The New York Knicks The Denver Nuggets and the Future of Carmelo Anthony

Few teams in the NBA are intertwined like the New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets. The uncertainty of Carmelo Anthony’s future has lead to much speculation about where and when he will land in his next destination. Could he surprise everyone, have a change of heart and sign the extension that Denver has had on the table since before the season started? Most signs point to Anthony eventually becoming a Knick but in the midst of the bubble of New York Sports we tend to think that everyone wants to play here.

Following the losses to the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat supporters (and naysayers) of the Orange and Blue have amplified their calls for Anthony. Some of them have the emotional maturity of a toddler but some of the critics have solid points. I figured it would be best to step outside the Tri-State and get a fresh perspective from someone who follows the Denver Nuggets very closely. Andrew Feinstein of graciously took up the cause and gave me the low down.


AH: Before we get to the latest Carmelo Anthony rumors, let’s talk for a moment about a recent milestone that was reached by Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl. What’s the feeling in Denver after he won his 1,000th game as a head coach?


AF: Towards the end of the 2007-08 season, Nuggets fans were ready to run Coach Karl out of town.  Despite having a roster loaded with talent and an $83-million payroll to boot, the Nuggets were sinking in the playoffs, almost missed the postseason altogether and then got swept by the Lakers.  Since then, Karl has turned things around.  With a lower payroll and lesser – on paper – talent, Karl has guided the Nuggets to two 53-plus win seasons and would make it three straight if Carmelo Anthony stayed.  Additionally, in Karl’s absence last year the team imploded.  In other words, Denver fans – including this one – have come to appreciate Karl and we hope to have him around for many more seasons.

AH: George Karl certainly appears to have the respect of his players, not only for his coaching ability but also because they’ve seen him go through personal struggles that would have crippled many. If he signs the extension that’s reportedly being offered to him, how big is his role in keeping Carmelo and the crew together for a few more years.

AF: Karl’s role in keeping Melo is marginal.  Melo likes Karl and unless he plays for Mike D’Antoni, Melo will realize how much he loved playing for Karl and will regret leaving.  But ultimately, all the tea leaves point to Melo wanting to play on the east coast in a bigger market and I don’t think it matters who is Denver coach is right now.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s Karl, however.


AH: I am a Jersey Boy and thus, I have a passing interest in J.R. Smith, who played some of his high school ball 10 minutes away from my hometown of Lakehurst, NJ. He’s been through some growing pains this year and his playing time has been cut back. I’m a very casual fan of the Denver Nuggets but you follow this team very closely. What’s at the heart of the issues with J.R. Smith this season? Do you still consider him to be a vital piece of the puzzle for Denver?


AF: Especially if Melo leaves, J.R. is a vital piece of the puzzle – he could be the only player capable of creating his own shot in a post-Melo world.  The heart of the issue is that J.R. disrespects the game by not playing hard in practice, screwing around during games and defying his coaches’ instructions.  That said, by all accounts J.R. has been a true professional lately and he’s been rewarded with ample playing time as a result.


AH: The biggest narrative of this season is the Carmelo cloud that hangs over the team. Is there any hope for the Nuggets to make some noise in the Playoffs this year or is the Melo Drama too much of a distraction?


AF: With Melo, the Nuggets will make noise in the playoffs.  They’ll probably win a first round series and put up a great fight in the second round.  Without Melo, I foresee the Nuggets making the playoffs but they’ll end up on the wrong end of a sweep.  To the credit of Karl, Melo and his teammates, they haven’t allowed it to be a distraction on the court…yet.

AH: What were your impressions of the Knicks after the game last Sunday? Was there a glaring difference in the team that the Nuggets faced earlier in the season?


AF: They made their shots!  Actually, it seems as though the Knicks are passing better and are finally learning how to play the pick-and-roll offense that D’Antoni adores.  I also think the Knicks are feeding off their crowd.  I can’t in good conscience root for a team owned by James Dolan, but I’m happy for Knicks fans that they have a product on the floor worth cheering for right now.

AH: You’ve been watching Carmelo Anthony play for many years now. If you were the Knicks General Manager would you essentially gut the current team in order to get him or would you continue to play the cat and mouse game hoping to get him in Free Agency next year?


AF: The Knicks have already gutted their team.  Donnie Walsh made two colossally huge mistakes in drafting Danilo Gallinari over Brook Lopez and then doubling down on stupid by drafting Jordan Hill over Brandon Jennings last year.  Point being, the Knicks are already gutted and any player on that roster – sans Amar’e Stoudemire and Ray Felton – should be available in a deal for Melo.  You put Melo, Amar’e and Felton on the floor and you and I could be the fourth and fifth players and that team makes the playoffs.  A Melo/Amar’e combo under D’Antoni will be frighteningly good offensively…and then they’ll flame out in the playoffs’ second round because they’ll play no defense!