When Carmelo Anthony realized he was ready to leave Denver, he had several teams on his list — the Washington Wizards were never a consideration — but only one team in his heart: Anthony was going to be a New York Knick.
The Nuggets tried several times to send him to New Jersey, but Anthony eventually forced them to trade him to a team that had made only one playoff appearance since 2001 and hasn’t won an NBA championship since 1973. As he made his first visit to Verizon Center as a Knick, Anthony explained the motivation for joining a team whose championship drought exceeds the franchise located only 30 miles down from where he grew up in Baltimore.
“I think it was just, from the standpoint, of being able to compete at the highest level, on a night to night basis,” Anthony said. “Being in New York, it forces you to go out and give your “A” game every night. I think I wanted to take that challenge to come up there and do that. Not a lot of people can take that challenge. Maybe it was too much pressure for them. But to me, I like dealing with pressure. I like taking on the challenges. That was one of the main reasons.”
Wizards owner Ted Leonsis said he would like for his team to become an attractive destination for potential free agents. Gilbert Arenas was the last big-name free agent to join the organization in free agency, signing a six-year, $65-million contract in 2003. Since then, few highly sought after talents have come to Washington – or even listed it as a desired location in trades or free agency.
Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire have all changed teams in the past 18 months. Dwight Howard has formally requested a trade from Orlando. None of them mentioned the Wizards as a desired location, and the Wizards didn’t bother to chase. But Anthony said he thinks the situation could change, with a developing prospect with potential in point guard John Wall in tow.
“Absolutely, man. I don’t know too many people that wouldn’t want to come here in D.C. especially if they had the opportunity. I don’t really know how they work, as far as the organization. I think if the right people are presented with the right opportunity to come here, I’m sure they would consider that.”
Why hasn’t it happened so far?
“I can only speak on my situation,” Anthony said. “The Wizards was never a team that came up, in any scenarios, through that whole situation.”
The Wizards contacted the Nuggets about Anthony, but didn’t have the necessary assests that would’ve interested them.
Anthony had reached the conference finals in Denver, but he understands what having similar success in New York – with its discerning media and infinite marketing opportunities – could mean for his legacy and his profile. In the months since joining the Knicks, Anthony has already made appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” “Law and Order:SVU” and “Sesame Street.” He also helped end a seven-year playoff drought.
“It exceeded my expectations. It’s fun,” Anthony said of being in New York. “It can get tough sometimes if you let it, but that’s expected. No days off. No days off in New York. You’re always working, 24-7.
“It’s been great. We had some ups and downs, as far as winning and losing basketball games,” Anthony said. “But as far as everything else, I feel like I’m home. I’m settled in. I had the last season to get my feet wet and have some things settled, figure some things out and it feels good now.”