OKC Thunder Rumor: Bench role for Carmelo Anthony in Houston?

James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
James Harden, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook, OKC Thunder (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As a member of the OKC Thunder Carmelo Anthony refused to even consider coming off the bench. So what’s changed in Houston?

Talk about a Woj Bomb! ESPN Adrian Wojnarowski is known for breaking news well ahead of his counterparts. Generally it’s about trades or free agent signings. But, today’s ESPN column is a little different. The premise of the column is former OKC Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony is expected to sign with the Houston Rockets today.

Yet, the true news isn’t the signing. Rather, it’s the revelation Anthony is expected to play a reserve role. Surprising, not because that isn’t the perfect fit for the star who is entering his 15th season. But, because of how adamant Anthony was about still being a top end contributor.

"The Rockets are expected to bring Anthony off the bench this season, signing him after winning an NBA-best 65 regular-season games and pushing the Golden State Warriors to a seven-game series in the Western Conference finals."

Defunct OK3:

In his one and only season for the OKC Thunder Anthony averaged 16.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Melo shot 40.4 percent from the field and 35.7 percent from the perimeter.

Initially dubbed the OK3, it was thought Anthony’s size and scoring ability at the power forward would be the perfect complement to Russell Westbrook’s aggressive game and Paul George’s two-way game. But, Anthony who was used to being “the man” for all his previous 13 seasons struggled to assimilate. His points and assists totals were the lowest of his career. It seemed Anthony had hit the point in his career where players inevitably lose physical prowess and regression occurs.

Anthony mocked at this assumption. Moreover he laughed at reporters who suggested he might better serve his team coming off the bench. Once Andre Roberson went out due to injury his presence on the court only added to the OKC Thunder issues.

During the post season he infamously got into a row with assistant Mo Cheeks as he argued to be reinserted. Scanning his on-off court effect explains why the OKC Thunder were so frustrated.

What made things worse was his exit interview rant where he once again claimed he would never consider coming off the bench. So, what gives?

Surely, it can’t be as simple respecting Chris Paul and James Harden as Yahoo’s Dan Feldman opines.  That would indicate Anthony did not respect Westbrook or George.

"A reserve role should maximize Anthony’s contributions. His shot creation is mo st 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."

Rockets role change?

More from Thunderous Intentions

Perhaps it’s far simplier than these initial assessments. Could Anthony, who took a beating over his defense and inability to lift the OKC Thunder not want to be the scapegoat? With the loss of Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute the Rockets are already facing heat to replicate last season.

If Melo starts and the Rockets regress the blame will likely fall primarily on his shoulders, fairly or not. Accepting a reserve role isn’t just ideal for Anthony who would excel facing second tier players it also would protect him from criticism.

Still, nothing seems to be sewn up as Wojnarowski backtracked from his initial assertion. In a follow up tweet Woj suggested Melo will compete for a starting position.

Or more of the same?

Suffice to say, if Anthony shows up at the Rockets podium and mocks or laughs at media questions regarding him coming off the bench don’t be surprised.

Hey, we’ve been there — done that. The difference is the Rockets won’t be paying Melo close to $30 million while suggesting he be a reserve.