For the first time since he was dealt to the New York Knicks in 2011 as part of a multi-player megadeal, Carmelo Anthony will play in Denver tonight.
It promises to be an emotional affair, with Nuggets fans expected to loudly boo the forward who starred in the Mile High City for eight seasons before he forced his way out of town.
According to Anthony, however, he will do his best to treat it just like any other game.
Per Yahoo! Sports:
“I don’t think it will be emotional,” Anthony said. “I think it will be crazy sitting on the other bench, sitting on the other side of the court, being in the visitors’ locker room. But as far as being emotional, I don’t think so.”
Why did Anthony want to go to New York so badly? Other than the huge marketing opportunities a large market like New York offers, he says the other big reason was that teammates Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby and possibly Chauncey Billups (team option) were going to be free agents in 2011, likely going elsewhere and he didn’t want to be on a rebuilding team. “People didn’t really know the business side of the situation we were in,” Anthony said. “Everybody’s contract was up. They had plans of going younger. People from the outside looking in didn’t really get it.” [...] “I laid everything on the line for Denver,” Anthony said. “I did everything I could for Denver. They opened the city up for me when I was 18, 19 years. We grew together. I never want anyone to forget that.”
In addition to loud heckling, Melo will continue to deal with a mysterious right knee injury.
The Nuggets have done just fine without Carmelo Anthony—at 43-22, and riding a nine-game winning streak, the go-go Nugs are comfortably hanging on to 5th spot in the Western Conference standings.
George Karl, who occasionally butted heads with Anthony during his tenure in Denver, says the team should eventually retire Carmelo’s #15 jersey:
“I would probably say yes,” Karl said. “My gut feeling is, I don’t know if you want to do it at a time when the fans are kind of angry and frustrated, and probably some fans are anti-Melo, but in time I would vote definitely, yes. What he did for this franchise, turning it around. He has to be one of the two or three best players in Nuggets history, in my opinion. I vote yes.”