After Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony called for a trade in the summer of 2010, the “melodrama” dragged on for seven excruciatingly long months. Constant speculation, tough negotiations and a memorable press conference accompany the season until the Knicks finally nail their heads. But at too high a price?
By this summer evening in July 2010 at the latest, Stan Kroenke should have felt a horror of what was to come in the coming months for him and his Denver Nuggets. Kroenke sits surrounded by marble columns, sky-high ceilings and magnificent chandeliers in the heart of Manhattan, in the famous Cipriani on 42nd Street.
The then Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony invited to his wedding, just like numerous stars and starlets from the NBA world, Kroenke is also a guest in the ornately decorated ballroom. But what the Nuggets owner gets to hear there, he doesn’t like at all.
Especially when Chris Paul raises his glass for a wedding address. “We’re building our own Big Three,” said the then point guard of the New Orleans Hornets and good buddy of Anthony, according to several reports. Quasi a replica of the Big Three, formed shortly before in Miami, around LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Planned by CP3, Melo and Amar’e Stoudemire, according to the wishes of those involved here in New York.
This creed is also taken up by STAT and Anthony’s brother. When Kroenke, on the other hand, makes his toast and suggests that Paul could come to Denver after all, according to ESPN there is only “embarrassed silence”. At that moment, it should have been clear to all guests that the chapter “Nuggets-Star Carmelo Anthony” is on the last pages. But hardly anyone is expecting a month-long hang-out that will later go down in history as the “Melo-Drama”.
Rebuilding in Denver? Not with Carmelo Anthony
The Nuggets are actually willing to continue the chapter with the # 3 pick of the 2003 draft. In its rookie season, the team from Mile High City made it into the playoffs for the first time after eight years of absence. Melo, who was All-Star three times by 2010, leads Denver into the postseason in each of its seven seasons, but six times it ends after the first round.
In 2009 the Nuggets only failed in the Conference Finals in six games against the eventual champion, the Los Angeles Lakers. Anthony is still sure today that Denver could have won this series, this title. Instead, his Nuggets career remains uncrowned and a year later, after another first round off, he is forced to change the scene.
Anthony is still under contract for another year and the franchise is putting an early extension on the table for a maximum of three years and $ 65 million. But Melo hesitates to sign. The direction in which the franchise is developing does not match his ideas at all.
Together with Anthony, the contracts of Kenyon Martin, JR Smith and possibly Chauncey Billups (team option) would also have expired in 2011, all important parts of the core that made it into the West Finals. According to Anthony, Denver plans to rejuvenate the team.
“The year before we were in the Western Conference Finals, I didn’t want to be part of a rebuild, not in my seventh season in the NBA,” he explains in a 2021 podcast with ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarwoski. “If you want to rebuild, that’s fine. But then let’s find a solution for me.”
Bulls, Knicks, Nets and Rockets on Melos’ list?
Instead of a rebuild, Melo wants a championship-capable team. Instead of Denver more glamor and glamor, which should also give the career of his now ex-wife, actress, reality star and native New Yorker La La Vazquez, a boost. The longer Anthony refuses to sign the contract extension, the more toasts are made to a potential super team in the Big Apple, the more inevitable the approaching farewell seems.
From August on there is finally no longer any doubt: Melos agents Leon Rose and Worldwide Wes from CAA, today the makers in the front office of the Knicks, make it clear to the Nuggets that they should trade their franchise star soon, rather than avoiding him in the summer of 2011 to lose as a free agent with no equivalent. Allegedly the Bulls, Knicks, Nets and Rockets are on his list of preferred destinations.
Not an easy situation for GM newcomer Masai Ujiri. The future architect of the Raptors’ championship team only recently took up his new post in Denver after Mark Warkentien, who allegedly had a close relationship with Melo, was fired. But Ujiri and the Nuggets Front Office are not stressed by the threats from Melos Camp.
Trade Rumors: Melo for Stephen Curry?
First talks with the interested Bulls are said to be unsuccessful because Chicago refuses to involve Joakim Noah in a deal. Denver also rejects an initial offer from the New Jersey Nets. Derrick Favors (No. 3 pick in 2010), Troy Murphy and two first-round picks as an equivalent for one of the best scorers in the league? There is more in it, Ujiri and Co. are sure.
The season is getting closer and closer, however, without a trade going on. Training camp, preseason, start of the season – everything with Melo in the Nuggets jersey. And with a never-ending flood of rumors, curious journalists and restless fans. “It was talked about every day. Every day someone made a hint or spread a rumor,” recalls then Nuggets coach George Karl in 2013 to Yahoo Sports .
Sometimes there is speculation about Melo for Stephen Curry, sometimes Melo for Andre Iguodala, sometimes Melo for Blake Griffin. None of these rumors are substantiated. Only the Nets and the Knicks remain part of the rumor mill, which has now been dragging on for weeks and is expected to last for a few more months.
Melo trade rumors and a legendary press conference
The nuggets keep driving the price up, the Knicks offers cannot keep up with the demands from Colorado. From New Jersey, the Nuggets Brook Lopez want to unload instead of favors. An ABC reporter from Denver claims to have found out about a fixed deal between the Nuggets and Nets in mid-December, and it turns out to be a duck.
One problem with all the rumors about the Nets: Anthony, born in Brooklyn, actually prefers the Knicks, that’s an open secret. Again and again he torpedoed advances by the franchise from the other side of the Hudson River, even if the then GM Billy King is sure that he will be able to lure him with the upcoming move to Brooklyn.
But Melo allegedly refuses to guarantee an extension with the Nets should the team trade for him. That makes a deal extremely risky, in January team owner Mikhail Prokhorov publicly put a stop to all melo rumors in a memorable press conference.
There was no contact with Anthony, Prokhorov contradicts the media (“Maybe he sent an email, but I don’t use a computer. Or maybe a carrier pigeon got lost.”). And the price is now too high anyway: “The whole thing has been dragging on for too long. It was spread out in public and I think it put a strain on our players. I have instructed the team to end the talks.”
The climax and the end of the melodrama
It is the climax of the months-long melodrama, but it is far from the end. Not even for the Nets. Before the All-Star Game 2011 there is a meeting between Prokhorov, shareholder Jaz-Z, GM King and Anthony. But Knicks owner James Dolan also sits down again with the main prize of the approaching Trade Deadline and Nuggets GM Ujiri.
“We had the meeting at 3 o’clock in the morning, we had to make a decision,” Anthony remembers the meeting with the Knicks officials. “If it’s going to be New York, we have to sit down, find a solution, and make it happen.”
The main character in the negotiations is at the table when Dolan and Ujiri discuss the details. “I hear what Denver wants and what New York doesn’t want to give up. I just think to myself, ‘Are you really going to overturn this deal because of this player? Am I not worth it to you?'”
Ultimately, the Knicks agree to a trade monster with 13 players and three teams. Anthony packs his bags to the Big Apple together with Billups and three other Nuggets colleagues, Denver gets back Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Timofey Mozgov and several first-round picks. On February 22, 2011, the Associated Press was finally allowed to headline: “The End of Melodrama”. Meanwhile, the Nets are reorienting themselves in the direction of Deron Williams.
Melo-Trade: “The best deal in history – for the Nuggets”
But the news of the fixed trade goes hand in hand with a certain skepticism. After all, New York could have simply waited until summer and then pulled free agent Anthony ashore – without surrendering three-fifths of the starting five by trade.
Dolan’s impatience, the impending competition in the form of the Nets and, last but not least, the pressure from Melo, who does not want to wait until the summer with his new contract due to the looming lockout, turns out to be a lucrative mix for the Nuggets. In retrospect, Ujiri plays his cards almost perfectly.
“That was one of the best trades in NBA history – for the nuggets!”, Coach Karl sums up years later. Most of the time, the losing team ends up losing the deal in a superstar trade, but the nuggets may be a rare exception. Denver gets three of the four Knicks top scorers of the 2010/11 season and keeps its own playoff streak on for three more years Life and finally grabs Jamal Murray with the Knicks picks.
And the curtsey? They get a top 10 player in the prime of his career, a sure future Hall of Famer, who causes a lot of enthusiasm in the basketball Mecca. Not surprisingly, Dolan weakens from this perspective. But it’s not enough for much more than enthusiasm.
New York Knicks: No Big Three with Melo
The Knicks reach the playoffs three times in a row, twice the first round ends. In 2013 it was enough for a 4-2 against the Celtics at the post-season opener before the Pacers were too strong in the conference semifinals (2-4). This should be the Knickerbockers’ last playoff appearance until 2021.
After the Nuggets deal, New York lacks its own role players and assets to further strengthen the team. On the other hand, bad decisions by the front office (cough, Andrea Bargnani) destroy all hopes of success.
The Knicks don’t make it to build up a serious contender for Melo. Anthony, a full-time scorer, fails to lift his teammates to a new level. Ultimately, New York has to go into a rebuild, with Melo the traditional franchise has only 196 wins out of 216 defeats in six and a half years.
Not even the dreams of a Big Three come true. Paul demands a trade from the Hornets himself in 2011, but ends up with the LA Clippers. Meanwhile, on the east coast, Stoudemire’s knees prevent him from forming a dangerous duo with Melo. After a good seven months of melodrama, everyone involved must have imagined things differently.