In a recent interview with Houston Rockets power forward Carmelo Anthony, ESPN's Rachel Nichols asked him about his arrival in Houston, his departure from Oklahoma City and how he will approach the upcoming season playing for the Rockets. An edited transcript of the interview follows:
Rachel Nichols: OK, so it took an extra season from what you initially expected, but you are a Houston Rocket. How does it feel, now that you're actually here and about to start playing for real?
Carmelo Anthony: It feels natural, like a natural fit. I've been connected to the Rockets for the past three, four years.
Nichols: Right. We thought you were coming here a season ago.
Anthony: Yeah, everybody did. But, I think it's a natural fit.
Nichols: What is the biggest transition, though? Because there's something about when you switch teams.
Anthony: Just getting acclimated to the team and the organization and the city and living and personnel. All of that stuff comes into play. The basketball part will take care of itself. That's a little bit of an adjustment, too, but it's everything that's surrounding the move.
Nichols: How big a difference, though, does it make to have Chris [Paul] here?
Anthony: He makes it easier. And not from a basketball standpoint, but from a living standpoint. Just being here. Having somebody that I'm close to. But just all the guys on the team, they make you feel so welcome, and the transition was so smooth.
Nichols: And look, I know last year, you had your own good experience there. I know you guys thought you had a shot at winning and doing well. When you look back on that year, how would you describe it?
Anthony: I think challenging, a little bit. Of course, we had our good times, and we had our down times, but the best thing that I took from that situation was the way ... like we had to just focus on, like, day to day, and trying to make it work and trying to make it a fit and trying to figure out what's gonna happen and who's gonna do what and where you're gonna be at.
And living in OKC. I felt like I never really kinda got my feet wet there and got settled in. I came the day before media day of the 25th hour, so everything was kind of a rush for me, to be able to go in and not know what's going on, the surroundings, the new organization, new teammates, new players.
But for the most part, people might think different, but I actually had a great time in OKC. I think being so close with Russ [Westbrook] and PG [Paul George], and then all the other guys on the team, and the organization was very helpful in trying to make the transition smoothly. I had a great time in OKC.
Nichols: So tell me about that transition, though. How did things go down over the summer after the season? Did you come to them? Did they come to you?
Anthony: We had a real conversation. I had a real conversation with Coach [Billy] Donovan, and we had all summer to try to figure it out. And they told me they was looking in another direction, and I know how the game works.
I saw through it, and it was a very honest conversation that I've had with them. And it just didn't work out. I mean, in life, everything don't work out, so that's the way that I looked at it. I didn't leave with no bad blood. We still communicate with guys over there, the organization. And it just didn't work out, at the end of the day.
Nichols: It helps when you land the next place, a place that you feel so comfortable. I loved even in the trip down to the Bahamas you guys took, before the season started. You're in there. You guys [the Rockets] seem like you've got great chemistry? The little clips and video we saw ...
Nichols: You, of course, stayed on brand on the beach.
- Chris Paul (@CP3) September 6, 2018
Anthony: It was very hot in the Bahamas.
Nichols: And so why are you wearing a hoodie on the beach?
Anthony: I actually felt cooler with the hoodie on, in the heat, than having no shirt on on the beach. That's how hot it was.
Nichols: And I'm sure you guys have talked a little bit about the player you want to be here? Everyone says they need you to be "Olympic Melo." Can you even describe what that is?
Anthony: When you have 12 of the best players on one team in the world, it's easier to just go out there and be "Olympic Melo." When it comes down to the tedious season and the nuances of putting a team together and figuring out what your role is going to be, not knowing what your role is gonna be, being a little bit confused about that, and just having an opportunity to get here early, I think that helped.
And having an honest conversation with Coach Mike [D'Antoni] and the organization and the guys and just really understanding kinda what they need me to bring to this team. And every game will be different. It's a long season; that experience that I had in OKC will definitely help me with this experience.
Nichols: You did say in Oklahoma City last year, publicly, at a press conference, "I do not want to come off the bench. This is not something I'm interested in." Has that changed?
Anthony: Well, I don't think that would never change. I know what I can bring, and I know what I still can do and what I still have. So, my confidence from that standpoint, yeah, I always have to say, "I don't wanna come off the bench."
But knowing that ahead of time and having those conversations and going game-to-game and understanding, "OK, we might need you to do this tonight. We might need you to do that tonight," I have a clearer understanding of what my role is.
Nichols: Do you feel like if they ask you to come off the bench on a certain night, or if they don't want to close a game with you on a certain night, you can live with that?
Anthony: Yeah, I mean, I would have to live with it. That's something I will have to get used to if that was to happen. But the biggest thing for me is just communicate that with me. If it's a group of guys out there that's playing well coming down the stretch, then we're gonna roll with them. I'm cool with that.
I mean, of course I wanna be out there, but just communicate that with me. And that's the only thing I ask. And so far, the communication has been, you know, very open and honest, and the dialogue has been great. And everybody's on the same page, so that makes it easier.
Nichols: Did you and Coach D'Antoni have to have a moment before you agreed to come here? Sort of working out what happened in New York?
Anthony: Yeah, but you know, in that situation in New York was, like, it happened so fast. And the media blew that situation up. And nobody really know exactly what happened, if anything, between me and Mike D'Antoni. At the time, he was at a different point in his life, dealing with what he was dealing with, dealing with New York organization, that team.
I was at a different point in my career. So, I think now we got opportunity to just lay it all out on the table. You know, we talk a long time about kinda where we was as people -- as a player, as a coach, at that point in time -- the journey from then till now, where we at now and how we're able to just kinda put that behind us.
And you know, he said something to me like, "You know, everybody deserves a second chance. I hope you give me a second chance." And it was just good to hear kinda how energetic he was about having me here and being a part of this.
Nichols: It's kinda nice in some ways to have a second shot.
Anthony: It is. Because since New York, we've had plenty of Olympic time and USA games and coaching, and we really didn't have that much dialogue during those games, because so much is happening. But I'm glad we had the conversation.
Nichols: Now, when you talk about adjusting to the kind of role you need to play here, part of it is you individually as a player, part of it is the way they play basketball.
Anthony: Yeah, that's the adjustment. That's the adjustment. Playing faster, shooting more 3s, shooting quicker. Just understanding the personnel that's out there and the system and what we're trying to do, what we're trying to accomplish. Once we established that early ... watching film, talking to guys, constantly talking to people, even these first two preseason games ... it makes it a little bit easier for me.
Nichols: Yeah, if you look at your stats last season, about half your shots were those midrange jumpers. You know, those long 2s.
Anthony: Yeah, of course.
Nichols: Right? How hard is it in the moment, in a game ... you're just in your flow. You've been playing this game since you were a kid ...
Nichols: ... to think, "Oh, wait, I gotta get to a different spot on the floor than half my shots?"
Anthony: Well, I think me knowing that coming into it, that makes it easier, right? I don't think ...
Nichols: What's it like, though? Do you have to actually think about it while you're out there?
Anthony: Before I got here, I was thinking about it. Like, "Man, I don't wanna shoot that. Or should I shoot that? Like, is that a good shot or not?" But now I'm not thinking about that. As long as I know overall what I have to do and get to my spots on the court and get to the different places that I need to be, as long as that's in the rhythm and in the flow of the game, then I'm gonna shoot that.
And you know, Coach would allow me to shoot that, because at the end of the day, those are the shots that I've been making for my whole career. He understands that. As long as I don't do it a bunch of times and force the issue on that, then we're all good.
Nichols: There was that preseason game, though, where you pump-faked from inside the 3-point line. You made the shot, you're going back to the bench saying, "My bad, my bad."
Anthony: Yeah, it was a joke. We was just joking about that, because we always talk about ... we work on side-stepping 3s and stepping back and that was just a natural move, a natural shot, and I looked over at the bench and see what they was gonna say and said, "My bad." But it was just more of, you know, a joke, a little moment. It just having fun and enjoying it.
Melo apologizes to bench after long 2-pointer
After a long 2-point shot, Carmelo Anthony apologizes to his teammates on the bench.
Nichols: It made me laugh, because I was wondering if you've ever apologized for a made shot before?
Anthony: No, never. Never. I never apologize for a midrange shot.
Nichols: Right, exactly. Now look, back in college, March Madness, you won the whole thing with Syracuse. You got all those Olympic gold medals.
Nichols: For everyone else, you're already a Hall of Famer. For you, how important is it that you have better postseason success, that you get to that high, maybe championship, level in the NBA?
Anthony: Well, that's the goal. I know everybody talks about that's the goal. But this is a very unique and special opportunity, for me as an individual. To be part of a team who already has some success, and to come in and be a part of that and have opportunity to kinda help this and take it to the next level, and hopefully win a championship. That gives you a different motivation, to know that you're working towards that, to know that you have a group of guys who was almost there, who smelled it, who had their hands right there. And for me to come in and be a part of that, like, that gives me a different focus and then a different motivation.
Nichols: You've led me to my natural last question here. So, do you think that what's in this locker room -- do you feel you are a championship team, knowing the Warriors are out there, knowing they've added Boogie Cousins?
Anthony: Yeah, we believe that. We believe that, and we believe that we have a legitimate shot to win a championship. Now we know everything from now until June that we have to put in the work and do all the things that we have to do, but our belief is ... we believe that we can win a championship with this group.
Nichols: See, when it's all over, they're not gonna say, "Oh, we love Olympic Melo." Maybe they'll say, "We love Houston Melo."
Anthony: Yes. I mean, it went from loving Syracuse Melo to loving Denver Melo with then to Olympic Melo, now Hoodie Melo. So, hopefully Rocket Melo.