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Rockets face handful of risks in attempt to reunite Melo, D'Antoni

Jim McIsaac / Getty Images Sport / Getty

In an episode of "Seinfeld," a mortified Jerry, after pretending to be somebody else on the phone while talking to his girlfriend, hangs up and asks himself: "What drives me to take chances like that!?"

That can't be answered, but what's driving the Houston Rockets right now is an all-in thirst to challenge the Golden State Warriors. With multiple reports swirling that Carmelo Anthony will be traded from the Knicks to Houston imminently, it's clear Rockets GM Daryl Morey is indeed, as he told ESPN's Zach Lowe in June, "upping his risk profile."

Related - Report: Harden recruited Melo during trip to Paris

There's a rule of thumb that many "feuds," in New York City sports team parlance, are at least slightly overblown by the sheer scope of local media, but the 69-game 2011-2012 alliance of former Knicks (and current Rockets) head coach Mike D'Antoni and Anthony was clearly strained.

When the franchise cornerstone reportedly presented an ultimatum to the Knicks to choose between himself and D'Antoni, the coach resigned. "I just went in and quit," he told ESPN's Tim Keown in May.

D'Antoni's speed-ball offense never really worked with Anthony, and the superstar's much-reported resentment of breakout star Jeremy Lin in the winter of 2012 partly stemmed from D'Antoni's desire to keep Lin as a focal point of the team's attack.

To be fair, however - and to borrow from "Seinfeld" again - it appears that's all water near a bridge. These are highly paid adults, after all, and it's logical that at age 33, Anthony is prepared to significantly amend his style to fit with a true contender. Consider that if he were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cavs didn't give up Kevin Love, a logjam effect would likely cut his minutes before anything else.

Yet, the Rockets already have adjustments to make even if they don't obtain Anthony. Pairing the ball-dominant tendencies of James Harden and Chris Paul is going to take some ironing out - not that it can't work, as theScore's Joe Wolfond explained. But a one-on-one scorer of Anthony's ilk - one who has never excelled under D'Antoni's uptempo style or even shown great shot selection - might not be the ideal fit.

At the same time, keep in mind that Anthony did show some flashes of open-mindedness in these last lost Knicks seasons. Playing with Kristaps Porzingis appeared to unlock some passing tendencies - at least in 2015-16, when he averaged a career-high 4.2 dimes per game and a 21.9 assist percentage.

Another aspect of a potential Houston landing is Melo starting regularly at power forward. Given that Ryan Anderson would likely be shipped out in any trade and the Rockets would need to retain as much 3-point shooting as possible (players like Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon), it's almost Anthony's default position on the Gulf Coast.

Of course, he didn't like playing the four under D'Antoni in New York, but did show willingness and effectiveness there later. A Paul-Anthony pick-and-roll would be pretty damn good, to say nothing of Harden's involvement.

Anthony has also shown an alacrity for on-court sacrifice during his Team USA career, something D'Antoni was a part of with him. "We don't have a bad relationship ... he's a good guy," the coach said of Anthony on The Vertical's podcast last year. "But I had one vision that I wanted him to play one way. He wanted to go the other way. I couldn't get to my way."

Times may be about to change. Make no mistake, this is somewhat outside-the-box superteam construction. But credit Morey if he rolls the dice, and the Warriors for pushing him to do it.

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