Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden support Astros in ALCS

Carmelo Anthony: Rockets bench role challenging mentally

The Astros enter Game 4 against the Red Sox tonight at a 2-1 deficit, while the Rockets tip off their own game against the New Orleans Pelicans. His thoughts on that role changed when he signed with the Rockets in free agency this summer, telling Houston's coaches he was open to whatever role would best suit the team. With that experience under their belts, they're eager to do even more this season.

Harden and the Rockets finished with the league's best record before losing to the Golden State Warriors in seven games in the Western Conference Finals. Despite not starting, our models expect him to play 30.77 minutes against the Pelicans.

With so many changes to the landscape and the dynamics of the National Basketball Association - particularly the Western Conference - after LeBron James switched forces to become a member of the Los Angeles Lakers and every team in the conference configured deals over the summer to find a way to dethrone the Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans' win over the runner-up to the Warriors is not a bad way to begin what will be a very tough season in the wild West. Harden takes a lot of pressure off him, as does Eric Gordon, but I think the Rockets would love it if a fourth ball handler can emerge to help keep him fresh and healthy.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic, center, puts up a shot betweenHouston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and forward PJ Tucker (17) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, in Houston. That worked when all three were healthy, but if one went down, the Rockets were in a little trouble, and we saw that when Paul missed a bunch of time early in the season.

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The Rockets won the season series 3-1 a year ago.

New Orleans dominated Houston in paint scoring, 76-44, and also shot 40 percent on 10 of 25 shooting from 3, compared with a rusty 33.3 percent (16 of 48) from the Rockets. If this proves the same this season, then Nikola Mirotic or Julius Randle must look to be aggressive on offense down low.

"For me at this point it's just about what I have to do for the sake of the team more so than just trying to go out there and do whatever and have a specific role".

NO. Harden averaged 10.1 free throw attempts per game last season, there there is no reason to believe he will average significantly more than that this season. It might not be best later - we don't know - but having him is something that we didn't have a year ago. Can he become a better shooter? We obviously have some things to work on.

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