The Houston Rockets have announced plans to cut ties with Carmelo Anthony after just 13 games together, forcing the former All-Star into an early-season hunt for a new team willing to extend his N.B.A. career.
Before Houston’s nationally televised game against the Golden State Warriors Thursday night, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey said in a statement that the team was going to “move on” from Anthony.
“After much internal discussion, the Rockets are parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and we are working toward a resolution,” Morey said in the statement.
Morey has an arrangement with Anthony and his representatives to give them time to search for a landing spot before formally releasing him.
When Anthony, 34, signed a one-year, $2.4 million minimum contract to play alongside James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston, it was widely regarded as his last chance to find a team that would value his prowess as a midrange scorer — and look past his defensive deficiencies.
But the Rockets, who lost seven of their first 11 games this season, decided to end the Anthony experiment far earlier than expected. Anthony was told this weekend that he no longer had a future with the Rockets, according to two people with knowledge of those talks who were not authorized to discuss them publicly.
Anthony was held out of Houston’s last three games for what the club described as an unspecified “illness,” and he was listed as out for Thursday night’s home game against Golden State.
The last time Anthony played was Nov. 8 at Oklahoma City, where he missed 10 of 11 shots from the field in a 98-80 loss to a Thunder team playing without the injured Russell Westbrook. The Thunder’s own Anthony experiment lasted just one season before he was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in July as part of a deal for guard Dennis Schroder.
The Hawks subsequently bought out Anthony’s $27.9 million contract, from his original Knicks deal, which cleared the way for Houston to sign him. Because he was signed as a free agent this summer, Anthony will not be eligible to be traded until Dec. 15.
With the Rockets, Anthony vowed to accept the sixth-man role that he openly resisted as a member of the Thunder, but he ended up appearing in just 10 games for Houston, starting twice.
“Carmelo had a tremendous approach during his time with the Rockets and accepted every role head coach Mike D’Antoni gave him,” Morey said in his statement. “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.”
Anthony was also coached by D’Antoni when he was with the Knicks.
He averaged 13.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds in his 10 games with Houston, with a high of 28 points in a Nov. 2 victory over the Nets. Anthony averaged at least 20 points per game in his first 14 seasons — and exceeded 25 points per game in seven of those. He currently ranks 19th in league history with 25,551 career points.
Yet if he is unable to latch onto another team, Anthony will leave the league with only three playoff series victories on his résumé after winning an N.C.A.A. championship at Syracuse in his only collegiate season.
Anthony made one trip to the Western Conference finals in seven and a half seasons with the Denver Nuggets and also helped the Knicks advance to the second round of the playoffs in 2013. But many critics have focused more on his nine first-round exits and his later struggles to maintain prominence in a league that has gone away from the isolation-heavy offenses in which Anthony thrived for much of his career.
Anthony, however, did help the United States win Olympic gold medals in 2008, 2012 and 2016, prompting both the Thunder and the Rockets to hope that they could inspire him to play more like “Olympic Melo” — as Anthony has been dubbed in reference to his national-team success.
The Rockets entered Thursday’s play ranked 21st in the league in defensive rating. But for all of the angst about how much Anthony’s presence would weaken the Rockets defensively, Houston’s offensive efficiency — ranked 22nd in a 30-team league after finishing No. 1 in that category last season with one of the most potent offenses in league history — has caused far greater worry within the organization.
The recent emergence of Gary Clark, an undrafted rookie, is believed to be a contributing factor to Anthony’s departure. Currently on a two-way contract that the Rockets plan to convert into a full-fledged N.B.A. contract, Clark has moved into D’Antoni’s rotation.
After Clark logged 33 effective minutes in a recent home win over Indiana, D’Antoni responded to the performance by proclaiming: “Gary Clark’s a player. He’s a player. Defense, rebounding, right position, shoots the ball.”