On Melo’s return… and what could have been

It’s been over two years since Carmelo Anthony was traded to the Knicks. To this point he’s still yet to step foot inside Pepsi Center without being a member of the Denver Nuggets. Tonight, this will change. Tonight, Melo will become will endure a long-awaited basketball baptism and become free once and for all.

Looking back, it’s probably a good thing Melo didn’t visit the Pepsi Center last year. Good for him, and good for the fans. The lockout allowed Melo to avoid having to revisit one of the uglier periods in his life and insured Nuggets fans kept their humility intact for at least another nine months or so. It allowed him to settle into New York more and get used to his new life; it allowed us to breath and recuperate. He’ll no doubt feel the wrath of thousands of spurned fans, but that hostility will largely be mitigated by a confidence and belief in our new team.

Because at this point, we’ve moved on. We’re our own person (rather, fanbase) and the funny thing is: We’re better than we were with him. That’s what makes this whole returning-to-Denver thing feel somewhat futile. At this point, we just don’t care. We really, really don’t care. As the saying goes, time cures all, and after an entire season passed and another one nears its end, fans have simply lost interest in caring about a player not on the current roster — no matter how good he may have been. As we speak, the Nuggets are currently in the midst of their longest winning streak since 2005 and are playing the best basketball we’ve seen since the team made its historical run to the Western Conference Finals in 2009. Furthermore, since Melo left Denver the Nuggets have compiled an 81-50 record as apposed to the Knicks’ tally of 74-53. Put simply: Nuggets fans just don’t have a reason to hate Melo anymore.

Of course, this isn’t to say Melo won’t be receiving his fare share of jeers tonight — and rightly so. The Boo Birds will undoubtedly be out this evening in the frigid Mile High temperatures; however, their song won’t be too heartfelt. It can’t be, really. If you boo Melo tonight, you’re doing it because it’s fun — not because you genuinely despise the guy like you may have a year or two ago.

What I will admit is this: I don’t necessarily hold Melo in high regard. What he did to the Nuggets was a pretty crappy thing, not so much to the organization as a whole, but to his teammates and the fans. It was incredibly selfish and myopic. It wasted an entire year of basketball, tore apart a championship-caliber squad that took years to assemble and made watching the Nuggets essentially miserable. It exemplified everything that is wrong about pro sports and greed, and ultimately set the precedent for future generations of supremely talented yet egocentric basketball players to leave franchises in shambles on their way to collecting the biggest checks in the biggest cities with the most amount of star talent.

But what’s done is done. And while I don’t exactly praise Carmelo Anthony for his life decisions I also know they’re not my own, therefore they are not mine to judge. Life is incredibly short. The constant pursuit of true happiness and satisfaction are an elusive treasure that many people spend their entire existence in search of. If Melo was not happy in Denver, then I sure hope he is in New York. I have a suspicion he is.

Tonight, the final chapter of Melo’s career in Denver will be written. He’ll return to Pepsi Center in the future and the Nuggets will visit Madison Square Garden as they have already done several times since the trade; but whatever sour taste was left in our mouths can only exist for so long. Both squads appear to have extremely bright futures. Everyone appears to be happy. Life goes on.

But no matter how many days pass, no matter how many games are played, no matter how many games are won… we will always be left to wonder: What if?

What if Melo teamed up with Masai? What if Chauncey, our hometown hero, never left? What if George Karl reconnected with that old coach in Seattle and decided to embrace defense and value winning on the road again? What if Ujiri worked his magic on several unfortunate GMs and hit on his draft picks like he has his entire tenure in Denver? And what if this all happened together? Would the Nuggets have made their first ever trip to the NBA Finals? Would they have even gone so far as to win on the NBA’s biggest stage?

In the end, I guess it doesn’t matter too much, because whether Melo’s on the Nuggets roster or not this is still a team well on its way to winning an NBA championship someday thanks to a different superstar.

His name is Masai Ujiri.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • AaronCAPS

    I hope nobody boos or cheers tonight. Just so we don’t look like a shiny & desperate fan base. Because we aren’t. Were over Melo.

    • AaronCAPS

      Whiney*

    • http://soundcloud.com/maculate Maculate

      I think it is more about booing what he stands for (or stood for in demanding that trade) than it being about being over Melo or not. Obviously, our team is doing just fine without him, but players like him and Dwight already get every little thing their little diva egos want. To me, it is more about booing that idea. It goes against what basketball and team sports should be about in my opinion and deserves to be booed.

      • Troll

        I agree. I hate how spineless Denver fans are. I need to move to Philedelphia where fans have backbones. They would never even ENTERTAIN the idea of cheering for a player who rejected their city. It’s about having some pride in where you live and saying if we aren’t good enough for you, then you don’t deserve our recognition either. I am so embarrassed by the Denver fan base. No passion, no pride, and no backbone. I love my nuggets but I am ashamed of our fan base.

    • doktarr

      I don’t think booing Melo makes us look desperate. I don’t have a problem with it. It’s a way to voice disapproval at his desire to leave Denver despite a good situation there.

      That said, personally I can’t really be upset by it. His lifelong dream, since he was a little kid, was to be the star player for the Knicks. He made it happen, despite it being a worse basketball situation and no better for him financially. People should have a right to pursue their dreams and live where they want to live.

      From the Nuggets’ perspective, we got something approaching fair value, especially given that he was in the last year of his contract and we could have lost him for nothing but a compensatory pick or two. The team is probably better for his not being here now.

      Still, I hope to hear some boos. Just on general principle. It’s what we’re supposed to do.

      I wonder what the reaction will be to J.R?

  • Junior

    i have respect for him. I like him as a player and honestly without him, our team wouldnt be what it is today. I mean sure he did prolong the whole trade thing but at the end of the day, he wanted to make sure he didnt leave this team with nothing and he did that. That being said, i cant wait to see what happens tonight GO NUGGETS!!!!

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

      I definitely agree with “without him, our team wouldnt be what it is today”. It was because he went to the Nuggets that they got put back on the map in the NBA in a way they hadn’t been since the 80s. And it was because of his value as a player — which, after years in Denver, was directly a product of his accomplishments — that the Nuggets were able to not only avoid slipping but actually gain ground after the trade. I mean, Gallo, Koufos, Miller (via Felton), Chandler, Mozgov… that is one helluva valuable and productive collection of assets.

      I can’t say I agree with “he wanted to make sure he didnt leave this team with nothing,” though. Which is not to say that I think he had any intention to hurt or damage the Nuggets in any way. I don’t think there’s anything to suggest that. I just don’t buy that Denver’s best interests really factored into his decision making. It really seemed to all be about number one, and all about having his cake (getting traded to NYK…) and eating it too (while maximizing his salary). Of course, I’m not a psychic, and this is all speculation on both our parts. I could be wrong. But to me, the facts seem most consistent with the idea that he was primarily acting out of selfish motives.

      The one really interesting twist, which could be taken as support either for your take or mine, is the fact that he was willing to let Denver basically gut the team he was about to play for. That could be spun to say he wanted to minimize the damage to the Nuggets. Or it could be spun to say he was acting so selfishly that he was willing to put his own interests above those of both his past and future teams. It’s all a matter of speculation, but the latter passes the smell test more, in my opinion.

      Great writeup, Kalen! I’m definitely in agreement with how we should have a distanced perspective now, and how the fan base has moved on.

      • dynamo.joe

        I think regardless of his ultimate motives we were treated far better than cleveland and orlando. He basically went in and said “I’m leaving after this contract, it would behoove you to get something for me while you can”, although he probably didn’t use the word ‘behoove’.

        Personally I hope the fans applaud his introduction and boo him during the game.

        • http://soundcloud.com/maculate Maculate

          What a kind, sweet, generous sucker punching ….. He was being altruistic in his demands to the FO? It had nothing to do with getting as much money as possible by getting traded rather than signing as a free agent?

          • Diamond

            How quickly people forget how Melo wanted out before FA so he could get a max contract in the old CBA..

            • Troll

              Yup. That’s the Denver fan base for ya!

          • dynamo.joe

            I didn’t say he was being altruistic. Just that he was up front with us rather than sucker punching us like LeBronze or outright lying like Dwight.

            • http://soundcloud.com/maculate Maculate

              He would have if he could have. If he could have screwed us and got all his cash, you don’t think he would have? His Teammates, the FO, the fans, never entered into his mind! You can clearly see where his priorities where. 1) $ 2) Being a NY Star Diva 3) winning in lower case letters

  • http://soundcloud.com/maculate Maculate

    Got goosebumps reading this article. Really great job summing up everything, tied perfectly together at the end. Daily reader. Keep up the fantastic work RBMC!

  • Sean Belcher

    Waxing philosophical about happiness and life’s journey in an article about Carmelo Anthony? Wow. One can appreciate the enthusiasm but I find it a tad unnecessary.

    Nonetheless, at least Melo made it known that there was no hope he would sign an extension and allowed the Nuggets’ front office to get something for what would have undoubtably been nothing if Kroenke let the trade deadline slip away. Rather than the implosion in Cleveland following BronBrons departure, the Nuggets got the best deal possible. They didn’t miss the playoffs and are now rightfully getting national recognition as George Karl’s mad scientist experiment gone oh so right. Melo: thanks for the years and the sweat, but good riddance.

    Plus, nothing good can come of booing a player with a bum knee.

  • Giovanni

    Memphis continue to win…

    Sit down on the river and awaits your enemy pass away

    Kalen to prove your point is pass the first round…

    So same shit different year…

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

      That is very close to being Nuggets haiku. (And that’s a compliment).

  • Finazz

    Well said Kalen.

  • MainFrank

    We should take a page out of Coach Carter and pretend to read the newspaper. No boos, no cheers, just a complete lack of interest when Melo is announced. Too bad we’re not that organized.

    • dynamo.joe

      That’s crazy talk! Have you never heard the chant for tacos? That’s organization, man.

  • stevesf47

    I still root for melo. I honestly don’t think he “ditched” the nugs. As far as i could tell he wanted out and he had the right to leave. He wanted to be in NY. At least he let it be known and we received a kings ransom for him unlike what happened in Cleveland with Lebron. Melo could have easily just “i might return, i’m not sure.” Nugs MIGHT have kept him to see if they could convince him this is where he should be. But melo was honest and for that reason we were able to make the move. So, i dont dislike him. I can’t hate a guy who followed his heart to NY.

    Regardless, GO NUGS! I hope they smash the knicks by 20 tonight! :)

  • Will the NC Nugget

    I’m still and forever a Melo fan…I mean he’s th reason I follow the Nuggets in the first place. I was pissed in the beginning of all the trade talk …NJ here NYK there ..the LAKERS at some point??!! But I sat back n thought about it…..all he wanted to do (besides get paid) is play at home. Melo grew up a Knicks fan a big Bernard King fan if I’m not mistaken. Who wouldn’t want to come home and fight for a ring? His AAU buddy Amare was there and all he had to to is kick that ugly math problem out …(Mike + D’Antoni) – D = HIRE MIKE WOODSON!!! lol but anyways with that trade we should be happy cuz our future looks more like the spurs than the magic lol either way I root for Melo and his Knuggicks (Melo Felton JR Kenyon AND CAMBY) as long as they’re not facing the TyFecta !!!! Not gonna lie I remained a Nuggz fan mostly cuz I’m a lifelong TARHEEL and GK n Ty on the team + the powder blue u Clorodians don’t know what ur missing …how hype ppl get for them @ bobcats games u woulda thought the Heat or Lakers were there ….Either way it goes GO NUGGETS!!!!! I love our team n tho Melo would be great to have we’ve got so much talent that it doesn’t even matter …

  • buffalo soldier

    We love you Melo and (JR) and now we are going to kick your sorry ass.

  • LMoody

    I’ll be there tonight, and I will politely clap for Melo, Camby, and Felton. I will boo K-Mart if he gets in the game because I never really liked him and thought he was a money pit. Finally, towards the end of the 1st quarter, I will run on the court, throw a sack over JR’s head, kidnap him, and force him to rejoin the Nuggz.

    • dynamo.joe

      I’ll start a kickstarter for your legal defense fund.

  • Legalize Denver Nuggets

    It would be amazing if everyone was just silent for melo when he came in. Maybe a polite golf clap, but otherwise silent. And then jr gets introduced and there is raucous applause and cheering.

  • http://yahoo.com prospector

    Mello is a self-centered punk that cares more about scoring than winning.. He can’t spell defense.. He would practice without his shirt on..(like dude I don’t want your stink ass sweat splashing on me, put on a shirt or we can go outside get it straight)…. He is a primadonna that thinks the world revolves around him.. THANK GOD he is gone!! So THANK YOU MELLO!!! for deciding to leave… THANK YOU!!!

  • Chris

    Great piece, if a little unfocused. I don’t hate Melo, but I do dislike the way the game is currently assembled. Sure, we lucked out in having one of the best GMs in basketball, but this trade (or lack of trade) could have easily crippled our team for another decade.

    Instead, we have a brighter future than the cap-strained Knicks and if we can somehow parlay our resources into one or two star-caliber guys to team with Ty, we’ll be playing against LeBron and the Heat for the NBA Championship by 2014. With Masai at the helm, I like those odds.

    (Only one gripe with this article: the high in Denver today is 61, so I doubt the Boo Birds will be braving anything remotely “frigid.”)

    The heat is on, Nuggs!

  • Seth

    I hate it when people put Melo up as this incredibly selfish individual for doing what he did. Melo handled his situation as well as anybody has in my opinion. He didn’t quit on the team, he didn’t televise it nationally and leave all parties involved out of the loop until he announced his decision. He just didn’t sign the new extension. He didn’t demand a trade mid season, and didn’t hold the organization hostage.
    Sure he jumped ship to NY, but here’s a newsflash, every young professional, regardless of industry, would have done the exact same thing in his position. You have a chance to double your income and influence by simply moving cities? What Real Estate Agent would not take this deal? What Stock Broker, Engineer, Architect, etc… would not do this? OF COURSE HE TOOK THE DEAL!
    Denver got an absolutely great deal out of the Melo trade, and Melo almost singlehandedly turned this organization around. Does anybody remember winning less than 20 games? I sure do. Melo took us from a joke to a perennial playoff team.
    I’m disappointed I can’t go tonight, because if I could I would cheer my head off for Melo.

    • Troll

      Embarrassing.

      • Seth

        but not wrong

        • Troll

          So I should thank Carmelo for being drafted? Why should we thank him? Because we got a good return in the melo trade? You should be thanking Masai, not melo. Melo didn’t give two sh*ts about what the nuggets got back – he only wanted to force his way to NY.

  • http://www.coprosports.com Monica Lammers

    Melo’s departure from the Denver Nuggets was bittersweet, to say the least. It was a wild ride with him on the team as the Nuggs tried to build around him.

    Yes, it could have been something bigger if he were surrounded by a stronger supporting cast and healthy teammates. However, I like the new-look nuggets. It’s amazing what the Denver Nuggets starters can do now, let alone our 2nd string.

    I truly believe that Melo was the end of an era for the Denver Nuggets. I agree with Seth that Melo did turn this organization around…and the payoff is what we see today.

    It should be an outstanding game tonight!!

  • Matt Pepper
  • monimo

    I WILL BE AT THE GAME THIS NIGHT! I came in from Europe just to watch the Nuggets play Carmelo and the Knicks. Since the trade I love the Nuggets and tonight it will be a very exciting night!! I will cheer Carmelo because he is a great player and, I think, a good person. He wanted to play in NY and he let it know to the organization. So the awesome trade became possible. The biggest sin of Lebron and Bosh was to never make a decision before tradeline and so they left Cleveland and Toronto without nothing. Carmelo handled this as a better person. I’m sitting in a bar in Denver downtown. I’m so excited. I will see the Nuggets and I will be at the game this night!!

  • Jeff

    I was going to middle school in Syracuse when melo took the orange to the championship and won the title. I moved to Colorado around the same time the nuggets drafted him. Needless to say I’m a big Melo fan. It’s his life and I had no problem with the decision he made. He gave the Nuggets some great years and turned the franchise around. It was a great situation when e left, all things considered. I think it would be awesome if the fans gave Melo a warm welcome but I doubt it will happen. It would show a lot of class. Also it would probably mess with Melos head!

    • John in LA

      Stalker…

  • al68

    Para mi fue muy bueno que se marchara Melo, él era mal defensor acaparaba mucho juego y ralentizaba el ritmo, lo único malo fue deshacerse de Billups. con él podíamos haber llegado muy lejos el año pasado.
    SIN BILLUPS NO HUBIERAMOS PASADO DE 1º RONDA EN EL SIGLO XXI.

  • theo

    Agree with those here that think he should hear the boos tonight big time, not so much because of Melo, but because I’d love to see Denver hoops crowds turn the Can into an even more hostile place to play for anybody. Give no quarter to any opponent playing in that building. Well, ok, Chauncey gets a pass….

    BTW, hard core hoops/Nugs fans get kicked in the groin today once again by the Broncos. I mean, we’re on a roll, becoming national news, playing a huge game–biggest media game of the year with Melo’s return tonight, etc. Expected the game tonight would be the talk of Denver media–especially sports media–today. Then that SOB Elway :^) steals our thunder with the Wes Welker thing. Nobody talked about anything else today. Geez, even the new pope got hosed locally by NFL free agency in Denver. I love the Broncs as much as the next Front Ranger, but come on, can’t the Nugs ever have a night in the spotlight?

    Kidding around obviously, but sort of half serious and related to my comments above–until Nugs fans get as raucous and passionate as Broncos fans the Nugs will always play a distant second fiddle here.

    • https://twitter.com/denbutsu Joel

      I think Denver fans (sports fans in general, not specifically Nuggets fans) will come around if these guys prove they can win. Denver’s a football town at heart, and not a basketball town. But it’s not really a historically hockey town either, and look what happened when the Avs won the cup. (There was DU, I guess, but they had a fairly limited fan base). It’s a truth-based cliche that everyone loves a winner. If the Nuggets get out of the first round, I think people will take notice, and a lot of the California/East Coast transplants will bandwagon.

      But it’s true that Colorado is Broncos country to the core. No team will ever supercede them in stature. But I do think this team has started to make people take notice, though that’s hard for me to gauge not living in Denver anymore.

  • theo

    Don’t agree. The idea that east/west coast ‘transplants’ will ‘bandwagon’ is the definition of the problem here. The ‘bandwagon people’ are the Nugs fan base.

    Great marketing by teams and superior media coverage over the last 50 years in many western cities created a rabid fan base built mostly on transplants from somewhere else that learned to love hoops back home but transferred the love to a new place. Eventually the long term locals get it.

    I blame a lazy local sports media and above all, a really poor Nuggets marketing effort over the years for the situation. No substitute for winning to draw fans, but most of the great hoops traditions in the western conference got popular and became part of the sports fabric of their cities long before they ‘hoisted a trophy.’

    We’ve got an up and coming city filled with highly educated and athletic folks that has a very exciting NBA team breaking molds but that team gets nothing on local media. I mean, nothing. Once again, the Broncos drafting a 5 ft 8 inch wide receiver drowns out any discussion of the Nuggets. I mean, come on.