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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