Carmelo Anthony will suit up for the first time in a game that counts for the Rockets when the Pelicans visit Houston's Toyota Center on Wednesday night for their season opener. He'll experience another first as well, one he laughed at not that long ago. After coach Mike D'Antoni hinted at it during training camp, it's confirmed Oct. 17 is the day Melo comes off the bench for the first time in his career. It's going to be quite an adjustment.
In 1,054 career games, the 10-time all-star has never failed to be on the floor for the opening tip. After starting for Houston to begin preseason, Anthony came off the bench in their last three games after P.J. Tucker returned from injury.
Rachel Nichols asked him about parting ways with the bench, considering how he felt about it last year.
Nichols asked Melo whether he could live with the Rockets asking him to come of the bench, or even finish games without him. "Yeah, because I have to live with it," he answered with a bit of a laugh (he seems more relaxed and happy this season, for what it's worth).
"The biggest thing for me is just to communicate that with me," he added. Nichols also brought up Melo's rocky relationship with coach D'Antoni during their time in New York, so definitely catch the rest of their interview.
On Melo's newfound bench role, when asked by the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen whether he's discussed a possible Six Man of the Year award like teammate Eric Gordon did in his first season coming off the bench for the Rockets in 2017, Melo was honest about the difficulties. "It's hard. I haven't even got myself mentally prepared to think like that," Anthony said. "It's even hard to think like that now. If it happens, it happens. This is a long season. All types of ups and downs are going to happen through the course of the season. If it happens, I guess everybody was a genius, then. Ask me in March. I'll probably have a different answer for you."
During the preseason games where he did come off the bench, D'Antoni would usually call Anthony's name four minutes into each half, with Tucker sliding over to be a small-ball five. That downtime before he's put in the game has been the hardest alteration for the former scoring champion. "It's an adjustment, more so a mental adjustment than a physical adjustment," Anthony said. "That would be the most ... challenging part, shifting your mindset, shifting the way you approach the beginning of the game. The approach to the game is pretty much the same, but you're three, four minutes behind now."
The Rockets and Pelicans tip tonight (Oct. 17) at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.