Carmelo Anthony is happy in his new home as a member of the Thunder, especially after another summer of his name being bandied about in trade talks. The trade that sent him to Oklahoma City a few weeks ago has the Thunder on the list of NBA teams with the star power to pose a potential playoff threat to the reigning-champion Golden State Warriors.
As Anthony’s trade saga this summer dragged on in New York, it became clear that he and former Knicks boss Phil Jackson were not on the same page. In an interview with the New York Times‘ Marc Stein, Anthony opens up about how he came to land with the Thunder, his relationship with the Knicks’ front office and how, overall, he’s happier now:
In an interview with The New York Times this week, during a break from preparations for his Thunder debut, Anthony revealed that he needed one more nudge before telling the Knicks last month that, yes, he was prepared to be traded to Oklahoma City.
“My son said he wanted me to play for O.K.C.,” Anthony said. “Even before O.K.C. was in the picture.’’
In the interview, Anthony insisted he held “no grudge’’ against the Knicks even after a 2016-17 season that he found so rocky and turmoil-ridden that it made it hard for him “to enjoy the game.’’
“You want it to work out so bad, for so many years, and it doesn’t work out — it’s not fun anymore,” Anthony said.
He said the nagging sense that Phil Jackson, who was then the Knicks’ president, was “forcing me out,” gradually snuffed out his devotion to the franchise.
“When I signed back with the Knicks, I wanted to be in New York and I believed in Phil,’’ Anthony added in reference to the $125 million contract with the no-trade clause that he agreed to with Jackson in July 2014, a deal that kept him from departing as a free agent.
“Then last year it went to: I was being pushed out. There were things being said about me that I didn’t know where they were coming from. And I still had to go in that gym and play and practice and deal with the media, answer all those questions every day.”
Asked how many times he and Jackson spoke face to face last season, Anthony said, “Maybe twice.”
“There was no support from the organization,” he said. “When you feel like you’re on your own and then on top of that you feel like you’re being pushed out …”
“I think at that point it was too far gone,” Anthony said. “I already had in my mind that I wanted to win, that I wanted to move on. We didn’t think it would take as long as it did, but my mind was already made up.”
The delay to find a workable trade, in Anthony’s view, stemmed from the fact that Jackson was willing “to trade me for a bag of chips,” while Scott Perry, who became the Knicks’ new general manager after Jackson’s departure, took a harder line in trade talks with Houston and Cleveland that eventually fizzled.
“They went from asking for peanuts to asking for steak,” Anthony said with a laugh.
Still, as the start of Knicks training camp approached in September, there was no trade yet in sight and it was at that stage that Anthony abruptly instructed family members and his agent, Leon Rose, to “take the geography out of it” and start suggesting anywhere to play in the N.B.A. that made sense.
“My son has a basketball mind,” Anthony said. “So I will always throw little topics at him. He was like, ‘Dad, where you getting traded to?’ I told him, ‘I don’t know, where do you think I should go?’ He said: ‘You really want me to give you my opinion? I think you should go to O.K.C.’
“It’s not about where you’re at,” said Thunder guard Raymond Felton. “It’s about how you feel where you’re at. I don’t care if we were in South Dakota; we come in here happy.
“He’s been smiling ever since he got here,” Felton added of Anthony.
And addressing the skeptics, Anthony said: “I hate trying to defend myself, but I’ve been saying it since I got here: Whatever conditions you put me in, I’ll thrive.” He is ready to start doing so on Thursday night.