When Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks in February of 2010, it felt like an inevitable conclusion. As the story was reported at the time, Anthony, who was set to become a free agent that summer, had made no secret of his desire to join the Knicks, which essentially forced the Nuggets to trade their franchise player to avoid losing him for nothing a few months later.
But Anthony now says that wasn’t the case, that in fact he never wanted to leave Denver, and that his hand was the one that was forced by a Denver franchise intent on rebuilding.
“Contrary to what anyone believes, I never wanted to leave Denver,” Anthony stated during a recent appearance on the All The Smoke podcast. “I never told people that. .. I never wanted to leave Denver. But they put my back against the wall.
“You go to the Western Conference Finals in ’09, what are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to build on that. You’re supposed to add people,” Anthony continued. “They got rid of Dahntay Jones. On that team, Dahntay was a key piece on that team. They’re like, we ain’t re-signing Chauncey [Billups]. We’re about to trade J.R. [Smith], K-Mart’s (Kenyon Martin) contract was up and the lockout’s coming? So, I’m not about to rebuild after we went to the Western Conference Finals.
“I don’t want to go, but if y’all going to rebuild, it’s time for me to go somewhere else.”
This is an interesting revelation. One could argue if Anthony wanted to compete for championships so badly, then why not wait for the offseason when New York perhaps wouldn’t have had to give up so much to get him? Instead, the Knicks gave up a pretty big haul for Anthony, including prime Danilo Gallinari and the draft pick that became Jamal Murray, and proceeded to only make the playoffs three times during Anthony’s six-and-a-half year New York tenure.
But you can understand Anthony thinking he was going to a team with a shot to compete. Billups went with him to New York, and Amar’e Stoudemire — who we now know was about to fall off the proverbial cliff but at the time was having a great season in 2010-11 — was already there. Anthony became a cautionary tale for franchises emptying the cupboards to bring in a single star. We don’t see that anymore. Stars come in pairs, if not trios, if a team is truly going to deplete the roster to get them.
It is interesting to think about how differently Anthony’s career might’ve gone had he stayed in Denver. He was so great, and had Denver been able to put more pieces around him, that was a team on a cusp of contention. If Anthony’s version of the story is accurate, and the Nuggets were about to move into a rebuild, that is a bit hard to understand.