Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey denied a report Sunday that his team has told Carmelo Anthony he’ll be released in the near future. The veteran forward, in his first season in Houston, has struggled as the Rockets have gotten off to a surprisingly poor start.
Anthony was held out of Houston’s loss Saturday in San Antonio because of what was described as an illness, but his absence fueled speculation that his days with the team were numbered. Anthony also sat out Sunday’s win over the Indiana Pacers, before which Morey held a media session in which he decried the “unfair rumors” swirling about Anthony, and the GM said he “would expect” the 10-time all-star “to be playing when he’s healthy.”
ESPN subsequently reported that, despite Morey’s comments, the Rockets are “strongly considering cutting ties” with Anthony. Earlier in the day, Marc Stein of the New York Times reported that the team denied it was waiving Anthony, but added that “two sources close to the situation say Anthony has been informed that his brief time with the team will soon be ending.”
Saying that his team was “evaluating everything,” Morey told reporters, “We’re struggling as a team, and it’s my job, it’s Coach’s job to figure this thing out. But from guy one to guy 15 — and I’ll put myself in there, a lot of this is on me right now — we’re not playing well. We’ve just got to figure it out."
Coach Mike D’Antoni said the Rockets' front office was “exploring all options.” He added, “With everybody coming back, it squeezes some things, and then we’ll see how it goes.”
The Rockets notched the NBA’s best regular season record and were one win from toppling the Warriors for a berth in the NBA Finals last season, but they entered Sunday’s home game against Indiana at 4-7 and 12th in the Western Conference. The 34-year-old Anthony is averaging a career-low 13.4 points while shooting just .405 from the field, including .328 from three-point range, with a subpar 11.4 player efficiency rating. Anthony’s 16.2 points per game during his one-year stint last season with the Oklahoma City Thunder constituted a previous career low, but that number was downright prolific compared to the drop-off he’s experienced in Houston.
Anthony has hardly been the sole cause of Houston’s woes. The Rockets, who were second in the NBA in scoring last season, have sported a bottom-five offense thus far. This season’s squad is last in the NBA in field goal percentage and third worst in assists. Its two biggest stars, James Harden and Chris Paul, have been notably less effective thus far than they were last season, though both have missed multiple games.
“I’d give the same answer for every roster player,” Morey said (via the Houston Chronicle). “We’re talking about everything — everyone’s approach, everyone’s role, every aspect right now — because obviously, we’re just way off from where we thought he’d be.”
“We’ve been extremely happy with his approach,” the GM said of Anthony, who has been used primarily as a reserve player for the first time in his career. “Every reason we’ve brought him here, he’s followed. Again, that’s why he’s here. It’s unfair that there’s all this speculation on just one player. I understand it, because he’s obviously a Hall of Famer, but it’s unfair.”
Unfair as it may be, the reporting on Anthony’s impending departure goes on. ESPN’s Tim McMahon added more details Sunday night.
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