Carmelo Anthony’s Rockets tenure ends as an oddity

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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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 He still has outdated ideas about who he is as a player.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 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.