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Rockets still dealing with Melo drama

You would have thought we were past this by now.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It seems strange that we’re still talking about a guy who played only 10 games for the Houston Rockets a full eight months after his departure from the team, but I guess when it’s the late July/August NBA doldrums, this is our news.

But according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, an anonymous Rockets source mentioned that the Rockets apparently “scapegoated” Carmelo Anthony as the main catalyst for their underwhelming start to the season last year. Shams said:

“A lot of the blame was put on Carmelo, but he really should have thrived with the offense and system if the season started properly health-wise,” one Houston source said. “Melo was the scapegoat.“

Now I’m certainly not one to disparage one of the most reliable reporters in the business, but the word “scapegoat” has been tossed around when it comes to Melo since the experiment failure happened last fall, and I have yet to see how it makes any sense.

First, let’s take a look the announcement from the team when the sides agreed to part ways:

“After much internal discussion, the Rockets will be parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution, Carmelo had a tremendous approach during his time with the Rockets and accepted every role head coach Mike D’Antoni gave him. The fit we envisioned when Carmelo chose to sign with the Rockets has not materialized, therefore we thought it was best to move on as any other outcome would have been unfair to him... (We will) allow his representatives to survey the marketplace for a landing spot, which has been an ongoing process in recent days.”

Certainly no disrespect or scapegoating there, right? A pretty professional statement about a tough situation, expressing a desire to do right by the player.

Now I’m willing to concede that the public statements by the team on this matter may not be the most reliable as to what’s really going on behind the scenes. Just a mere four days before the mutual parting was announced, Houston GM Daryl Morey said that while the team was “evaluating everything” after a cringe-inducing start, they had no intentions of releasing Carmelo.

And while that was technically a true statement — the Rockets were evaluating everything and they didn’t release Melo, they ended up trading him — it was pretty careful public PR. Melo was on his way out.

But even if the Rockets knew they needed to move on from Melo, does that automatically equal scapegoating? That’s a pretty big leap in my book when you consider that Houston also traded Michael Carter-Williams, James Ennis, Brandon Knight, and Marquese Chriss. They signed Danuel House, Austin Rivers, and Kenneth Faried. That’s not exactly the sign of a team “scapegoating” one particular player for all of its woes.

Do I think the team believed Melo was part of the problem? Yeah, sure. Xiane broke down some of the issues with Anthony in this awesome piece, but less eloquently than my fellow TDSer said it: Melo was old, and he can’t move at all on defense anymore, a necessity in the switch-heavy NBA.

And that’s a stance that’s since been backed up by the rest of the NBA. Anthony has yet to play another game in the league and was waived by the Chicago Bulls 10 days after he was traded there. The Rockets weren’t exactly wrong.

But we’ve been hearing on and off for eight months now (all sources anonymous, mind. Not a single one on record) about how the Rockets “scapegoated” Anthony, but it’s just hard for me to get past the fact that the team said all the right things publicly and spoke of Melo with respect, they gave him and his agent the opportunity to shop for an appropriate deal (none materialized), and they went on to turn over dang near half of the roster. I just can’t reconcile that with these reports of scapegoating.

You could call him A scapegoat I suppose, if you want to do some gymnastics. Similar to how you can call guys like Carter-Willams and Chriss one, in addition to main rotation guys like Eric Gordon and Clint Capela, who both started extremely slow. In fact, with that nebulous definition of the word, pretty much everyone outside of James Harden could be considered a scapegoat for Houston’s terrible start.

But I don’t believe Melo was the scapegoat, and I have yet to see any real evidence of that being the case.

Anyway, with the summer dwindling away fast and autumn just around the corner, we’ll have real basketball to talk about soon. We’ve hopefully heard the last of the Melo drama.