Knicks-Nuggets Blockbuster Proves Melo-Drama Was Always About the Money

After months of speculation, all of the incessant rumors, constant guessing, and misleading reporting are thankfully done.

The New York Knicks have finally acquired a certain 26-year-old, 6-foot-8 forward who was a former first-round draft pick, from the Denver Nuggets.

Yes, at long last, Knick fans can rejoice, because former Nugget Renaldo Balkman (born in Staten Island in 1984 and taken by the Knicks with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft) is returning to the Big Apple!

And, oh yeah, some player named Carmelo Anthony is coming with him.

In all seriousness, with the Brooklyn-born Anthony returning home to join six-time all-star Amar’e Stoudemire, the Knicks are suddenly another huge step closer to rivaling the Miami Heat’s feared triumvirate of Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh, challenging Boston’s champion quartet of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo, and competing with an ever-improving young and talented squad in Chicago, in the NBA’s eastern conference.

The addition of the final piece of the Knicks’ possible trio was hinted at during Anthony’s New York wedding in July, when New Orleans Hornets’ star point guard Chris Paul said in a toast to Anthony, (with Stoudemire and Nuggets’ owner Stan Kroenke both in attendance) that he, along with Anthony and Stoudemire, would soon form their “own Big Three” in New York.

If not Paul, another option to run the Knicks’ new Broadway show might be Utah Jazz star point guard Deron Williams, who also has shown interest in playing for the Knicks when he becomes part of the same free agent class as Paul after next season.

With the first two major players in place, the third – whether Paul, Williams, a significantly more longshot option such as Orlando’s Dwight Howard, or another star – could now be more easily lured to New York, but there are still some possible obstacles.

Likely changes to the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement and a potential lockout for all or part of next season will have a lot to say about the Knicks’ chances of securing the last star needed to possibly become legitimate NBA title contenders.

Nevertheless, although the Knicks relinquished a lot to land Anthony, the chance at forming such a union of stars should be worth the high price the Knicks paid in a league in which having at least two stars was always necessary to win in the past, and having at least three in today’s NBA, is just about a championship contender requirement.

And, accomplished superstar scorers at the outset of their prime don’t come along very often, so it’s a deal the Knicks had to make.

But, only because Anthony forced them to do it. That’s where Anthony’s true motive was tested.

The Knicks’ newest superstar said earlier during the “Melo-drama” that for him, it was all about winning, and not necessarily about the money – or more specifically, the roughly $20 million that Anthony would have risked losing by opting for a trip to New York via free agency under potentially drastically different new CBA rules next year, rather than by forcing his own trade out of Denver late Monday night.

If Anthony were to be taken at his words, why force a trade now and deplete the Knicks roster of emerging young talent like guard Raymond Felton, forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari (whose game was praised by none other than Anthony himself last year), or Timofey Mozgov (the only player the Knicks had with his kind of size)? And, why also have your new team send $3 million in cash and the potential of three first-round draft picks to the Nuggets and young forward with a high ceiling in Anthony Randolph, who was sent to Minnesota in the three-team deal?

If it were all truly about winning and making New York a real contender, why not wait until free agency, keep a good roster intact, and join that roster to make it great?

Why? Because ultimately for Anthony, it came down to what it usually does for most star athletes — dollars and cents over what makes the most sense.

It raises the question of Anthony’s true motivation for wanting to be a Knick.

Although Anthony was born in New York, he grew up in Baltimore, where he moved when he was eight years of age.

He then supposedly idolized former Knick great Bernard King and he’s said he’s always wanted to be just like him in a Knick uniform. Yet, Anthony wasn’t yet born when the King became a Knick in 1982 and he was all of three years old when an injury-riddled King was released by the Knicks five years later.

None of the aforementioned statements are exactly devastating character flaws, but they do raise at least a little suspicion of whether Anthony might be somewhat disingenuous in his supposed overwhelming desire to be a Knick and restore the franchise’s once-proud glory years of nearly four decades ago.

Perhaps Anthony, after 7½ years as a Nugget, felt some loyalty to the city he slowly grew to appreciate (if not love, as he claims about New York). It’s possible that Anthony didn’t want to leave his former team high and dry like James did with Cleveland or Bosh with Toronto.

More likely though, Anthony’s true allegiance was to his bank account, and as a result, his new team has paid dearly.

It’s hard to ask anyone – even a professional star athlete who’s already made enough money to be set for life – to leave an additional $20 million the table.

But, the money would have been there for Anthony, even as a free agent.

It is New York, after all.

Maybe Anthony should have looked at someone like former New York Ranger Mark Messier, who led the Rangers to their first Stanley Cup victory in 54 years, in 1994.

For that one moment, Messier still remains an iconic New York legend with a lifetime key to the city.

And, that was hockey, and Messier wasn’t even born in America, let alone in New York, like Anthony.

New York always has been and always will be a basketball town and a Knick town far more than it will ever be a hockey and a Ranger town.

So, just imagine if Anthony were to help lead the Knicks to their first NBA title since 1973.

Simply as a superstar playing in New York, Anthony would probably more than make up for the $20 million (in endorsements and other non-NBA salaried pay) he might have lost out on had he come to New York as a free agent next season. And, should he ever bring the Knicks back to the NBA finals for the first time since 1999 or help them capture their third NBA title, his overall potential earning power would undoubtedly increase dramatically.

However, that wasn’t at the top of the list of Anthony’s priorities. Getting as much money as he could now, was.

NBA fans and followers everywhere debated since last summer how the Melo-drama might ultimately unfold.

The destination was always New York. Anthony wanted the Knicks and the Knicks wanted Anthony. The only question was how it would happen.

If it were all about winning and keeping the Knicks moving forward, Anthony would have opted for free agency. But, forcing a deal and shaking up the Knicks’ roster meant that for Anthony, it was more about the green than the blue and orange.

The Melo-drama finally ended on Monday night, and the Knicks got their player. Now, the Knicks hope that while Anthony made sure he got his money, the price they paid wasn’t too high.

About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons). Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship). He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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