Carmelo Anthony

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Keidel: Thank Goodness Carmelo Anthony Is Thunder's Problem Now

Ex-Knick Picks Up $27.9M Option With Oklahoma City

Jason Keidel
June 26, 2018 - 1:53 pm
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In perhaps his last contractual move as an NBA player, Carmelo Anthony exercised the final year of his contract, which will force the Thunder to pay him $27.9 million next season. And as with almost anything Anthony has done as a professional basketball player, it enriches him while doing nothing to help his employer. 

Knowing he will be vastly overpaid as an aging, diminished scorer, Anthony took to Twitter, defending the move while calling out his critics. 

It's time for even the most jaded Knicks fans to admit they're happy that this -- and Melo -- is not their problem anymore. We can argue about whether he was a team guy in New York City, but he was never a team player. He never won an NBA title, never played in an NBA Finals and never came particularly close. He was a dial-up player in a decidedly Wi-Fi basketball world.

The Knicks got Anthony after whiffing on LeBron James, who saw no allure in Gotham in an increasingly homogenous world where media and technology has all but eliminated the notion of the small-market club. You can make your money and form your superteams in any corner of the country. But as far as consolation prizes go, Anthony was an eyesore, at least in the standings. 

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It's hard to tell if Anthony was the most self-aware player in the league, or the least. Did he know he wasn't a winning player? Did he care? Did his eyes or his goals ever move above his paycheck? 

Some of us -- as in Peter Vecsey and yours truly -- tried to warn you the Anthony experiment would fail. But the Big Apple bought the mirage of him returning to the town of his birth to bring the Knicks that ever-elusive championship. It's now 45 years and counting since the Knicks were the best team in the sport. At least the Knicks got wise in time to dump his one-dimensional game and three-dimensional salary on Oklahoma City, where he joined another player who worships stats over wins -- Russell Westbrook. 

Anthony was not unique to basketball, or to sports. We've often fallen for players whose singular talents masked their team-killing deficiencies. But you'd think New Yorkers, who had so many years of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Eli Manning or even the lunchpail Knicks of Pat Riley, would have developed some kind of athletic radar, warning them of the me-first baller who devours salary, scoring and attention at the expense of the greater good.  

Yet despite the fact that the Knicks gave up too much to get Melo, or that the Nuggets got better without him, we lived in denial until the overwhelming evidence just shattered the dream, until reality invaded the fantasy world the Knicks have lived in for nearly 20 years, since they were vaporized by the Spurs in the 1999 NBA Finals. They've won 37 or fewer games the past five years, including a franshise-worst 17-65 record in 2014-15, when Anthony was the face of the Knicks.

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Anthony is 34 years old and has made about $250 million in salary since he was drafted in 2003. He doesn't have to work again, neither do his children, nor their children. Everything about his career suggests he was about getting paid, not about getting rings. None of it makes him a bad guy, but we view all players through the prism of their peers, and he will always be compared to James, who was in the same draft class, and Dwyane Wade, another banana boat passenger who found a way to build bank accounts and a legacy. 

Anthony just never understood why we held him to such a high standard, calling us haters for doing so. He never made the correlation between his contract and our expectations. The great ones can juggle the big bucks and the big burdens that come with them. Melo just wasn't one of them. 

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel