HOUSTON -- The Rockets have yet to make a decision on whether Carmelo Anthony will start this season -- and he said he has not "had that conversation with anybody yet" -- but the 10-time All-Star did not shoot down the possibility of coming off the bench for the first time in his career.
That is a significant change from a year ago, when Anthony mockingly asked, "Who, me?" when asked about his willingness to come off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"At the end of the day, we're all going to camp to figure out what works in order for this team to try to win a championship," Anthony said at media day Monday, a day before the Rockets open training camp in Lake Charles, Louisiana. "If that time comes, we'll have that conversation. My goal is to go into training camp, be the best player I can be, be in the best shape I can be and do what I have to do to help this team get over the hump and win a championship. That's all it is.
"All the questions of coming off the bench, I don't want to answer those questions at the end of the day. Whatever I have to do to help this team win a championship, that's what's going to be done."
The 34-year-old Anthony has started all 1,054 games of his career, the second-most consecutive starts to begin a career in NBA history behind Patrick Ewing (1,118). He signed for the veteran's minimum with the Rockets in August after receiving a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks, who traded for Anthony when the Thunder decided to unload his contract after a disappointing season in Oklahoma City, with the 15-year veteran hitting career lows in scoring (16.2 points per game) and field goal percentage (.404).
Houston coach Mike D'Antoni, who clashed with Anthony during their brief time together with the New York Knicks, was noncommittal when asked if he planned to use the No. 19 scorer in NBA history as a reserve.
"We'll see how it fits," D'Antoni said. "I don't know how they play together, they fit together. We have a great analytics team that will help [in addition to] gut feel. We do a lot of it scientifically, that this is the best way to go."
The Rockets will have a new starting small forward with the free-agency departure of Trevor Ariza, who signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the Phoenix Suns. That void could be filled by James Ennis, an athletic role player who started 50 games over the past two seasons for the Memphis Grizzlies and Detroit Pistons.
D'Antoni said he sees Anthony as primarily a power forward, the position that PJ Tucker filled in the starting lineup after the All-Star break and throughout the playoffs last season.
The Rockets, who set a franchise record with 65 wins and advanced to the Western Conference finals last season, had great success with Tucker as a starter. Houston was 29-5 with Tucker, a tough, versatile defender, in the starting lineup during the regular season.
"You can't discount that," D'Antoni said. "Again, we'll look at everything. To me, P.J. Tucker is one of the best players in the league. Here's a guy that maybe plays the best defense in the league. That's half the game right there. He might be the best, if not one of the top five. Now you've got a guy who as a starter shot [39.1] percent from 3, [46.7] percent in the playoffs. Really, there's a lot of guys shooting better than that? And a guy that will get every loose ball, every chemistry play, every play he is playing all out. I don't know how we judge people. That is a great player. He is a great player on our team."
Despite not knowing whether he will start, Anthony stressed that he has a comfort level with the Rockets that he never attained last season with the Thunder. He said that he has a clarity about what Houston needs from him that he never had in Oklahoma City, which acquired him in a trade from the New York Knicks on Sept. 25.
"Just the fact that I was able to have my feet wet, get my feet settled, mentally be like, emotionally be kind of free and at peace with my decision and have the opportunity to have a proper plan about this situation," said Anthony, who signed with the Rockets after extensive conversations with stars James Harden and Chris Paul, general manager Daryl Morey and D'Antoni. "Being able to kind of draw out and have those goals and see those pictures and vision what this could look like, what this could be.
"Whereas before, everything for me felt like it was rushed. It happened at the 25th hour. I didn't have the opportunity to go into the situation and really have a great understanding of what was needed from me and what I needed to do. I was learning on the fly almost, whereas now I had an opportunity to go to the Bahamas and be with the team. Also for the team to have an opportunity to see where I'm at physically and mentally, play on the court with the guys, play pickup, work out and for everybody to see my mentality and like my focus level when it comes to playing basketball and working and trying to win a championship."
Harden, the reigning MVP, expects it "to be a breeze" for Anthony to fit in with the Rockets. Harden anticipates that he and Paul will be able to consistently create open shots for Anthony, who has thrived as a spot-up shooter during his time with Team USA. Harden said he saw proof of that during pickup games on the recent team trip to the Bahamas.
"We ran our offense, ran our sets, and he was in positions where he was scoring and looked comfortable," Harden said. "I know what he brings to the table. I'm not out here just running around for me and myself. I know how effective he can be, so I want to put him in positions where he can be effective, and Chris feels the same way. When you've got two guys like that that are consistent about putting each guy in their position, everybody's going to eat.
"We're all going to figure it out, and we're all going to eat. We're all going to look good and all going to be smiling. That's what it is, and we're going to rack up a lot of wins. Obviously, things aren't going to be perfect throughout the course of the season, and that's where you have communication."