Rockets, minus Anthony, visit Nuggets

It is only fitting that the Houston Rockets are playing the Nuggets in Denver on Tuesday night with the drama of Carmelo Anthony’s rumored departure taking place.

Anthony was drafted third overall by Denver in the 2003 NBA Draft and spent his first 7 1/2 years with the organization before forcing a trade to the New York Knicks in February 2011.

Anthony was beloved in his time with Denver, helping the team reach the 2009 Western Conference finals, and in the games he’s played at Pepsi Center since, the fans have given him a mixed greeting.

On Tuesday, they won’t be able to greet him at all. Anthony and the Rockets appear to be parting ways 10 games into the season. The Rockets signed him after he was bought out by Oklahoma City, and the short marriage didn’t work.

Houston general manager Daryl Morey said Sunday that Anthony has been a model teammate.

“We’ve been extremely happy with his approach,” Morey told reporters Sunday. “Every reason we’ve brought him here, he’s followed.”

Anthony had good and bad games with Houston, averaging 13.4 points in a reserve role. He had nights where he scored 28, 24 and 22 but in his last game, in his return to Oklahoma City, he was 1 of 11 and scored two points.

He hasn’t played the last two games and didn’t make the trip to Denver, where the Rockets will face a Nuggets team slumping for the first time this season. Denver (9-4) has lost three straight — two in a row at home — and has had trouble with starts and finishes.

Both were an issue in Friday’s loss to Brooklyn, and coach Michael Malone inserted Juancho Hernangomez into the starting lineup against Milwaukee. Hernangomez has played well on both ends of the floor and might remain a starter for the near future.

Torrey Craig, who had been starting since Will Barton went down with a core muscle injury that required surgery, didn’t get into Sunday’s game.

“Moving forward it will probably be Juancho, but depending on matchups it could be Malik (Beasley) one night, it could be Monte (Morris),” Malone told Altitude television Monday.

Denver’s two home losses came despite big games from Nikola Jokic. After averaging 5.4 points and taking 18 total shots in his previous four games Jokic has put up more expected numbers the last two. He had 37 points and 21 rebounds against the Nets and 20 points, six rebounds and six assists in the 121-114 loss to the Bucks.

It wasn’t enough to prevent another loss.

“This is our first little bit of adversity, so we have respond,” forward Mason Plumlee said after Sunday’s loss. “We have to come out and play really well our next home game.”

They’ll face a Rockets team in transition. Coach Mike D’Antoni is expected to use rookie Gary Clark for Anthony’s minutes.

Houston (5-7) has had trouble finding its footing after posting an NBA-best 65 wins last year. The Rockets came within a game of reaching the NBA Finals but have struggled this year. Sunday’s 115-103 victory over Indiana was their first home win in five games.

“We’ve obviously been struggling … but we’ve got to keep building,” guard Chris Paul said after Sunday’s win.