The fact that the NBA lockout so far resulted in the cancellation of the first two weeks of the season isn’t appealing to Carmelo Anthony, but it does allow him to drink a tall glass of vindication.
Throughout most of last season, Anthony waited for the Denver Nuggets to trade him after he declined their efforts to sign him to a contract extension. He wielded rare power for a player on the trading block, one that first prompted the Nuggets to deal him before the February trade deadline rather than risk losing him for nothing in the summer, when he could opt out of his contract, and yet also limited the teams that would trade for him because a deal would have to include an extension. And there was only one place Anthony wanted to go: New York.
Though the feeling was mutual, most Knicks fans (and, it should be noted, former president Donnie Walsh) believed that with little to no competition in a trade, the Knicks did not need to gut the roster to acquire Anthony. The feeling was that if Anthony really wanted to win in New York, he should be against the Knicks giving up quality young talent such as Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and even center Timofey Mozgov, refuse all trade-and-extend offers so the Nuggets would be forced to keep him through the trade deadline and then sign with the Knicks as a free agent in the summer. It seemed like the best plan.
But it wasn’t the right plan for Anthony, not with a major labor battle on the horizon. And with the lockout into its 105th day and already costing regular-season games, his aggressive move turns out, for him, for the better.
“For the average person out there who really thought I was just trying to get up and just leave for no reason, that really was a big key in my decision,” Anthony said about the lockout. “I knew free agency was coming, I knew it would be altered, I knew it’d be messed up, so imagine if I’d have stayed. I’d have been a free agent now in limbo.”
Instead, Anthony signed a three-year, $65-million extension with the Knicks just after the trade and that’s money he’s guaranteed to see. The NBA initially proposed 20-percent rollbacks on current contracts but has since taken that off the table, which means, barring an unforeseen turnaround, Anthony will get all of his money.
As a free agent, in a new cap system that is sure to be far more restrictive than the previous CBA, Anthony wouldn’t get the same amount of money. And, possibly, in a more restrictive system, with a lower percentage of the Basketball Related Income going to the players, the Knicks might not have had enough cap room to get him.
Perhaps those factors will only annoy Nuggets fans even more. They already view him as a deserter, though not nearly as bad as LeBron James in Cleveland. After the first two weeks of the regular season were canceled, the first Knicks game on the schedule is Anthony’s return to Denver Nov. 16. What a way to start the year, if that is, in fact, when this season begins.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong to the Denver fans,” Anthony said. “I think I’ve been loyal to them for seven years, so for me to go back — of course you’re going to have some boos and people weeping and whining about it — but for the most part I can say I did a hell of a job out there in Denver.”
He also did a hell of a job getting out just in time.