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.”