In a few short minutes on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Carmelo Anthony threw chum to sharks in Cleveland, Houston, Oklahoma City and New York, suggesting he wasn’t fully motivated on the Knicks, deals with the Rockets and Cavaliers were “done,” and he only warmed to the Thunder as the burden of having to answer more questions about trade speculation at training camp became more real.
None of those things is as big of a deal as Anthony’s critics might make them out to be. Let’s get that out of the way up top. But all three are interesting from an alternate trade universe standpoint.
First, the Cavaliers:
“Me and [Paul George] have a very close friendship,” Anthony told SiriusXM hosts Joel Meyers and Antonio Daniels, via ESPN.com. “Actually, it was funny because me and PG were supposed to be in Cleveland on draft night. We were communicating about that. The deal was actually done and it got called off on draft night, so me and PG stayed connected throughout the course of the season.”
Then, the Rockets:
“A deal was done with Houston early,” he said, “and then for some reason, whatever happened behind the scenes, it didn’t go through, and then we had to really start paying attention and thinking about other options.
“Believe it or not, I felt like I was going to be back in training camp. I was going to show up to media day in New York. Me and my team sat down on Friday night, and we were like, ‘Man, let’s prepare for going back to media day on Monday and training camp that week.’
“And then we got the call. They said, ‘Would you open it up to OKC?’ I was like, ‘At this point, yeah.’ I don’t think it would’ve been beneficial for me to come back to media day after everything that was going on in the offseason. For me to have to deal with that, it would’ve been unfair to the organization and the Knicks to deal with that. It would’ve been too much noise, too many questions to answer, and I don’t think either party wanted to deal with that.”
There’s a lot to unpack here.
We knew of Cleveland’s pursuit of George leading up to the draft. Days before the the Cavaliers parted ways with GM David Griffin, they were “close” to a three-team trade that would have sent Kyrie Irving and Channing Frye to the Phoenix Suns, moved Iman Shumpert, Jared Dudley and the No. 4 pick to the Indiana Pacers, and landed George and Eric Bledsoe in Cleveland, per The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd.
That trade was thought to be a factor in Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland and eventual trade to the Boston Celtics. Were the Knicks and Anthony somehow involved in that failed trade as a fourth team?
We also knew, from ESPN.com, that the Pacers backed out of another four-team deal in the days before the draft that would have sent George to the Cavs, Kevin Love to the Denver Nuggets, and Gary Harris and the No. 13 pick to Indiana, according to ESPN.com. Did Anthony fit into that plan somehow? Or were the Knicks, who were among Irving’s preferred trade destinations, involved in a third failed transaction? This is all fascinating what-if stuff that now requires rehashing all the particulars.
Trade discussions between the Knicks and Rockets were first reported by ESPN.com’s Ian Begley in late June, as soon as Houston pulled off a deal for All-Star point guard (and Anthony confidante) Chris Paul. By mid-July, those talks advanced to “the 2-yard line,” according to the New York Daily News.
It was widely reported that the deal collapsed due to New York’s unwillingness to take on Ryan Anderson and Houston’s inability to find a third team willing to offload the $61 million remaining on the veteran forward’s contract. The two sides kept in contact throughout the summer, but never came closer than they did two weeks into free agency. At least, nothing imminent was ever reported.
Anthony now says “a deal was done early,” which seems a likely reference to the advanced talks in mid-July. Now, that could be Melo misunderstanding that a trade was never actually agreed upon. Either that, or a deal was made in principle, and either the Knicks, Rockets or a third team reneged.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The trade was never completed, and Anthony is on the Thunder now. Still, it would be awfully interesting to find out which, if any, team hit reverse on that trade, because it may very well prove the difference in a potential Thunder-Rockets playoff series in May.
Anthony originally listed the Rockets and Cavaliers as the teams for which he would waive his no-trade clause in early July. That list was trimmed solely to Houston by the end of the month, and the 10-time All-Star entered into a staring contest with the Knicks that lasted until this past weekend.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s interest in Anthony was first reported by Bill Simmons in late July:
Have a scoop – OKC and Carmelo are officially circling each other. OKC's Troy Weaver recruited Melo to Cuse + has known him since DMV days.
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) July 24, 2017
Only in mid-September, when it became clear the Rockets could not put a worthwhile package together, did Anthony expand his list again to the Cavaliers, and he added the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Knicks sought either Tristan Thompson or one of Cleveland’s two first-round picks as the centerpiece of a trade for Anthony, but the Cavs were unwilling to part with either, per Cleveland.com.
Meanwhile, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard lobbied hard for Anthony to waive his no-trade clause and join them on the Trail Blazers, and Portland was reportedly willing to part with Moe Harkless and pieces to make it happen, but it appears Melo never expanded his list that far, despite this report:
Carmelo Anthony's people are trying a Hail Mary attempt to get him to Houston (Knicks won't do it) … before he accepts a deal to Portland
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) September 21, 2017
On Saturday, roughly a week after Anthony added OKC to his list of potential trade destinations, according to Begley, the Thunder and Knicks came to an agreement on the deal for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick. Given the choice between returning to training camp with the Knicks and joining Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Anthony signed off, and the rest is history.
If you’re a Thunder fan worried Anthony’s flippant, “At this point, yeah,” remark about going to OKC is a sign of a less-than-thrilled attitude about the upcoming season, he calmed those fears on SiriusXM:
“I have a newfound energy within myself. My motivation is just different now. I kind of lost that motivation a little bit in New York, but I was still able to go out there and play and get through it. But, as you know as a ballplayer, when you teeter on that motivation, it’s hard to wake up in the morning, it’s hard to go to work, it’s hard to deal with all of that, so now I just feel refreshed. I feel relieved.
“We’ve still got to put the work in to be the team that we want to be, to try to win a championship, but from an individual I feel born again. I feel rebirthed. I feel a different type of energy within myself, around the guys, around the organization, around the city. You can feel it, and it’s something I always wanted to get back to.
“I didn’t know how I was going to get back to it, but I had to almost become selfish in a way and say, ‘OK, I’ve got to make the decision for myself. I can’t worry about what nobody else is going to say about me. I’ve got to make the decision on behalf of myself.'”
If you’re a Knicks fan reading that quote, you might be think, Hey, what the heck, Melo? Why weren’t you motivated in New York anymore? Here’s why: The Knicks made poor decision after poor decision, and then-president of basketball operations Phil Jackson spent a year trashing Anthony, calling him a selfish ball-stopper who lacked the will to win and would be better off somewhere else.
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