A spot in the starting line-up has always been important to Carmelo Anthony, but for the first time in his NBA career, a bench role may be unavoidable.
On Monday, Anthony officially signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Houston Rockets to complete a move that had been weeks in the making.
What was somewhat surprising, however, was the report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Rockets are “expected to bring Anthony off the bench” this season. Wojnarowski later clarified Anthony “will compete for a starting spot in training camp, but ultimately could come off the bench”.
Bringing Anthony off the bench actually makes complete sense for Houston, but it would be a surprise if the 10-time All-Star accepts that role willingly. In his lone year with Oklahoma City Thunder this past season, Anthony consistently made it clear he would not sacrifice his starting spot.
Now 34, Anthony is no longer the superstar he once was as his production and efficiency continue to decline. This past season, he finished with career-lows in points (16.2), assists (1.3) and field goal percentage (40.4), while being a minus defender on the other end of the floor.
Anthony’s 3-point shooting – 35.7 on 6.1 attempts per game last season – is average, but in Houston’s offence with James Harden and Chris Paul feeding him the ball, he should get more open looks on the perimeter.
If he can’t hold up defensively though, that robs the Rockets of their versatility and switchability, especially against the Golden State Warriors.
So while Anthony may be okay with coming off the bench now, especially alongside a player of Eric Gordon’s stature, it’s hard to imagine him being fine with finishing games on the bench as well.
“I don’t know, and that’s something that we’ll have to work out,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told USA Today Sports of Anthony’s role. “All I know is that we’ll try different combos – pre-season, early season, and the good thing is that with analytics and with gut feelings and coaches and players, we’ll figure out what is the best way to play.
“And again, if everybody is on board, then it’ll be, ‘Hey, this is where we’re the best. This is how we can win the championship.’ I don’t know yet, but we’ll make sure we get it right as good as we can.”
While he’s a 10-time All-Star, Anthony, now 34, could find himself coming off the bench.
See more in the video below.
The NBA announced its national television schedule for the opening week of the regular season, along with its Christmas Day lineup and Martin Luther King Jr Day games yesterday.
The full television schedule for the season, which will tip-off on October 16, will be released on Friday.
Here are observations from the release of the key dates.
#NBAXmas 2018!— NBA (@NBA) August 8, 2018
12pm/et: @Bucks/@nyknicks (ESPN)
3pm/et: @okcthunder/@HoustonRockets (ABC)
5:30pm/et: @sixers/@celtics (ABC)
8pm/et: @Lakers/@warriors (ABC/ESPN)
10:30pm/et: @trailblazers/@utahjazz (ESPN) pic.twitter.com/yILe6tOVgg
No LeBron on opening night
With the Boston Celtics facing the Philadelphia 76ers to begin the season, and the Golden State Warriors receiving their championship rings before playing the Oklahoma City Thunder in the second game, that means LeBron James’ debut with the Los Angeles Lakers won’t come on opening night.
It surprisingly won’t come at the Staples Center either as the Lakers will travel to Portland to kick off their campaign on October 18.
James does get prime billing on Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr Day though, with Los Angeles meeting Golden State on both occasions, so there will be no shortage of Lakers in primetime.
Reviving the rivalry
With the Western Conference as loaded as it is, the NBA is really trying to highlight the best part of the East by pushing Celtics-Sixers on opening night and again on Christmas.
It’s one of the league’s most storied rivalries and was one of the more entertaining series to watch in the playoffs this past season, but it has the chance to become more one-sided now that Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are healthy.
The NBA missed an opportunity to give us a mouth-watering game on Christmas by leaving out a Toronto Raptors-San Antonio Spurs clash, which would have had Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan going against their former teams.
Instead, we’ll have to watch the New York Knicks play the Milwaukee Bucks. Who was clamoring for that match-up? Yawn.