By Jack Caldwell ’18
After six long years, Carmelo Anthony’s stint with the New York Knicks finally came to an end last week, as he was traded from New York to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a draft pick to be named later. Upon arriving in Oklahoma City, Anthony was asked a reasonable question as to whether or not he would come off the bench for his new team. His response: “Who? Me?!”
Thunder fans were almost immediately introduced to the harsh reality of Carmelo Anthony, a talented scorer whose desire to be popular is greater than his desire to win as evidenced in his time in New York. Although the Knickerbockers did not acquire much in return for the former scoring champion, fans should still be satisfied that the organization moved in the right direction for the first time in years. It’s time to move on from the Carmelo Anthony era.
When Carmelo Anthony demanded a trade from the Denver Nuggets in 2011, New Yorkers were fooled into believing that Anthony’s desire for a trade was fueled by a desire to return to his “hometown”. In reality, Anthony moved away from Brooklyn at age eight, developing his basketball skills in Baltimore, Maryland. In an interview last year, he claimed that “Baltimore raised me – not Brooklyn,” and even has an apparent tattoo that says “WB” on it for West Baltimore. Anthony’s urge to come to New York directly correlated with the market’s status as number one in the country; not to mention that the Knicks’ have been the NBA’s most valuable team for years. When Denver grew too small for his star status, Anthony held the team hostage until he was finally traded, despite the fact that his Nuggets were far more competitive than the Knicks at the time.
Leaving a competitive Nuggets team to come to New York made it clear early on that Anthony’s willingness to be popular was stronger than his will to win. Although the Knicks were a solid team that year, they weren’t close to what Anthony had as a team in Denver – and his Knicks never matched their success.
Early into his New York tenure, a new superstar rose, this time in unexpected fashion. Although the madness only lasted for a few weeks, the name still has meaning for New Yorkers: Jeremy Lin. The underdog hero who saved the 2012 Knicks’ season – and unlike Carmelo Anthony, actually passed the ball – attracted much attention. According to then-Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, Anthony resented Lin’s success as he watched from the bench during an injury. Additionally, Anthony was unwilling to adapt to help Lin continue to thrive. “They could co-exist if Melo went to the 4 [power forward], which he was unwilling to do,” D’Antoni added. Carmelo’s insistence to play the 3 (small forward) and control the offense overcame his will to do what was best for the team, and Jeremy Lin has never been close to the same since.
Sure, Anthony brought some success to New York. The Knicks lone playoff series win in 13 years came with Carmelo as the focal point in 2013. But he also avoided winning yet again during free agency in 2014, declining offers from several competitive teams such as the Rockets and Bulls to stay in New York for more money. Was it foolish for the Knicks to offer Carmelo another contract? Of course, and they’re to blame as well. But the Knicks also offered Anthony a contract that resembled that of other teams’ offers in order to provide salary cap relief, for $96 million. Anthony instead opted to sign for $124 million – advertising this as a whopping $6 million “hometown discount” from the $129 maximum. To provide context, $6 million doesn’t even equate to a veterans’ minimum over the five-year length of the deal. Maybe it’s not right to eviscerate Anthony for following the money, but it’s clear that he preferred money and fame over winning and success.
Carmelo Anthony’s contract has a 15 percent trade kicker, meaning that he would command one of the NBA’s most expensive salaries if he were to be traded. With his lack of flexibility evident after the Jeremy Lin situation, Anthony’s isolation style forces his team to slow down significantly. Considering the fast-paced nature of the modern NBA, the Knicks were granted a blessing in being able to trade an aging, overpaid scorer who holds the ball too much and slows down pace of play. Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott continue the youth movement for New York in return, and the future draft pick is always a plus. As for the Thunder, they can only hope that Melo can put his selfish tendencies behind him to win a championship. OKC certainly has the talent to pull it off if he complies, but if he slows down play he can also be their unraveling.