Last season, Syracuse’s 2003 national champion Carmelo Anthony was cut from the Houston Rockets. He was not picked up by any of the other 29 NBA teams for the remainder of the season, and as free agency reaches its latter stages in 2019 Anthony remains unsigned. Throughout this period of a Carmelo-less NBA, the ten-time all-star had been dead silent. That all changed when he went on ESPN’s First Take for a one-on-one interview with Stephen A Smith. Here’s what we learned.
The following is a summary of Carmelo’s account of how things ended abruptly in Houston:
He was in San Antonio preparing to play the Spurs for his eleventh game as a Rocket. Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey told Anthony that his ‘services are no longer needed.’ Carmelo pushed back and said he has a game to play. Morey informed Anthony that he is not going to make the rotation. Anthony was flabbergasted. He had just recently come to terms with the fact that he had to come off the bench, a difficult pill to swallow for the former scoring champ. He couldn’t believe he was being told he’s not good enough to play at all. The Rockets were trying to get him to come to Houston for three years. He finally went to Houston and it was over after ten games.
After his conversation with Morey, the first thing he did was call teammates Chris Paul and James Harden. He told them to be completely honest and asked them if they knew anything about the Rockets’ plans. With ‘friendship on the line’, they both told him they had no prior knowledge of Morey’s decision. Anthony and Paul had a heart-to-heart at 1 AM in a hotel room later that night. Melo takes his close friend’s word for it. In his opinion, it was Morey’s call. Even head coach Mike D’Antoni wasn’t to blame for the decision. Carmelo is still not happy about how it went down. “I felt like I loved the game more than the game loved me,” he said.
Some other takeaways from the second part of the discussion, when Stephen A began holding court with Anthony about his future in the league:
- There was a consensus around the league that Anthony refused to accept a bench role with the Thunder. According to Melo, nobody in the organization ever discussed coming off the bench. He blames contract issues for things going south with Oklahoma City.
- Carmelo’s trainer went on an LA radio show, The Breakfast Club, and said Melo wants this next season to be a “farewell tour.” Carmelo wasn’t happy with that being said and he denies ever feeling that way.
- Anthony showed some self-awareness when he admitted that the future of his career relies on his willingness to accept certain roles on a basketball team. This implies understanding that if he’s to be rostered in the NBA, he will have to be a bench scorer. He admits that this his diminishing roles with the Thunder and Rockets were difficult “ego hits.” He’s adamant that he’s willing to come off the bench.
- Allegations that Anthony prioritizes money over winning have chased him for his entire career. He claims he was ready to leave the Knicks for the Bulls in free agency, but genuinely believed in New York’s plan to build a contender. Anthony attributes his zero NBA Finals appearances to simply never having the teams that LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had.