LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets and Carmelo Anthony #7 of the Houston Rockets talk during a break in the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Harry How/Getty Images

Carmelo Anthony‘s time with the Houston Rockets mercifully ended Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean his former teammates have stopped believing in him.

“I just want to see him hoop, see him happy, and I mean, he deserves it, honestly,” Harden told reporters of Melo on Tuesday. “Like, he’s put so much time and effort into this game that he should be able to hoop and still have fun playing the game of basketball.”

The Rockets traded Anthony, the rights to Jon Diebler, and cash considerations to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for the rights to Tadija Dragicevic. The move was simply a cash dump by the Rockets, who save on luxury tax fees by moving on from Anthony’s guaranteed salary. The Bulls, meanwhile, get some free cash in exchange for a player who will never suit up in Chicago.

Melo lasted just 10 games with the Rockets before the two sides mutually agreed to part ways, though Anthony remained on the roster. He averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on 40.5 percent shooting.

Harden said it “sucks” Anthony struggled to fit in with Houston. The Rockets signed him this summer after he was bought out by the Atlanta Hawks, in a move Houston hoped would raise its offensive ceiling. 

“Yeah, man. Melo is one of the best to ever hoop. He loves the game of basketball,” Harden said. “Some guys just do it just because they’re gifted or they’re athletic or they can shoot the basketball. There’s not that many players that like, love to hoop. … It kind of sucks that it didn’t work out. It is what it is. I just hope he finds somewhere where they can embrace him and he can still hoop. So he [gets to] make that decision that he’s done [playing].”

Rockets players, coaches and management have gone out of their way to compliment Anthony, who came off the bench for the first time in his career in Houston. Mike D’Antoni, who famously quit in New York in part due to a power struggle with Melo, heaped praise on Anthony’s attitude in a tough situation.

“Just wasn’t a good fit,” D’Antoni said. “And upstairs saw it and did something. He did everything possible to make it work, and it just didn’t.”

It’s unclear what the next move will be. The Bulls cannot trade Melo in a package deal, so they will look for a one-for-one swap ahead of the deadline—likely in an effort to bring back more cash considerations. If they’re unable to find a trade, it’s almost certain Anthony will be bought out. 

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