On Monday, the Rockets did what they set out to do in 2014 and again in 2017. They signed Carmelo Anthony. This time, it was for one year at the veteran minimum and with little fanfare — a phone pic from GM Daryl Morey via Twitter was all we got. And, frankly, that's probably all we should need.
This is not 30-year-old All-Star Melo. Nor is it big-time-free-agent Melo. Anthony is 35 with 15 seasons of NBA basketball under his belt. The last thing the Rockets should be doing is throwing a parade. Then again, you would think from all the collective hand wringing going on in the national media, it was a much bigger deal.
And it brings into focus a pet peeve of fans, namely the narrative surrounding the Rockets. Take last season, for example.
When Anthony, unable to get a deal done to get to Houston joined Paul George and Russell Westrbrook in Oklahoma City, NBA analysts went crazy. OKC would be the team to challenge Golden State, they would say. A couple months prior, the Rockets traded for Chris Paul. He came to Houston with a huge fan celebration, roundly criticized by the media, as was the trade itself. "There aren't enough basketballs to go around," they said.
We now see how that turned out.
Fast forward to Monday. The Rockets sign Anthony, finally, yet the response is quite different. Now, according to most of the sports talking heads, Melo is "washed," cool kid speak for washed up, and the loss of Trevor Ariza is going to take them from one of the best defensive teams in the NBA to mediocre at best. Anthony is, after all, an awful defender, they tell us.
Oh, and then there is the whole "Carmelo can't play for Mike D'Antoni" thing after the two clashed in New York. Or the belief Anthony will never except a lesser role to Paul and James Harden, desperately needing to be a marquee star and protect his brand and fragile ego. Hell, the Rockets won't even be able to get him to play power forward. He'll insist on playing his "natural" position at small forward. And don't even think about asking him to come off the bench. No chance, they say.
Except on Monday D'Antoni dismissed any such nonsense saying he had a great time coaching Anthony in the Olympics after their fallout in New York. He also said they discussed Melo's role here and all Anthony wants to do is win. Period. He will play some power forward and he might come off the bench. He's amenable to virtually anything.
All of this carping is infuriating to fans and, to be honest, should be to people who know basketball. Those naysayers act as if the Rockets haven't considered all of these things themselves or done any homework.
Morey, the leagues best GM and probably the most nerdy, responded brilliantly to Sports Illustrated on Twitter when they noted he used a 2013 video of Anthony to welcome him to Houston.
It's as if he is speaking through fans when he does things like that.
The truth is, no one has a clue what will happen with Anthony on the floor with Paul, Harden, Clint Capela and the rest. No one can say for certain that they will be worse or better off. There are no guarantees. But it feels like only those closest to the team seem to get that.
Of course, it's August, not October. There is not much to talk about in the way of basketball right now and people need to fill air time and column inches and social media feeds. Besides, winning is the best revenge, and our bet is the Rockets get plenty of revenge come November.
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