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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.

 

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The Astros will have some new rules to adjust to in 2023. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

If you are savvy enough to read next week’s column, you will be doing so with spring training underway in Florida and Arizona. Hip, hip, hooray! Astros pitchers and catchers have their first workout scheduled for next Thursday, with the full squad due early the following week ahead of games starting February 25. Spring training baseball is not meant to be exciting, but the major rules changes that will take effect this season will be in full effect in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, making spring games more interesting to follow.

The biggest change is the death of infield shifts. As reminder or to get up to speed, the first and second baseman must now always be aligned on the first base side of second while the shortstop and third baseman must both be on the third base side of second. Plus, all infielders must have both feet on the dirt of the infield.

There are legitimate points to be made as to why shifts should be allowed, and also why modifying the rules makes sense. I get the argument that if hitters can’t take advantage of an open side of the infield, shame on them. However, taking advantage of a shift is not as easy as it looks.

The best argument against shifts is that they clearly more penalized left-handed hitters. You think Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez will miss losing some hits on balls smashed on one hop 30 or 40 feet into the outfield only to have a second baseman make the play? If once every other week Tuck or Yordan picks up a hit that the shift would have taken away, over 500 at bats, that’s about a 25 point difference in batting average. Defenses couldn’t shift in the same fashion against right-handed hitters because unless the batter/runner has Martin Maldonado or Albert Pujols level (non)speed, throwing guys out at first from 30 or 40 feet out in left field is not viable.

Welcome the pitch clock. There will be griping from some pitchers and hitters. Suck it up buttercups! Adapt or die. In the minor leagues the pitch clock knocked off 20-25 minutes from the average game length. The average big league game should not take more than three hours. For darn sure a 3-1 or 4-2 game shouldn’t take more than three hours.

With no runners on base a pitcher has 15 seconds from when he gets the ball to start his motion, with runner(s) on base 20 seconds. Failure to comply is an automatic ball. It’s called the pitch clock but batters are on notice too. There is simply no need for batters to be stepping out of the batter’s box to contemplate the meaning of life every pitch or two. Batters not in the box and ready when the clock gets down to eight seconds get an automatic strike. There are several exceptions, such as a batter gets one timeout per plate appearance,

The bases themselves are 20 percent larger. Instead of 15 inches square they are now 18 inches square which serves a couple of purposes. There will be a bit more space for infielders to avoid baserunners at the bags. That’s sensible. We’ve all heard “Baseball is a game of inches.” Legendary General Manager Branch Rickey is credited with coining the phrase. Rickey is also the guy who brought Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues, and the guy who basically invented the farm system.

Anyway, back to game of inches. The larger bases shorten the distance between first and second, and second and third base, by four and a half inches. A massive change it is not, but a meaningful change it is. Think of the close calls on stolen base attempts, or a runner going from first to third on a single. It’s not mastering advanced calculus to get that a shorter distance between bases makes it easier to successfully get to the next one. Anything that increases the value of speed in the game is a good thing.

Base stealing will also be impacted by the new pickoff limitations rule. Say Jose Altuve leads off with a single. Up comes Jeremy Pena. The pitcher gets two “disengagements” during Pena’s at bat. Pickoff attempts and stepping off the rubber both count as “disengagement.” A third disengagement not resulting in a pickoff is an automatic balk. Does Altuve take a huge lead to draw pickoff throws knowing that after two non-pickoffs he gets a big advantage?

Might any unintended consequences result from the rules changes? Let’s find out.

Can I interest you in an Astros podcast?

Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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