Spacing the Floor — The first half: Aaron Gordon to skip dunk contest to focus on improving
The Rockets were headed for issues long before they signed Anthony for the league minimum, losing valuable role players in the offseason, so it appears the franchise is blaming its slow start on the easiest target: Anthony.
Close friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have come to his defense via social media, intimating Anthony is being scapegoated for a team not being able to duplicate last year’s blistering start, but multiple things can be true.
If the Rockets release Anthony because his already-diminished role would be chopped down further due to the emergence of undrafted rookie Gary Clark, then it gives credence to the thought Anthony was a problem — even though he never should have been looked upon as a solution.
Anthony isn’t the same scoring marvel he was 10 years ago, or even five years ago, when he had a season so stellar it prevented James from winning MVP unanimously. When Anthony came into the league, many thought he was better prepared (!) for the NBA than James because his best quality was the one in most demand: the ability to get a bucket without having to go through an offensive system.
But now, the game has changed, and he’s failed to adapt as he’s aged. Scoring is no longer sparse, and even guys who can’t create their own shot can score 20 with the rule changes, increased ball movement and sophistication of offenses.
Anthony is on the verge of being an endangered species, if he’s not already. And in his 16th season, too much is expected of him already. It was the case last year in Oklahoma City, where he thought of himself in the same vein as Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and it’s held true to a degree in Houston as he believed he was the missing piece next to James Harden and Chris Paul.
But aside from James and, historically, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, most players don’t have much tread left this far into their careers. Yes, Anthony is only 34, but the miles on his body don’t know the difference.
In some ways, Anthony has been a victim of time and circumstance, missing opportunities to be in greater situations because his talent dictated he had to be calling the shots.
Being drafted No. 3 overall in 2003 — two picks after James — caused a wave of unfair comparisons, considering the wide gap between the two, which was not his fault.
Signing a long-term extension in Denver while James, Wade and Chris Bosh took shorter deals to hit free agency sooner started a ripple effect that resulted in Anthony forcing a trade to the Knicks in 2011.
The deal depleted the Knicks’ roster, but Anthony valued contractual security with a lockout looming in July 2011, which was out of his control, in a way.
But his failure to see the game evolving around him before his body failed him is something he’ll have to live with no matter when his career ends.
Wade, Anthony’s draftmate in 2003, has continued to defend Anthony, but Wade has made transitions in his career that Anthony appears unwilling to do. Anthony seems to be stuck in a time warp of sorts, wanting to be the same player who can isolate on a side of the floor while everyone waits on him to make a move or just simply rise up to nail a jumper.
But Father Time, the NBA and certainly the Houston Rockets are waiting for no man.
“He can still help a team, certainly,” a front-office executive told Yahoo Sports. “But he has to realize he’s not the same player he used to be.”
It harkens back to Allen Iverson being resistant of reserve roles in Detroit and Memphis, leading to early departures and a quiet end to his legendary career.
Taking a lesser role was supposed to be the plan in Houston, and by all accounts he’s been a model citizen. Like Iverson, Anthony has been unapologetically himself throughout his career, likely to the point of being misunderstood.
And Iverson learned being misunderstood isn’t so bad, until you need someone to understand.
Perhaps for Anthony, it’s too little, too late.
2. Hard to say if the Eastern Conference is better than the West, but nobody can deny it’s the most compelling.
3. Something feels very different about the issues in the Bay Area. Not catastrophic but different.
4. Risk being the last pick of the All-Star team, or a convenient toe injury that sits you out? Hmmmmm …
5. I can’t watch those gruesome injuries, but I’m glad Caris LeVert’s injury isn’t as bad as it looked.
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