GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Lance Thomas admitted he “was hurt” when Carmelo Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City, and he’s still emotional about his close friend leaving.
Thomas, now the longest-tenured Knick, called Anthony “a mentor and a positive figure” and said one of the things he admired most about his former teammate was how he handled adversity. This came after Thomas wrote a heartfelt letter for The Players Tribune Wednesday thanking Anthony.
“I was hurt when he left,” Thomas said Thursday. “Not only not having him as a teammate, but not having him here as one of my best friends.
“Once I heard it was happening on Saturday, I instantly started going through the notes on my phone and I just started putting [the letter] together. But that’s how I felt. And I’m still a little emotional about it.”
Thomas said he didn’t write the letter to show Anthony detractors that he’s a better teammate and leader for which he is given credit. Thomas said he just wanted to express what he was feeling at that moment. He said he spoke to Anthony, who appreciated his words.
“He was really happy that I wrote it,” Thomas said. “It was an emotional conversation. I wished him the best, he wished me the best and we’re going to continue to follow each other throughout our careers.”
Thomas, whom the Knicks acquired from Cleveland in January 2015, cut and then signed to a 10-day contract, said no one can replace Anthony. But Thomas said he will continue to be a leader both with his words and actions.
“I think I’ve been that since I’ve been here — a leader,” Thomas said. “I’m the vocal one on the team. So I don’t see my role changing in any way, shape or form. It would be idiotic to say somebody can fill what Melo has done for us in the past. That’s a big shoe to fill. We can’t do that. What we can do is do the things that we do well.
“I’ve been a leader. We have guys who are leaders who lead by example. Not necessarily by how many points we’ve put up, but by how we go about our work, how we go in the day-to-day, how we do everything intense and all the young guys follow. So that’s the new approach that we have. We have a lot of young guys who are going to be the face of the organization, and it’s the veterans on this team’s job to make sure they do that every time.”
The main face is Kristaps Porzingis, who left practice Thursday with a sore right knee. Thomas has been impressed with Porzingis’ approach.
“He’s focused,” Thomas said. “He’s stronger, he’s quicker, but most importantly, something that I admire right now is that he’s focused. He’s really paying attention to what’s going on. He’s really sharp with everything right now and I think that’s big-time right now. This early on in training camp, to see a high level of focus for a player like that is big-time.”