Playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder, as we know, was not Carmelo Anthony’s first choice. His list of preferred trade destinations initially included the Cleveland Cavaliers and Houston Rockets, before eventually, at one time, consisting only of the latter.
As time went on and the New York Knicks neared training camp, though, he opened his stringent list of approved teams to include Oklahoma City, setting up the uneven marriage we see with Paul George and Russell Westbrook. At the time, and even now, it was easy to wonder what took Anthony so long to expand his options. Like, why try so hard to force a deal to Houston? Just so you could play with Chris Paul?
Well, yes. And no.
Anthony didn’t just want to play with Paul. According to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley, he wanted to play with Paul and, eventually, LeBron James:
Anthony, along with most of the rest of the NBA, said in September that he strongly believed he’d be traded to Houston in early July. He’d been talking to friends about teaming up with Chris Paul and, eventually, LeBron James in Houston and how the Rockets could match up with the defending champion Golden State Warriors. He went as far as to detail individual matchups between that hypothetical Rockets team and the Warriors, surmising that he and the Rockets could take out the Warriors. For most of the offseason, Anthony was confident that the Knicks and Rockets would get a deal together. One potential trade involving the Bucks as a third team, with Jabari Parker headed to New York, was discussed.
Talk about your ambitious plans.
Anthony’s dream is technically still alive. Paul is a free agent after this summer, while both James and Anthony himself hold player options. The Rockets have been cited as a dark-horse contender for the four-time MVP, and Anthony could, in theory, decline his own $27.9 million player option and sign for whatever version of the mid-level exception Houston would have available.
Does this seem particularly likely? Not at all. LeBron-to-Houston is a long shot unto itself, and Anthony would have to get on board with making more than $20 million less per year than either of his two friends. Barring a decision from the three of them take pay cuts, something LeBron justifiably appears unwilling to do, this doesn’t register as a feasible scenario.