Wednesday, February 23, 2011

so. carmelo's finally gone.

The Carmelo Anthony trade has finally, officially, gone through. After holding his team hostage for more than 2/3 of the 2010-2011 NBA season, Carmelo has been rewarded by being traded to the place that he wanted to go in the first place. (And in the last place. And in every instance between.)

The official trade reads somewhere south of the insanity that was rumored approximately three months ago, but basically includes Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Sheldon Williams, Anthony Carter, Ronaldo Balkman going to the New York Knicks. In exchange, New York sends Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Timofey Mozgov to the Denver Nuggets. There will also be draft picks, straight cash and the Minnesota Timberwolves involved.

It's a complicated deal, but it boils down to the looming collective bargaining lockout, as well as the way owners treat teams and the people who play on them, as well as the players' increasing awareness of the way they can treat teams.

It's hard to know who to truly be mad at in this instance. I mean, on the one hand, Anthony lied to every reporter every chance he had. He let it be known that he had no interest in signing the extension the Nuggets offered him, but then tried to have his cake and eat it too. Maybe he would sign it. Maybe he wouldn't. On the other hand, as a free agent to be, Anthony had almost earned the right to choose where he plays, and it's hard to begrudge players who are treated like so many chess pieces.

On the other hand, the Nuggets should have made this move (or a similar one) sooner. They played with their season, keeping a discontented star on their roster despite the fact that the entire team, city, state and professional organization to which they belong knew that he didn't want to be there.

It's typical for sports fans to root for the players in this instance, especially in a world where a hard working role player can allegedly be pulled from practice and informed that he's been traded. It's not a nice world and those who watch the sports and love them would do well to remember that, to those who play on the team, or those who own the team, this is a business, first and foremost.

But there's no denying that this has a tinge of bitterness to it. The Nuggets have lost all momentum from the team that was challenging the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals two years ago. This is certainly not all Anthony's fault and it's hard to say that it's even mostly his fault. But he was going to be a free agent at the end of this season. He could have signed with the Knicks without a trade. The only reason this happened is because of the fear that there would be so much money left on the table. And, to be fair, it's been pointed out that it might be as much as 45% of his paycheck - that is a lot of money. No one wants to leave that money behind when they don't have to.

Time will tell how this trade is looked back upon. If the Knicks get back to their early-season winning rate, it's easy to imagine Anthony jerseys being brisk sellers in not only New York, but around the rest of the nation. If he and Amar'e Stoudemire combine to form a ferocious front court that can defend well enough to scare some of the top tier teams in the Eastern Conference, New Yorkers will be beside themselves with joy at having a team worth talking about again. And what's good for the New York Knicks is usually good for the majority of the league. But, if their defense is as bad as numbers suggest it will be. And if Anthony can't produce in a system where he doesn't get to have the ball in his hands a majority of the time - or if he keeps the ball and everyone else's numbers drop - Carmelo Anthony will transform from the prize the Knicks thought they were getting, into just another deadweight around a franchise that's been treading water for too long.

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