Every failed experiment needs a fall guy.
The Houston Rockets have decided to part ways with Carmelo Anthony after just 10 games with the team.
Anthony, a 10-time All-Star, former Scoring Title champ with six All-NBA team selections, is the fall guy in Houston.
Just a few months ago, Houston was on the verge of unseating the Golden State Warriors. If not for an injury to Chris Paul and a historically horrendous outside shooting performance in Game 7, the Rockets would likely be reigning NBA Champions. However, a series of unfortunate circumstances saw the Warriors raise the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Again.
Houston, which won a league-high 65 games last season, currently has a 7-7 record and is the 10th best team in the Western Conference behind the likes of the Sacramento Kings.
The Rockets won 65 games behind the second-best offense in the NBA (112.4 points per game) and the sixth best defense (103.9 ppg). Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense has collapsed in 2018, as Houston regressed to the 28th best team in scoring (103.2 ppg), not exactly what you want out of a team with two all-stars.
However, the defense has stayed steady at sixth best (106.7 ppg).
Daryl Morey, the team’s general manager, won Executive of the Year last season, an award that recognized him as the premier front office man in the Association. Morey followed up a banner season with a pedestrian offseason that saw defensive anchors Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute walk. Granted, Houston hung on to Clint Capela, but Ariza and Mbah a Moute were replaced with three players who came with more questions than hype: Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis and Anthony.
Carter-Williams is a former Rookie of the Year winner who has regressed in each season since winning the award. Ennis has bounced around the league for five seasons. Anthony, well… He was largely blamed for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s problems a season ago, and those claims were certainly not unfounded. Anthony averaged career lows in points and field goal percentage -- and he’s not exactly a stopper on defense.
Morey thought he could patch a gaping hole with a few players solely off name recognition, and it didn’t work. The West got even better. Paul is now a year older. And Eric Gordon isn’t playing like the Sixth Man of the Year.
The Rockets’ window is closing.
Anthony was on pace to set a new career-low in scoring average this season (13.4 ppg down from 16.2 last season). Before going to OKC he had never averaged fewer than 20 points.
The general consensus in the media and among fans is that Anthony is washed, and he may very well be. But he’s the scapegoat here. Morey caved to the Twitter talk.
Anthony has played in 10 of 13 games and has started in just two. He averages the sixth-most minutes on the team. He may be a problem in Houston, but he’s not the problem.
So now the Rockets are out a veteran sharp-shooter and are still on the outside looking in when it comes to the crowded playoff picture in the West.
Maybe Morey should’ve upped the team’s offer for All-Star forward Jimmy Butler. Maybe he should have waited more than 10 games to make a decision on Anthony’s future in the Lone Star State.
But one thing is for sure -- the Rockets are not a better team for having parted ways with Anthony.
Kyle Wood is a staff writer for The Alligator. Follow him on Twitter @Kkylewood and contact him at [email protected]