Report: Carmelo Anthony to come off the bench for Rockets

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Before last season, Carmelo Anthony literally laughed off the idea of coming off the bench. Even after a disappointing year with the Thunder, he called coming off the bench out of the question.

But now that Anthony is headed to Houston

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Rockets are expected to bring Anthony off the bench this season

This is a huge revelation. Considering it’s leaking now, I assume Anthony is on board.

He admitted he was initially reluctant to agree to a buyout, because it’s the sign of a finished player. But he did it. Coming off the bench would be getting over another hang-up.

A reserve role should maximize Anthony’s contributions. His shot creation is most useful when not paired with James Harden and Chris Paul, guards who are better than Anthony with the ball in their hands. And Anthony’s defense is less likely to get exploited by backups.

Why did Anthony suddenly reverse course? It probably doesn’t hurt to have teammates he respects like Paul and Harden.

This surely won’t be easy for Anthony, who has started all 1,054 of his games in his 15-year career. If it doesn’t go well immediately, he might chafe at it. But credit him for at least trying to come off the bench (again, assuming him signing with Houston proves he approves this plan). This looks like progress for him.

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility Anthony, 34, has just declined too much to help a team as good as the Rockets. But a bench role gives him the best chance.

Houston will certainly start Paul, Harden and Clint Capela. Without Anthony, expect two of P.J. Tucker, Ryan Anderson, James Ennis and maybe even Gerald Green at forward.

Report: Rockets looking to add one more wing rotation player via trade

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At 5 p.m. Eastern Wednesday, Carmelo Anthony will clear waivers and soon after his signing with the Houston Rockets will be official.

Anthony, alone, does not solve the Rockets’ questions on the wing, however. They also have solid rotation players in James Ennis and Gerald Green on the roster, but the Rockets are looking to add one more player to the rotation. They have talked with the Atlanta Hawks about a Kent Bazemore trade (allegedly for Ryan Anderson and a first-round pick, although if I were Atlanta I would hold out for more, that pick would be one of the last in the first round next year).

That’s not the only place the Rockets are looking, Zach Lowe of ESPN said during his recent podcast (with Chris Herring of 538).

“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have talked to the Heat. The Heat are kicking a lot of tires. I can’t figure out what they’re trying to do, but I could see like Tyler Johnson, same package, same idea: two years of salary left at about the same number. One guy is a better fit [against] the Warriors, one guy’s not [in Ryan Anderson]. Is our first-round pick to a team that is out of future first-round pick good enough?”

“I’ve heard [the Rockets] have also kicked the tires on JR Smith. That’d be good.”

Nobody knows what direction the Rockets ultimately will go or where they will be able to find a trade that works for them. Teams are not lining up to take on two years of that Ryan Anderson contract (even though he can still play and provide value).

The point is that GM Daryl Morey is not done — he wants to add another player on the wing, one that helps them match up better with the Warriors. Golden State remains the target for Houston (and every other team in the league).

Rumor: Rockets, Pelicans interested in Kent Bazemore trade

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The Atlanta Hawks are rebuilding. Rookie Trae Young will be handed the keys to the point guard position (with Jeremy Lin in the interim), which meant Dennis Schroder was out (traded to Oklahoma City). Young men such as John Collins, Omari Spellman, and (at least for a year) Alex Len will populate the frontcourt.

It also means any veterans of value on the roster could be traded.

Enter Kent Bazemore. Which makes this note from Kelly Iko of the USA Today’s Rocketswire worth passing along:

Houston is still active on trade fronts, perusing the market for a wing defender, and remains interested in Kent Bazemore of the Atlanta Hawks—according to a person with knowledge of the situation….

The Pelicans are also a team interested in acquiring Bazemore, but Atlanta is not interested in taking on Solomon Hill. New Orleans also has its 2019 first-round pick.

Both teams could use Bazemore, as both want some help on the wing. Bazemore is a quality “3&D” player on the perimeter, probably the best player on a bad Hawks teams last season. He scored 12.9 points per game last season but more importantly bounced back from a down year with good three-point shooting (39.4 percent), using his drives to draw fouls, and providing leadership on a team that needed it. He will make $18 million this season with a player option for $19.3 million next season.

In Houston, Bazemore would play the two/three mixed in with James Ennis, Eric Gordon and Gerald Green (I think it’s a safe bet to say the Rockets will continue to start James Harden in there, too). The challenge is structuring the trade — Atlanta isn’t going to just take on Ryan Anderson‘s remaining two-years, $41.6 million without a lot of young players/sweeteners (and the Rockets’ own late first-round picks aren’t going to cut it). Built to win now, the Rockets aren’t flush with the kind of young talent that would interest Atlanta in a deal.

In New Orleans, Bazemore could start at the two next to Jrue Holiday and the fit would be smooth and an upgrade. Again, the challenge is how to structure a trade: E'Twaun Moore plus some young prospects and picks could work, but the Pelicans aren’t loaded in the young player/picks department, either.

Atlanta is in no rush. Bring Bazemore back, start the season with him, and wait for a good trade option to emerge either at the deadline or next summer. The Hawks don’t need to make a bad trade just to do it, they can ride this out. No pressure. If Houston or New Orleans or anyone else wants to make a trade, the pressure is on them to put together a better deal.

How the Rockets’ cold shooting sunk them

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The Rockets shot 5-for-30 (17%) on open or wide open 3-pointers in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, per NBA.com.

If those same players shot their season-long percentages, including the playoffs and last night’s disaster, based on whether the shot was open or wide open, Houston would have shot 11-for-30 (37%) – scoring 18 more points.

Player Attempts Made Expected Difference
Eric Gordon 8 2 2.9 -0.9
Trevor Ariza 7 0 2.5 -2.5
James Harden 6 1 2.3 -1.3
P.J. Tucker 5 2 2.0 0.0
Gerald Green 3 0 1.1 -1.1
Joe Johnson 1 0 0.3 -0.3
Total 30 5 11.1 -6.1

Houston lost to the Warriors by nine.

PBT Extra: Pressure falls on James Harden, Rockets’ bench with Chris Paul out

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Chris Paul is out for Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals with a strained hamstring, and that almost certainly will sideline him for Game 7 as well.

That changes the feel of this series.

The Rockets still just have to win one of the next two games to advance to the NBA Finals, and one of those is at home. However, without CP3 a couple of things need to happen. James Harden needs to find his shooting stroke. Gerald Green and the Rockets’ bench needs to step up. And Houston has to keep defending the way they have the last two games.

It’s not going to be easy (especially on the road in Game 6), but the Rockets still have a real opportunity to advance to the NBA Finals.