Chris Paul was granted his trade wish out of New Orleans, and Dwight Howard could be the next superstar to leave for a bigger market. It was Carmelo Anthony, however, who drew up the blueprint for both Paul and Howard when he asked the Denver Nuggets to trade him last season. After also weighing offers from the New Jersey Nets, the Nuggets finally sent Anthony to his hometown New York Knicks just before the trade deadline.
Now beginning his first full – well, 66 games full – season with the Knicks, Anthony spoke with Yahoo! Sports about how his successful trade request helped spawn the flight of other stars, the guilt he felt about leaving Denver and his desire to bring an NBA championship back to New York.
Anthony: "At the end of the day, people want to win. I want to win. I didn't feel like we were heading in the right direction in Denver as far as knowing who's not going to be there contract-wise, free agents. And they didn't [clearly] express the future of the organization. I wanted to win. If I'm going to start over, I might as well start over from somewhere that I want to be."
Q: Did you talk to Chris while he was going through his situation before he was sent to the Clippers?
Anthony: "I was talking to him every day. But I was talking to him more of staying positive about it, going to training camp despite all the stuff that was going on, going to practice and just dealing with it."
Q: What advice would you give to Dwight Howard and Deron Williams?
Anthony: "Just play. If I could tell somebody what to learn from my situation is I actually went out there and still performed, still played hard every night and still did what I had to do. So nobody could say I didn't care anymore, that I gave up. That was the one thing I was trying to stay away from."
Q: Looking back, was it difficult to go through last season with everyone knowing you wanted to be traded?
Anthony: "I can't sit here and lie to you. It was a tough situation from going to practice not really knowing how [my teammates] were acting or how they felt deep down inside. Once I left, I heard a lot of stuff from the team, from the players, from the organization. There were things that I heard like I didn't play defense for seven years, that it was my fault.
"There was crazy stuff that [Nuggets coach] George [Karl] was saying. I was saying, 'How could you say that?' Before I left, George and I were talking and he kept telling me he wanted me to stay and this and that. As soon as I leave, [everything changed]. I was more kind of stunned with where that was coming from. I don't know if it's out of anger or something that he felt throughout the whole 6½, seven years that we were together.
"Early in my career, when [Karl] got there, of course we had our challenges. Over the years we got better. I grew up. He accepted me as who I am. We talked, we communicated. So to hear what he was saying… It is what it is. Some of the players were saying stuff. These were the guys I rode or died with for seven years. I did everything I could do there."
Q: What was the toughest moment for you last season as you waited for the Nuggets to work out a trade?
Anthony: "I just wanted it to get done. I really didn't know it was going to happen going into All-Star weekend. Even going into the game, I really didn't know what was going to happen. The Monday after, I was actually heading to Denver [from Los Angeles]. I was heading to the airport to go to practice and then they said, 'No,' and then they said get on the plane and go. And as soon as I get on the plane, they said the trade went through. It was just a lot of going back and forth and then the hardest part was my family with them having to go through it. They had it worse than me.
"There was plenty of nights where I didn't rest and sleep before games, on the road. I was up all night talking about the trade to people. I was trying to stay positive about it, but it got tough."
Q: Did you ever feel guilty?
Anthony: "You start thinking about all kinds of stuff and how other people are going to be affected. I knew me. I knew I could handle that stuff. But I knew Chauncey [Billups'] wife and his family were going to be affected. I knew Anthony Carter's family was going to be affected. I wasn't worried about me. For what? I get that [expletive] all the time. I'm past worrying about what people are saying about me."
Q: Chauncey was traded by his hometown team, the Nuggets, with you to New York, and then the Knicks waived him this month by using the amnesty clause to make room for Tyson Chandler. Then the Clippers picked him up off waivers. Do you feel bad about what Chauncey went through?
Anthony: "Hell, yeah. Hell yeah, I feel bad for Chauncey. Just right before [the Knicks waived him], we were talking about our goals for the season, coming back, how we were going to get better and how we didn't have to worry about this stuff from last year. And then it happened. The Chauncey thing came from left field.
"It makes me feel bad because at the end of the day it all comes back to me. I had something to do with it. A lot of people say I forced my way out of Denver and I forced Chauncey to come with me, but his situation was up in the air, too, in Denver. They didn't really know what they were going to do with Chauncey back in Denver last year. [Billups had a $14.2 million contract option that the Knicks exercised.] And this situation right here, no one saw this coming."
Q: Was it mixed emotions when you knew the Knicks could get Tyson by dropping Chauncey?
Anthony: "As a friend of Chauncey's and a guy who has been around him and learned so much from him, I thought he was going to finish off in New York, to be honest with you. Nobody knew the type of thing was going to happen [with Chandler]. It just came so fast. I talked to [Billups] the other day. He was upset, but at the same time he understands the business of basketball. A lot of guys in his situation don't understand that and take that for granted.
Q: Are you glad or disappointed you won't be playing a game in Denver during this shortened season?
Anthony: "Kind of both. I wanted to get back there. As far as how the perception was going to be, who knows? I was getting booed while I was there. I was actually looking forward to going back to play, not to get it over with. But you know how that game was going to be. There was going to be so much excitement about that game. I did live there for 7½ years. My house was there. It wasn't like once I left, I picked everything up and it left with me."
Q: Do you hope at some point Nuggets fans can look past what happened and appreciate what you did there by leading them to the playoffs in 2004 for the first time in nine years and taking them to seven straight postseason appearances?
Anthony: "I hope so. I've been through a lot in that city. But I've been through a lot good and bad. I hope they can realize and recognize the things that I did to that city. What I accomplished in Denver was a lot. I know we didn't win a championship, but we accomplished a lot. I was part of an organization that did a complete 180-degree turnaround. I was proud to say that and proud to be a Denver Nugget."
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Q: What's the challenge like in New York now? You're trying to win an NBA title for a franchise who hasn't done won one since 1973.
Anthony: "I accept it. I love it. That's why we play the game. That was one of the reasons why New York was my destination. I had an opportunity to build something and almost try to start from scratch. I love the challenge. I'm embracing it. There are no complaints.
"At the end of the day, it's not stressful. It's basketball. When it starts becoming too stressful, that's when you start messing everything up."
Q: Do you think about the significance of what it would mean if you won a title with the Knicks?
Anthony: "All the time I think about it. I talk about it. Think about it. Dream about it. It would be a special moment. It's different. It's a different feeling. That's something I want to do badly."
Q: And if you can't?
Anthony: "If I can't? I'm going to try my best. I'm doing whatever I can. That's all I can do."
Q: How did you respond to the criticism over your shot selection in last season's playoffs?
Anthony: "I didn't pay it no mind, to be honest with you. Last year was the first time in a long time that I didn't pay attention to it. I went out there and tried to win a basketball game. Tried to win a series with what we had, with guys hurt. I went out there and tried to do it. People are going to always say stuff like that. I'm past that. I'm far gone from that situation."
Q: So what has to happen for the Knicks to become champions?
Anthony: "We have a chance. We still have some young guys on our team that are going to have to grow and have a little bit more experience like we had last year. But when I came here, I knew this was a three- or four-year plan. That was my mentality. That was my approach."
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