Will Carmelo Anthony finally embrace a bench role in Houston?

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony has officially signed his deal with the Houston Rockets, and immediately conversations began regarding what role Anthony should play with H-Town. Two of our writers agree that Anthony should look to come off the bench with Houston, despite the fact that he remains adamant that he’s still a starter.


Last September, Carmelo Anthony, a new member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, was asked by the media if he would entertain the idea of coming off the bench. Let’s just say the future Hall of Fame small forward was not in the mood to do so.

Many months of turmoil took place in Oklahoma City over this past season. Along with reigning MVP (at the time) Russell Westbrook and five-time All-Star Paul George, the Thunder were expected to challenge the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.

Things seemed to look up for Oklahoma City as they won the first two games of the season series with the Warriors in blowout fashion. However, it wasn’t meant to be for this star-studded Thunder team.

After a scary, season-ending knee injury to Andre Roberson, the Thunder were not able to live up to the expectations set this past season. They would go on to win 48 games and finish fourth in the West, but they lost in six games to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.

Carmelo Anthony had his lowest scoring average (16.2 points per game), assists per game (1.3), field goal percentage (40.4%), and free throw percentage (76.7%) of his career last season.

In Game 6 against the Jazz, he pleaded with the coaching staff to insert him back in the game in the fourth quarter. Billy Donovan didn’t oblige and for good reason because the team was staging a comeback while Melo was sitting.

Nonetheless, the Thunder’s comeback fell short after they had six chances to tie the game in the final minute. It was a fitting end to a turbulent season not only for Melo but for the entire Oklahoma City Thunder organization.

Fast forward 11 months to his comments about not wanting to come off the bench and Anthony is now a member of the Houston Rockets, as the 10-time All-Star officially signed with the team on a one year, veterans minimum contract 0n Monday.

This came after he waived his no-trade clause so the Thunder could rid themselves of the $27.9 million he is owed in 2018-19 by trading him to the Atlanta Hawks for point guard Dennis Schroder.

The Hawks then immediately waived Anthony leading to his verbal agreement and official signing with the Rockets.

This was supposed to be the last year of a five-year max extension the New York Knicks gave him during the 2014 offseason.

This coming season will be an interesting one for the Rockets now that they’ve lost Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in free agency and replaced them with Melo and James Ennis.

Carmelo Anthony will be playing alongside two future Hall of Famers in James Harden and Chris Paul. Melo is very close with CP3 and as the leader of the team, he will do his best to make sure Melo fits in nicely in Houston.

Mike D’Antoni coached Melo in New York and they had quite the fallout. They will look to mend their relationship on a more talented team in the Rockets. They, like the Thunder, fell short of their own expectations in the postseason despite having the best record in the NBA last season.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Melo might have to embrace a bench role after all.

However, there’s only one question: will Carmelo Anthony’s ego allow for him to embrace a bench role? While they aren’t the same player, Andre Iguodala had trouble coping with a bench role on the Warriors.

He ended up doing it and it netted him an NBA Finals MVP in 2015. This is a route that Melo should consider this season as his basketball career begins to wind down.


There are many pros to joining the Rockets and coming off the bench. Harden or Paul will be on the court at all times in Mike D’Antoni’s system. This allows for Melo become the secondary scorer in some units.

Eric Gordon will also provide a scoring punch off the bench. The biggest problem is his defense and with a team that still has a lot of good defensive players, he might not be used in big moments. We will see if Carmelo Anthony can embrace a second unit role with the Rockets this coming season.

BJ Boyer:

Carmelo’s miffing tenure with the Oklahoma City Thunder ended in an awkward fashion.

After being traded to, then waived by the Atlanta Hawks, Anthony signed with the Houston Rockets, pairing him with reigning MVP James Harden, and best buddy Chris Paul.

Anthony hopes this trial is much fairer to him than the one in OKC, a franchise he felt just wasn’t a good fit for his talents, mostly due to the rushed nature of his dealings.

via: Jemele Hill (ESPN)

“At the end of the day, it wasn’t a good fit,” he said. “I think last year — and I haven’t talked about this before — everything was just so rushed, going to the team for media day and the day before training camp. Them guys already had something in place, and then I come along in the 25th hour like, oh s—, Melo just come on and join us. Like, you can figure it out since you’ve been around the game for a long time. That’s why it was so inconsistent. At times, I had to figure it out on my own rather than somebody over there or people over there helping me.”

As Strika eluded to, in his lone year with the Thunder, Anthony had by far the worst season of his career. He averaged career-lows across the board, shot 40% from the field, and his PER drooped to an ugly 12.7.

A wide array of players finished with a PER less than or equal to 13, some of the names on the list include: Wayne Ellington, E’Twaun Moore, Patty Mills, PJ Tucker, and Mo Harkless, a group of players that most would’ve been crazy to cluster Carmelo with just a short year ago.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony hopes to bounce back with Houston after a rough year in OKC. Photo via: Getty Images

What most notably extends past these horrid numbers is Anthony’s reluctance to embrace a bench role, a notion we first heard him scoff at during Oklahoma City’s training camp in September of 2017.

Fast forward 10 months, and there still hasn’t been any shift in Anthony’s mindset despite the hardships he endured as a starter during his time with OKC.

via: Jemele Hill (ESPN)

I know how to play this game of basketball,” he said. “I’ve been playing it for a long time. When I feel like I’m ready to take that role, then I’ll take that role. Only I know when it’s best for me to take that role. I’m not going to do that in a situation where I still know my capabilities and what I can do.

Before I discuss Anthony’s statement regarding a reserve role, let’s examine the current statuses of his 2003 draft class contemporaries.

  1. LeBron James (Still the best player in the world, possibly the greatest ever)
  2. Darko Milicic (LOL)
  3. Carmelo Anthony (Soon to be addressed)
  4. Chris Bosh (Walked away from due to health complications)
  5. Dwyane Wade (Willingly accepted bench role in his return to the Heat this past season)
  6. Chris Kaman (Currently not in the NBA, probably still sleeping on the Cavs’ bench)
  7. Kirk Hinrich (Currently not in the NBA)
  8. T.J. Ford (Currently not in the NBA)
  9. Michael Sweetney (Currently not in the NBA)
  10. Jarvis Hayes (Currently not in the NBA)

Only three players out of the top-ten picks are still in the Association, and only one, James, who is arguably the greatest player of all-time, is still playing elite-level basketball.

It’s rare to see a player that has had their career span 15-years or more still play at a level that warrants starter status, especially when you factor in the mileage Anthony has amassed during his time in the NBA.

When your stature has been “superstar” for the duration of your career, it’s hard to take a humbling in the form of a minimized role. Still, Anthony and the Rockets would benefit greatly if he exhibited an increased amount of self-awareness with his new team.

Self-awareness is a major linchpin of success and is also one of the most underrated attributes someone can wield, whether it’s in the realm of sports or real life itself. Self-awareness can help to promote change, which seems imminent for Anthony as he transitions to a new role with the Rockets.

At this juncture of his career, Anthony needs to be more introspective if he plans on riding into twilight gracefully. Hopefully, Houston can boost his capacity for introspection, as opposed to having him sulking over coming off the pine for the championship-hopeful Rockets.

If James, Wade, Anthony, and Paul still have that group message that they referenced a few years ago, maybe Wade should drop some knowledge on Anthony about coming off the bench, as it seemed to work for him at the end of last year.

While apprehensive about the move at first during his short stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Wade thrived in a reserve role with the Miami Heat in the latter parts of the season and was still respected as a go-to scorer and closer.

While Anthony may not have either of those luxuries due to playing with Paul and Harden, he can still make a starter-level impact in a bench role. Just ask Wade, or Manu Ginobili, Lou Williams or his new teammate Eric Gordon.

Although Wade and Anthony’s situations feature some stark differences, the concept remains the same: embrace change, conform and make the situation work for you, as opposed to letting it leave you and those around you unnerved.


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