from suspension, that didn’t come close to happening.

2) The Clippers are winning. That’s important beyond even underlying factors like how they’re playing.

L.A. has won three straight – beating the Bucks in overtime, Warriors in overtime and Spurs 116-111 last night. Against quality competition like that, racking up victories is crucial. Even if the Clippers stumble or have injury issues later, those three wins could be vital come playoff-seeding time.

At 9-5, the Clippers are tied for fourth in the Western Conference. But that’s just two games ahead of 12th. There’s no separation early in the West race, and there might not be margin for error all season.

Other teams will come around – like San Antonio. In a 1-5 stretch, the Spurs have been outscored by 61 without Rudy Gay and have outscored opponents by 24 with him. He was +14 in 25 minutes last night. As he gets healthier, San Antonio should improve.

But the Clippers don’t need to wait on anything. They’re deep and play hard. Lou Williams hits big shots. They’re ready to win right now.

3) The Nuggets avoided complete doom and gloom. After a 9-1 start, Denver had lost four straight. Jamal Murray violated team rules, and Nuggets coach Michael Malone pulled him from the starting lineup. But Denver still cruised to a feel-good 138-93 win over the Hawks.

Monte Morris started and played steadily. Murray was good off the bench. It probably didn’t matter much. The Nuggets likely would have beaten Atlanta with an injured Isaiah Thomas at point guard.

But Denver – especially star Nikola Jokic – still seems like a team that can get too down on itself when things aren’t going well. Momentum snowballs, even when it starts against the Hawks.

Draymond Green reportedly told Kevin Durant: ‘We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave’

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Draymond Green got into an argument with Kevin Durant so feisty, it caused a Warriors player to predict Durant will now leave Golden State in free agency next summer.

Just what did Green say?

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Green called Durant a “bitch” multiple times, sources said. In a summarized version, sources said Green shouted, “You’re a bitch and you know you’re a bitch.” The rhetoric, sources said, continued even when Kerr attempted to direct the team’s attention to his whiteboard.

Green blurted to Durant something along the lines of, “We don’t need you. We won without you. Leave,” sources said.

Wow. That’s pretty darned harsh. And if Durant walked away say saying “That’s why I’m out“… wow.

This would explain why Green’s teammates supported his suspension. He clearly went too far, as even he expected a fine. But this was quite the way to carry on.

When Green and Durant bickered last year in a similar, though less heated, incident, it was claimed Green was using “reverse psychology” to motivate Durant. I was never convinced whether that was accurate or cooked up after the fact to cover for Green’s misbehavior. Will we hear a similar explanation this time?