“Dear New York,
From the day I first met you, I knew we were meant to be together”.
Those were the first words that Carmelo Anthony chose to write in his goodbye letter to the city of New York and to the Knicks fans. His move to Oklahoma undoubtedly was a huge surprise for almost everybody in the basketball community. Especially if we take into account the fact that Houston Rockets were pushing Knicks really hard in order to let Melo land in Toyota Center. However, New York wasn’t convinced by Rockets offer and found the solution in Oklahoma.
The Reasons Behind The Melo-Knicks Divorce
First of all, before we go any further I have to be brutally honest and admit that this was the best decision possible both for Anthony and the Knicks. The dead-end in the relationship of the two sides was more than obvious during the last years and a change like that I truly believe that can liberate the involved parties. In a nutshell, I would say that the main factors that made Melo take this new challenge in his career are the following:
1. The Melo-Knicks relationship was worn out
It’s no secret that Carmelo Anthony and New York Knicks had a very special and quite tensed bond full of misunderstandings. That’s what made it such a great NBA ‘love story’, some would argue. In any case, during the last years it was evident that both sides couldn’t take the best out of their partnership. On the one hand, the Knicks had a leader who couldn’t really inspire and make the people around the team believe that a brighter future for the organisation was coming. On the other hand, the team did nothing to protect Carmelo. Despite the arrival of Porzingis and of a few other good players, there was no strong evidence from the Knicks side that things will change and that the team will finally plan the upcoming seasons with a clear goal to become again one of the main NBA powers. In this atmosphere of mistrust, it was clear that Melo and Knicks had nothing to offer to each other. Except for a civilized and mutually beneficial ‘divorce’.
2. Melo needed a new challenge
As we already said, Anthony needed a new challenge in his basketball career. And he needed it more than ever. Carmelo is 33 (!) years old and it was about time for him to start thinking of himself. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever. After many years of disappointment in New York (in terms of results), this is the right moment for him to join the ‘real-game’ and together with two amazing players like Russ and George to shoot for the…rings! On top of that, his new role will help him feel liberated. This year he will have the option to take a step back and leave someone else lead. This parameter can be proved more than valuable. Anthony have the opportunity to focus on his incredible talent again and get himself in a different more supportive but still fundamental role.
Lastly, I’m sure that Carmelo will be very happy to be -maybe for the first time in his career- in a team where loss isn’t acceptable in the vast majority of the games. He is a winner and he should play together with winners. Simple as that!
3. Salary cap space for Knicks
It isn’t only Carmelo who should smile after this trade. The Knicks did a smart move, too. Yes, they lost their superstar and a player that the whole city loves but deep inside they know very well that it was time to say goodbye. Especially if we consider that their number one priority was save some space in the salary cap for the season 2019-20 when all the contracts signed by Phil Jackson will be past. On top of that, the Knicks added some talent to their team with Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott and earned the potential of adding one more good prospect through the 2018 second-round draft pick. In any case, it was time for restructuring and leadership re-targeting for the Knicks and in that sense the choice to trade Melo was the best one possible.
Is Oklahoma A Good Home For Carmelo?
What about OKC though? Was this a beneficial move for them or they just added out of the blue a ‘hot potato’ in their team. I believe that Oklahoma did a very smart choice and in one summer it has managed to transform in one of the most powerful NBA teams. If we take into consideration last year’s shock with Kevin Durant, we can say with confidence that OKC are back in the game and ready to look higher than before. Now, of course, there are many who aren’t sure whether Oklahoma is the right place for Carmelo. The presence of Westbrook and Paul George could signify that Anthony is in danger of getting in a less productive role. In my opinion, this is not true and here is why:
1. OKC is a good team
First and foremost, Oklahoma is really good team with some of the greatest players in the league. It has a great starting line-up which can destroy every opponent. Every player, and Carmelo is no exemption, has better chances of adjusting and contributing to a well-functioning environment rather than a confused organisation like the Knicks. That being said, Melo should be seen as the right piece in this new ‘Big-3 puzzle’ that is built in Oklahoma. After all this KD drama last year, Oklahoma seems ready to get out there and go after the Warriors. Because let’s face it that’s still the biggest enemy for the city.
2. No need to lead by himself
As a continuation to the previous point, Carmelo can flourish in the shadow of Westbrook and George. I know that it sounds weird, or even disrespectful for Melo, but at the moment I consider a given that Russ and George will be the go-to guys for this team. But it’s not necessarily bad for Anthony. He can finally just leave all this super-star drama behind and just focus on basketball 100%.
3. A franchise full of hope
Last but certainly not least, when we talk with players of Carmelo’s magnitude, the Thunders are a franchise full of hope. They have made a great job this summer and they have build a team that is allowed to dream. Melo has missed this feeling in New York. The Knicks are constantly in a chaotic state during the last years and everybody could see that this had a tremendous impact on Anthony’s mind. In Oklahoma, he can find his lost incentive and start a new chapter in his career with clear and very ambitious goals.
Everybody involved in this shiny deal has something to take out of it. The Knicks can hope that this year they put the foundation for rebuilding and for gradually becoming competitive again. As far as the OKC and Carmelo Anthony is concerned, a very interesting adventure has just begun. If they play their cards right, this trade can be remembered as the game-changer in a memorable season for the city of Oklahoma!
Featured Image: NBA.com