GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Carmelo Anthony is normally the Knicks’ main attraction on Media Day and most days for that matter. But for the first time in seven years, Anthony wasn’t sitting in front of a throng of reporters talking about trying to lead the Knicks into the playoffs.
Anthony’s Knicks’ career officially ended Monday as the blockbuster trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder was finalized. The Knicks received Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and Chicago’s 2018 second-round pick for Anthony, a 10-time All-Star.
The Knicks have a huge void to fill now. But new GM Scott Perry said they have “the opportunity to turn the page” and president Steve Mills called it “a new beginning.” Although his former teammates wanted Anthony back with the Knicks, they supported him on his way out.
“I understand it’s a business and he has to make the best decision for himself,” Kristaps Porzingis said. “I believe that was the best for him to find a new challenge and go to Oklahoma City.”
Porzingis’ role will change the most with Anthony’s departure. He is expected to become the face of the Knicks, and their focal point on the court. He said he was “grateful” to play with Anthony and called him “a great leader” and “a great mentor.”
Anthony waived his no-trade clause and 15-percent trade kicker for the deal to go through. His first choice was to play with the Rockets. But when the Knicks couldn’t put together a trade they liked with Houston they asked Anthony to expand his wish list. He added Cleveland and Oklahoma City.
On Friday, Knicks officials said they expected Anthony to be with the team Monday and for the start of training camp Tuesday. But Perry said things with Oklahoma City “got really serious” Friday night into Saturday morning.
The timing was right for Anthony and the Knicks so they could have a fresh start going into the new season and avoid drama and distraction.
“It still came down to something that was going to be presented to us that made enough sense from a basketball perspective,” Perry said. “It just happened to come together late Friday night, early Saturday morning. So we’re looking forward to moving ahead, establishing the culture that we want to have here and how we’re going to play as a basketball team.
“If there was something that made sense we were going to move forward without him. And if it didn’t, we were going to move forward with him. This just happened to make the most sense as far as moving forward . . . We felt the timing was right and what we were going to get back was something we could work with in a positive manner.”
The Knicks have been touting their youth movement and developing the core of Porzingis, Willy Hernangomez, Tim Hardaway Jr., rookie Frank Ntilikina and Ron Baker. It officially starts now, but Hardaway Jr. said he tried to talk Anthony into staying when they worked out together over the summer.
“I obviously tried to convince him to stay,” said Hardaway Jr., who returned to the Knicks in July after signing a four-year, $71-million deal in free agency. “We were working out together for the second half of the summer, majority of the time. You’re not going to change his mind. At the end of the day he had a choice to make and he decided to make a choice and go to OKC. He’s got to do what’s best for him.”
The Knicks thanked Anthony for all he did in his six-plus seasons with the team on and off the court.
Mills announced that the Knicks would donate $100,000 to Anthony’s hurricane relief project in Puerto Rico.
“We know it’s important to him and we want to thank him for everything he’s done for us,” Mills said.
Anthony, the Knicks’ biggest star since Patrick Ewing, averaged 24.7 points over 412 games and established a franchise and Madison Square Garden scoring record when he poured in 62 points Jan. 23, 2014, against Charlotte.
He led the Knicks to the playoffs his first three seasons, but they failed to make it the last four years. Anthony didn’t mesh well with Phil Jackson. The former Knicks president did everything to push Anthony out the door before he was fired in June. But the damage was done, as Anthony decided his time was up in New York.
In return, the Knicks received two 25-year-old players who should help make up for some of the scoring they’ll lose with Anthony.
Kanter has been one of the top scorers off the bench in the league the last few years, and he’s excited about being a Knick. He spends time in New York in the offseason, and was part of Anthony’s pick-up games over the summer.
After learning about the trade, Kanter, who was with Utah when Jeff Hornacek was an assistant coach there, said he woke up in the middle of the night and “punched” himself to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. He has no issue leaving a perennial playoff team for one that’s rebuilding.
“This is a great team,” Kanter said. “It’s a young group of guys, I understand. But I feel like we have something special here. I saw last year I played against those guys but I know one thing, they play hard. Offensively, defensively, they play hard. And they stick together. I feel like that’s the most important thing that I’m looking for.”
With Hernangomez, Kanter, Joakim Noah and Kyle O’Quinn, the Knicks now have a logjam at center, a position that’s being phased out in the NBA. Perry didn’t rule out another move eventually.
“Part of my job is to daily assess our roster, take phone calls and figure out ways to keep getting this basketball team better,” Perry said. “So I will continue to do that.”