Will Melo morph into a team player in Houston?

According to media reports, Carmelo Anthony will bring his talents to Humidity City soon to become a member of the Houston Rockets.

After a failed experiment in Oklahoma City last season with two other established NBA stars on the same starting five, why would (or should) anyone believe it will be any different this season in Houston with James Harden and Chris Paul on the floor with him?

The Houston Rockets came tantalizingly close to winning the NBA championship this past season.  Though the Golden State Warriors earned their hard-fought 4-3 series victory over Houston, the Rockets lost Game 7 at home without Chris Paul on the floor due to an injury.  As expected, Golden State went on to stomp Cleveland again and take the title.

Last month, the Phoenix Suns made a $15 million “offer you can’t refuse” to Houston’s defensive stalwart forward and all-purpose team player, Trevor Ariza.  Ariza’s offensive game was often shaky, but he was the player usually assigned to guard the best player on the opponent’s side as well.  He worked hard every game and was a quiet contributor on a squad with two future Hall-of-Famers on it.

So, the Rockets just lost their defensive ace and are replacing him with a guy who embraces the word “defense” about as much as most of us embrace the word “dentist”?

Here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about Carmelo Anthony while researching this article.

  1. He has started every single NBA game (all 1,054 of them) and (albeit one season at Syracuse) college game he has played in.  If the Rockets ask him to come off the bench this season , Carmelo Anthony must be willing to sacrifice his own desires for the benefit of the team.  Hmm – the odds are against that.
  2. Did you know that Carmelo Anthony and some chap named LeBron James played against each other in high school?  Anthony’s academic performance in high school had put his commitment to Syracuse in jeopardy, so he transferred to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia for his final year of high school to (cough) bolster his academic standing.  In that game, LeBron scored 36 points for his Akron, Ohio team, but Carmelo added 34 in leading his team to a win.
  3. That said, one of those two men (LBJ) has continued to grow as a team leader and has taken his team (Miami and Cleveland) to the NBA Finals in eight consecutive years.  Carmelo Anthony continues to score a lot of points (22 points per game for his lengthy career), but he has yet to reach a single NBA Finals in the same number of years in the league.  Just sayin…
  4. After last season ended in Oklahoma City, here’s what Carmelo Anthony had to say – “It wasn’t a good fit…. 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.”  Is that leadership or finger pointing?
  5. This season, Carmelo Anthony will be playing for a coach (Mike D’Antoni) whom he (figuratively) threw under the bus while both were at the New York Knicks several years ago.  D’Antoni quit as coach of the team and has become quite successful elsewhere since their parting.  Is that leadership or selfishness?

For Houston to be successful with Carmelo Anthony, it boils down to one single person.  Chris Paul.  These two guys are close friends off the court.

And, like Carmelo Anthony, CP3 has yet to make it to an NBA Finals in his lengthy career.  Chris Paul’s leadership skills on the court may be just the glue to keep Carmelo Anthony from scapegoating another coach or organization for his own personal lack of accountability in his disappointing NBA career up to this point.

Can Chris Paul play the “Big Brother” for Carmelo Anthony and get the “good” Carmelo Anthony to shine through?

Or will Carmelo Anthony find a way to blame Chris Paul, James Harden, Mike D’Antoni, and others for a lack of success on the court this season?

At this point, I believe CP3 will be a positive and calming influence on an aging Carmelo Anthony on the court.  With gifted assist artists like Chris Paul and James Harden handling the basketball, Carmelo Anthony should get ample shooting opportunities from the wings and give the Rockets an offense to be feared.

For the Rockets to finally get to NBA’s Promised Land by taking down the Golden State Warriors in the West, Carmelo Anthony must learn to put his sizable ego and defensive liabilities aside for the benefit of the team and play whatever role he is asked – especially during the playoffs.

He has done that before while a member of the US Olympic teams.  In his last appearance in the 2016 Olympics, Carmelo came off the bench as the team’s sixth man and became the first US Olympic men’s basketball player to win three gold medals.

So, will it be “Olympics Carmelo” or “Same old NBA Carmelo” this season in Houston?  If the Houston Rockets want to claim the NBA’s version of the gold medal this season, Dr. CP3 needs to perform a miracle heart transformation on his old pal soon.