The first day of the 2020 calendar year offers an intriguing storyline, as Carmelo Anthony returns to Madison Square Garden for the first time since he last played for the New York Knicks in 2017.
Anthony arrived in New York after being traded by the Denver Nuggets in 2011 having signed a three-year extension pact with the Knicks as part of the deal. His tenure in the Big Apple had plenty of peaks and valleys.
Carmelo never got a ring in New York, but he was a megastar in his own right up until the sour breakup that led to him getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
So how should fans remember him? To do that, we need to consider the story arc of Melo’s time in NYC.
It was expected that Anthony could pair with Amar’e Stoudemire to help the Knicks contend in an Eastern Conference that suddenly had a “Big Three” in Miami as well as Boston’s own group of aging stars and an up-and-coming Chicago Bulls team.
New York were eliminated in the first round during Anthony’s full season in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, but the next year offered some more promise.
Anthony won the scoring title and helped lead the Knicks to 54 wins. They even broke up the Celtics group that had been the dominant power in the East by beating them in the first round. But the Knicks were promptly upset by the Indiana Pacers in the next round, as Amar’e played in just four games and struggled when healthy and Indiana totally shut down the Knicks’ offense.
Still, the Knicks had taken a big step forward and thrived alongside Anthony. Could they make another leap for the 2013-14 season? In short, no.
Phil Jackson era
The Knicks decided they needed to make a splash in the front office prior to the 2013-14 season, hiring legendary head coach Phil Jackson to be the president of basketball operations. Jackson was supposed to build a winning culture and surround Anthony with the talent he needed to make a deep playoff run.
Jackson’s arrival only worsened matters. He wanted the Knicks to run the triangle offense, something that greatly displeased Anthony. Although Carmelo still go this buckets and in fact arguably had the best season of his career, the Knicks went just 37-45 and missed the playoffs. Things would only get worse.
The Knicks won 17 games in 2014-15 after hiring Derek Fisher to be the head coach, and Carmelo missed 42 games. They would win a combined 63 games over the next two years, and Anthony’s relationship with Jackson really soured. The two battled it out in the media, and eventually Anthony was traded.
Was Carmelo’s run in New York a disappointment? Yes and no.
The Brooklyn native accomplished little with the Knicks from a team perspective. However, it is hard to pin organizational dysfunction and a declining Amar’e solely on Anthony’s shoulders. The reality is that Carmelo made the All-Star team in each season with the Knicks. He won a scoring title, and injected some life into a previously dormant franchise.
Hopefully, fans in New York will appropriately recognize Anthony when he returns as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.