POINT BLANK

Joel Blank: Would Carmelo Anthony be a fit with the Rockets?

Carmelo Anthony failed last season with Oklahoma City. Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Is Carmelo Anthony the missing piece to the Rockets puzzle, or is he the square peg that just won't fit in the round hole in H-town? The worst kept secret in the NBA is the news coming out of Oklahoma City that Carmelo Anthony is going to be a "victim" of the stretch provision and essentially be waived. As a soon-to-be free agent, he has always been on the Rockets radar. GM Daryl Morey has gone after the small forward from Syracuse repeatedly, to no avail. The question now isn't if the third time is the charm; the bigger question becomes, is he the right fit to help get the Rockets over the hump and win an NBA title?

Last season with the Thunder, Carmelo Anthony had a chance to be a part of something big, and something better than any team he had ever played on. Sure he won an NCAA title, but since then his teams have been more bad than good and nowhere close to winning. He was known less for points and more for headaches, as he put himself and his stats above anything else. He’s had the reputation as selfish throughout his career and he lived up to that billing once again last season.

When questioned about his lack of production and possible demotion to the bench, he said he was unwilling to take a reserve role, even if it was for the betterment of the team. He constantly took bad shots that were deep, rushed and contested, even when coming off the bench cold at key junctures in games.

There was very little harmony between Melo, Paul George and Russell Westbrook and they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the young and hungry Utah Jazz. Anthony opted in to the final year of his deal at over $27 million dollars for next season and in the process, sealed his fate with the Thunder as he was one and done, just like his college career.

The Thunder are so far over the cap and with a desire to improve the team around Westbrook and George, GM Sam Presti knew the only thing he could do to free up cash and give his team hope, was get rid of Anthony. As he stares reality in the face and is at that crossraods that every good player has to face, is he going to do less to try and win more, or screw it all up and continue to just try and score?

We all know that the Rockets need help at the small forward position, especially with Trevor Ariza leaving in free agency.  Houston has lost out on a number of candidates, via free agency or trade. Unless prayers can be answered and a team is willing to accept Ryan Anderson’s ridiculous contract, solutions are running pretty thin. It’s been reported that Melo has been open to joining the team in the past. He works out with James Harden and Chris Paul in the off season, so he knows their game and has a relationship with them both on and off the court. As we saw with CP3 and the Beard last season, that is a very valuable aspect in any player the Rockets bring in.

Anthony has a stellar resume filled with stats and accomplishments that no one can ever take away from him, but is he willing to make sacrifices for the sake of winning and can he be the missing link instead of this season's version of Joe Johnson? Can he get along and coexist with a coach he once butted heads with, who eventually resigned, in Mike D'Antoni? Does that coach even want him on the team or is this where the GM shows who's boss and creates chaos in the happy place that is the Clutch City front office? Is there enough ball to go around and is he willing to play defense on a consistant basis for the first time in his career? These are all questions that need to be answered before a move of this magnitude is made. The last thing you want to do is to blow it all up before these Rockets even get to taxi their Finals destination. If you ask me, the answer is no.

 

Deshaun Watson takes his act to New York. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Texans Saturday play a lousy 4-9 Jets team Saturday now without its leading rusher (Isaiah Crowell) and leading pass catcher (Quincy Enunwa). Then they face a probably Carson Wentz-less Eagles team seeing its Super Bowl championship defense die away. Then the awful Jaguars come to Houston. 12-4 is right there for the Texans, but that will only be enough for the number three seed in the AFC and a Wild Card weekend home game unless the fading Steelers rise up Sunday to knock off the Patriots. That game is in Pittsburgh. The Patriots' final two games are both at home against the Bills and Jets.

With the Patriots losing their game to the Miami Miracle, on one hand you can say the Texans blew a massive opportunity in losing at home to the Colts. On the other hand the Colts were clearly the better team in ending the Texans' nine game winning streak.

The loss to Indy was a reality check. The Texans are a pretty good team, but glaring areas of weakness keep it from being a reeeeally good team. The offensive line is flat lousy in pass protection, though sometimes Deshaun Watson makes it look even worse by holding on to the ball too long. Pending free agent moves in the offseason, one of the Texans' top two draft picks next spring MUST be spent on an offensive lineman, the other on a cornerback (if not on another o-lineman). Even in their zone-heavy scheme, the Texans lack corners who run well enough. If the pass rush isn't raising hell, the secondary is Swiss cheesy. Remember, the Texans have an extra second pick this spring, acquired from Seattle in last year's Duane Brown trade.

If somehow the Texans chump up two of their remaining three games, as long as one of the losses isn't to the Jaguars they still win the AFC South even if the Titans or Colts win out.

Coogs' house

None of the Phi Slama Jama era Houston Cougar basketball teams started a season better than 5-0. Sunday Kelvin Sampson's Coogs go for a Bo Derek (perfect 10, anybody remember Bo?) start. Only UH team ever to open 10-0: the Elvin Hayes-led '67-'68 squad that went 31-0 and along the way beat UCLA in the Game of the Century before the Bruins obliterated the Cougars at the Final Four.

The new Fertitta Center is a modest-sized gem, and currently offers the hands down best sports environment in town. Non-Cougars are never going to embrace UH in big numbers especially not in a major league sports town, so UH's "For the City" slogan doesn't hit the mark. But so what? Drawing more of the Cougar base, plus any outside of it who might have some interest piqued by intensely played quality college basketball is good enough.

Rockets rumors

The Rockets have been vastly less excitement-inducing this season, though James Harden's closing brilliance in a 50 point explosion Thursday night to put away the Lakers was a doozy. Getting back to and then over ,500 is the Rockets' near term goal. A good month of sustained quality play is needed to restore credibility. Chris Paul's overall level of play remains a serious concern. The rumor this week of their interest in Cleveland malcontent J.R. Smith, egads! That would render Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey Desperate Daryl. Morey is trying to recover from his awful offseason, but I can't believe he sees J.R. Smith as worthwhile.

Speaking of Morey's offseason work, the Rockets Saturday gain the right to trade Carmelo Anthony. What a bonanza must await in return!

Astros still armed

Not a great look for the Astros that they tugged on their purse strings while the Tampa Bay Rays of all teams guaranteed Charlie Morton $30 million dollars over the next two years. The Astros did not err. Morton was on balance outstanding in his two Astro seasons but he wore down badly this year, and at 35 years old his arm is a ticking bomb. The Astros should add an established starting pitcher, but even if Jeff Luhnow doesn't, the Collin McHugh/Brad Peacock/Josh James/Framber Valdez quartet isn't an indefensible plan to cover three rotation spots while waiting on elite prospect Forrest Whitley's arrival during the 2019 season. If poor performance/injuries are issues, nothing precludes a notable in-season trade. That Verlander fellow worked out okay a couple of seasons ago. A left handed hitter is the obvious other logical Astros' target.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Pipe down Tony La Russa. Harold Baines making the Baseball Hall of Fame is ridiculous. 2. La Russa also used to lambaste those who dared to believe that Mark McGwire might have been a steroid guy. 3. Best teams in the AFC: Bronze-Patriots Silver-Chargers Gold-Chiefs (but barely post-loser Kareem Hunt).

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