Carmelo Anthony officially became a member of the Houston Rockets on Monday when he signed a one-year contract at the league’s veteran minimum of $2.4 million.
On Twitter, the Rockets shared a picture of General Manager Daryl Morey with Anthony as the player formally signed his new deal after completing a physical. Anthony’s close friend Chris Paul, who will be asked by the Rockets to help smooth the former Knick’s transition to Houston, tweeted a welcome, as did James Harden, the league’s reigning winner of the Most Valuable Player Award.
The Rockets’ decision to sign Anthony as their primary replacement for the defensive specialist Trevor Ariza — who left for Phoenix via free agency — has been met with considerable skepticism. But Rockets officials are confident that Paul’s presence and the success Houston enjoyed last season with Paul alongside Harden will help Anthony flourish as a Rocket — despite Anthony’s late-season struggles in Oklahoma City as a third option behind the All-Stars Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
Houston continues to be regarded as Golden State’s foremost threat in the Western Conference, even after losing Ariza and another defensive specialist in Luc Mbah a Moute, who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Rockets won a league-high 65 games and were the West’s top seed entering the playoffs last season but lost the conference finals to the Warriors in seven games after Paul suffered a serious hamstring injury late in Game 5.
Anthony’s deal was delayed only by his recent trip to Africa in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Anthony had decided to join the Rockets as soon as he secured his free agency, which occurred Aug. 1 following a three-team trade that sent Anthony from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Atlanta Hawks.
Anthony, 34, agreed to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the deal to Atlanta with the understanding that the Hawks would buy Anthony out of the final season on his original five-year, $124 million contract signed with the Knicks in the summer of 2014.
But Anthony isn’t sacrificing any pay for his free agency. The Hawks will pay $25.5 million of Anthony’s $27.9 million salary for the coming season, with the Rockets covering the difference through this new deal.
Rockets Coach Mike D’Antoni resigned as Knicks coach late in the 2011-12 season after repeatedly struggling to persuade Anthony to shift to power forward at that time. But D’Antoni told USA Today in an interview Monday that he and Anthony “never had a blowup” and that he expected no trouble working with the former All-Star for a second time.
“At different points of people’s careers or lives or circumstances, things are different,” D’Antoni said.
Referring to the February 2011 trade with Denver that the Knicks made to acquire Anthony, D’Antoni added: “In New York, when they gave away half the team and everybody expected us to win a championship, it really wasn’t realistic. It put a lot of pressure on everybody, and it kind of burst the pipes. I think this is totally different.
“We’ve got a team that is a whole bunch of veterans that really — we’ve got one thing in mind and that’s to win a championship.”