HOUSTON -- Despite general manager Daryl Morey declaring that Carmelo Anthony is the target of "unfair speculation," the Houston Rockets are strongly considering cutting ties with the 10-time All-Star, league sources told ESPN.
ESPN reported during Houston's loss to San Antonio on Saturday night that the Rockets and Anthony are in discussions about his role and how the franchise and veteran might be able to proceed together the rest of the season.
For the second straight night, Anthony was not with the team Sunday because of an illness, according to the Rockets.
Morey, who held a rare pregame news conference to address the situation with the struggling veteran forward, tepidly said he expects Anthony to play again when healthy.
"One of the reasons I'm here, besides it's 10 games in, about, is I think there's just a lot of unfair, like, rumors and everything going around about him," Morey said before Sunday's game against the Indiana Pacers. "He's been great with us. As Coach [Mike D'Antoni] said yesterday, his approach has been great. He's accepted every role Coach has given him -- starting, off the bench, whatever it's been.
"We're struggling as a team, and it's my job, it's Coach's job to figure this thing out. But from Guy 1 to Guy 15 -- and I'll put myself in there, a lot of this is on me right now -- we're not playing well. We've just got to figure it out. We're evaluating everything."
Rockets star James Harden said he didn't have enough information to comment about Anthony's situation after Houston's 115-103 win over the Pacers. Chris Paul, who along with Harden helped recruit Anthony over the summer, praised his longtime friend but was vague about Anthony's future with the Rockets.
"Melo's been great here," Paul said. "That's like a brother to me, know what I mean? I don't know what's being said or whatnot, but Melo's been great, working hard every day. So we'll see what happens."
D'Antoni on Melo: "Win, lose it's not his fault."
Head Coach Mike D'Antoni says the Rockets are playing bad collectively and that the fault does not fall solely on Carmelo Anthony.
Asked if he expected Anthony to help get the 5-7 Rockets going in the right direction, Paul said, "Man, Melo's a future Hall of Famer, know what I mean? That's me saying that and knowing that. Like I said, we'll see what happens."
Anthony's good friend Dwyane Wade also took to Twitter to speak out in support of Anthony on Sunday.
Trying to make my guy @carmeloanthony the fall guy huh!? Man y'all need to stop. That's the easy way out instead of addressing what the real problem.— DWade (@DwyaneWade) November 12, 2018
The Rockets signed Anthony, 34, to a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum of $2.4 million after he received a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks. Houston hoped Anthony could help the Rockets, who came a win away from the NBA Finals last season, contend for a championship again.
However, Anthony and the Rockets are off to a rough start. Houston was 4-7 entering Sunday night and Anthony, used primarily as a reserve after starting every game of his career in his first 15 seasons, is averaging a career-low 13.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting from the floor. The Rockets' net rating is 8.8 points per 100 possessions better when Anthony sits than when he plays, according to NBA.com statistics.
"We've been extremely happy with his approach," Morey said. "Every reason we've brought him here, he's followed. Again, that's why he's here. It's unfair that there's all this speculation on just one player. I understand it, because he's obviously a Hall of Famer, but it's unfair."
According to league sources, the Rockets and Anthony had discussions this week about his role, which could be reduced even more if he remains on the roster.
"I know, like Daryl said, they're exploring all options," D'Antoni said. "With everybody coming back, it squeezes some things, and then we'll see how it goes."
Asked if Anthony wants to remain on the Rockets, Morey said, "I mean, you're asking the wrong guy. Everything I can tell is yes, absolutely."