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Carmelo Anthony 'wanted that challenge' of playing in New York

Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers on

Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers on Dec. 3, 2019 Credit: Getty Images/Katharine Lotze

PORTLAND, Ore. — Carmelo Anthony is well acquainted with the chaos that often surrounds the Knicks, having spent years in the center of that storm. And now, nearly 3,000 miles from Madison Square Garden, he is watching it from a distance, disappointed to see the direction of the franchise and aware, he believes, why no other stars have followed his path to New York.

It was nearly nine years ago that Anthony pushed for a trade to the Knicks and then three years later he signed a new contract with the hopes of spending his career there, openly and willingly serving as a recruiter for others to join him.

But now he is with the Trail Blazers, preparing to face the Knicks on Tuesday night, happy and at peace, back in the game and fresh from being named Western Conference player of the week. But his heart and soul remain entrenched in New York, and he watches closely at what has transpired.

“I mean, how can you not?” Anthony said. He turned to the Knicks relieving David Fizdale of his duties as coach Friday and said, “I don’t like it. Somebody had to take the fall for it, but this is sad. It hurts me to see that, especially being on the outside looking in now. Before I was inside looking out. So I see it from both perspectives. I mean, you just don’t want to see that from the organization, from a team, right now.”

When Anthony finally agreed to a trade to send him out of New York, he left behind Kristaps Porzingis to succeed him as the star at the Garden. Now Porzingis is gone, too. And all of the stars who were thought to be bound for New York never even met with the Knicks last summer.

“I mean, not everybody can deal with that,” Anthony said. “Not even a star, I mean a regular player, role guys, just players; a lot of people can’t deal with that. There’s not too many people who can deal with what comes with that. I don’t want to say it’s pressure. Everything that comes along with wearing the Knicks across your chest.

“I don’t think it surprised me [when Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving opted for Brooklyn]. We all read Durant’s quotes. We know what he said. Whether you agree with him or not, that just goes to show you people have different perspectives about it. It’s not always, ‘Oh, that’s the Knicks and we’re going to get somebody.’ It’s [not] a guarantee. Nowadays, players are not thinking about that. Players want to be able to go to a situation where they can enjoy it, have fun and not have to deal with that. 

“[Durant] needs to deal with it in Brooklyn anyway,” he added. “It’s not the same. I know it’s not the same. I wanted it. It was something I wanted. I wanted to take that challenge on. Whether I failed at it or not, I wanted to be able to say that I did it. I took it upon myself to say, ‘Get me there.' I wanted that challenge. Not everybody had that same mentality.”

Anthony has fit in already with the Blazers, his contract fully guaranteed for the remainder of the season after more than a year out of the game. During his time waiting for a team to come calling, Anthony remained in New York where he worked out and played in pickup games, even with the current Knicks players. And if his time in New York was marked by controversy with then-president Phil Jackson trying to force him out of the no-trade contract he had handed him, Anthony believes the Knicks' fan base embraced him after he was gone. The last time he appeared at Madison Square Garden, sitting courtside to watch Dwyane Wade’s final game there, he was given a standing ovation by the crowd.

“Yeah, I’m still in New York, so I’m there,” Anthony said. “I was there all year. In summer, I was there. I’m still tapped in. I’m still in the streets. I’m there. I was sensing that. I was feeling that love, that appreciation. Even for me it put a lot of things in perspective. I got a chance to step out and look back at my seven-and-a-half years with the Knicks. Just being in New York puts a lot of things in perspective. I dealt with it. You don’t know what you’re dealing with until you’re outside looking in.”

And he thinks he knows what it is like now for the Knicks players as they go through the season with a 4-19 start, the coach already gone with an interim in place and rumors through the league that the front office could be shaken up, too.

“It’s hard, man. It’s hard for the players to play in that, right?” Anthony said. “You’ve got to go out there every night. You’re in close games. I watched a lot of the games. They’re right there, but they just can’t pull it out. You’ve got to deal with the fans, got to deal with losing, got to deal with trying to keep your sanity out there. It’s a lot. You’ve got to deal with fans saying, ‘Sell the team.' That a cloud that’s over the organization."

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