Carmelo Anthony
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Amidst an uncertain future in the NBA, former New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony spoke with First Take’s Stephen A. Smith to clear the air.

Geoffrey Campbell

The burning embers of free agency have left most NBA rosters full and teams focused on their organizing their training camps. However, one name, still not on an NBA roster has been in the news cycle with an axe to grind.

Carmelo Anthony.

A former New York Knicks star, Anthony sat down for a full interview with First Take’s Stephen A. Smith to discuss recent rumors and his future in the NBA. Prior to the interview, quotes from high-profile names such as Chauncey Billups and trainer Chris Brickley have caused many to draw assumptions about Melo’s temperament and mindset.

In early July, Billups made headlines when he said “scoring 30 meant too much to Melo.” Later, Brickley, appearing on a New York radio show Hot 97’s Breakfast Club, claimed that Melo wanted a farewell tour and the chance to swap jerseys with other players, as his friend and future Hall-of-Famer, Dwyane Wade did.

This all led up to Anthony’s sit-down with Smith where he wanted to have his say and address everything that’s been said about him.

What happened in Houston?

According to Anthony, talks to bring the 10-time NBA All-Star to Houston started three to four seasons ago; and, essentially after 10 games, general manager Daryl Morey told Melo that “your services are no longer needed.” Melo also explained that he spoke with both Chris Paul and James Harden, who did not have any knowledge of the decision.

Interestingly enough, Melo did not throw any shade or blame at Mike D’Antoni, who was reported to have had differences with Anthony during their time in New York. Melo stated, “I don’t believe that D’Antoni had anything to do with it.”

Billups comments and possible Big three with LeBron and D-Wade?

In addressing comments made by Billups about Melo’s mentality, Anthony was quick to point out that as a 23-24-year-old player with high expectations, his understanding of winning meant that he needed to score the most points possible in order to help his team. Melo stated that he wasn’t upset with Billups’s comments, yet disappointed with the timing considering the narrative surrounding his game.

On potentially playing with his friends and fellow superstars, LeBron James and Wade, Melo explained that the money was too much to turn down. Anthony claimed that, despite the three players having talks about playing together, the uncertainty with regards to the lockout and a five-year, $80-million deal offered from the Denver Nuggets, Melo could not see a scenario in which he would leave money on the table.

On his time in New York

Prior to signing a five-year, $120-million contract extension with the Knicks, Anthony had the option of signing with the Chicago Bulls and a ready-made contender with players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and others. Speaking about this scenario, Melo stated that he met with the Knicks last, and based on what he was told, he “believed” in the Knicks so much that he wanted to sign with them.

Anthony also discussed his legacy in relation to his peers. Melo explains, “I’ve never had the teams LeBron James had, I’ve never had the teams that D-Wade had, I’ve never had the teams that a lot of these guys had. It’s always been me.” Additionally, after Smith questioned Melo’s role in chasing wins as opposed to cash, especially when it came to staying in New York, Melo replied, “I was naive”.

My Thoughts

1. Overall, this was generally a very transparent interview. The Melo haters got their pound of flesh as Anthony admitted to being a more selfish player during his younger years whilst also giving providing context as to how and where he grew up and how that influenced his business sense and playing style.

2. Melo kind’ve dips his toes in the accountability pool but then take them out. He talks a lot about the lack of help he had on teams when discussing his legacy, but conveniently leaves off Oklahoma City where he played with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Now, the flip side of that is, that, even without Melo, the Thunder were generally a disappointment and a first-round exit. Interpret that how you will.

3. I love Melo, I really do; but I find it hard to believe that the Knicks, a franchise that hasn’t been able to convince major free agents to come to New York since Amar’e Stoudemire and his uninsured knees, convinced Anthony that they were going to be a contender. With that said, I also strongly believe that Melo’s reasons for being in New York weren’t strictly financial. His family absolutely loves it there and that certainly played a role.

3. It’s clear that Melo still wants to play in the NBA. However, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the league interprets this interview. While his candor is appreciated, I’m not sure how other front offices will appreciate Melo’s disclosure of conversations between himself and Morey.

Overall, while I think this interview may have done some good towards repairing Anthony’s public image, I’m not sure it gets him any closer towards signing with an NBA team. Towards the end of his interview, Melo made it clear that he wants to compete for a championship; however, if that’s not on the table he just wants to “play.”

Teams are clearly wary of signing Melo and bringing on the media storm that comes with having him on the team. Anthony’s role, his acceptance of that role and the team’s success become a daily story that seems a price too high for most teams to pay. I really hope, for Anthony’s sake, that some organization takes that risk; but if they don’t, it could be the end of Anthony’s career as we know it.

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