Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Carmelo Is Leaving...

It has become inevitable.

It will be ending.

I guess the old adage is true; "All good things must come to an end."

Sources have reported to ESPN that Carmelo Anthony will most likely not be returning to the Denver Nuggets. "How does Ryan feel about it?" I know this is a question I will be asked countless times in the upcoming months. Well, my LeBron article garnered some attention and answered questions, so what better way to approach the 'Melo situation than to put it out there.

For those of you who may not know, I have followed and been a 'Melo fan since the first time I watched him. ESPN was televising a high school game featuring junior sensation LeBron James. They were playing against Oak Hill Academy and their senior star Carmelo Anthony. In all honesty, I was tuning in to watch LeBron. I hadn't heard of 'Melo. As I watched the game, and the country was becoming enamored with LeBron, I was drawn more to 'Melo's game. The kid was smooth. There was just something impressive to watch. When I heard he had committed to attend Syracuse University the following year, I was pumped. I grew up watching Big East basketball, namely Georgetown and Syracuse. As I always say in regards to college basketball, "If it ain't the Big East, it doesn't matter." I loved watching these programs with players such as Patrick Ewing, John Wallace, Alonzo Mourning, Derrick Coleman and my personal favorite, Allen Iverson. Carmelo Anthony going to Syracuse was just icing on the cake. I was going to follow this kid his entire career.

I got to watch him win Freshman of the Year, and more importantly, the National Championship. He just got better and better, especially under the tutelage of Jim Boeheim. What I didn't know at the time was that a rare incident was about to occur.

I am a Denver Nuggets fan. I have been as far as I can remember. Granted, there were quite a few seasons I just didn't admit it. They were awful. I grew up, though, loving guys like LaPhonso Ellis, Alex English, Fat Lever, Dan Issel and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (Chris Jackson before the name change). The Nuggets had just finished another historically bad season, but the light at the end of the tunnel was near. The Nuggets went into the 2003 NBA Draft with the third overall pick. They were in the lottery that could have landed them LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade. As everyone knows, LeBron was drafted first to Cleveland, leaving the Detroit Pistons at number two. They decided, in one of the NBA drafts largest blunders, to draft Serbian project Darko Milicic. How did this happen?! How did my favorite team luck into my favorite collegiate player? That rarely happens!! I was the point that I own 17 different 'Melo jerseys now.

Over the last 7 seasons, I have watched Carmelo lead the Nuggets to the playoffs every single year. He averaged over 20 points a game every single year. LeBron didn't get the Cavs to the playoffs in his rookie year. 'Melo did. He has started his career averaging over 20 points per game each year, a distinction he only shares with LeBron. 'Melo has been everything we wanted and more. He's a true superstar that makes Denver a destination. He makes ESPN, ABC and TNT want to broadcast Nuggets games. He produces on the court.

Unfortunately things are not ending the way we had all hoped. However, if you think this is all new, you would be dead wrong. The seeds of this were all planted the summer of 2008. During the summer, rumors were rampant that the Nuggets were listening to trade offers for Carmelo from the Detroit Pistons (oh, the irony) and the New Jersey Nets. These rumors went on and on for a few weeks without any word from Carmelo or the Nuggets. The rumors stopped when Carmelo went to Nuggets headquarters and asked what was going on. Management reiterated that they were not shopping him and wanted him to be a Nugget for a long time. Who knows if this is true or not? They may have taken calls, listened to offers but never really had intentions of trading him. However, if you're Carmelo, do you feel a bit betrayed? I would and I believe he did also. The Nuggets did pull the trigger on a trade, but instead shipped Allen Iverson to Detroit for Chauncey Billups. The Nuggets went on a magical run to the Western Conference Finals. They were three plays away from winning that series, but shot themselves in the foot and lost. They truly were the better team (I'm sure bandwagon Laker fans will disagree, but re-watch the series with an open mind and you'll see it). Getting so close just made 'Melo want that title that much more.

This is where things get bad. Management decided that they would stand pat and not improve any areas (and actually stepped back by letting defensive specialist Dahntay Jones get away). The regular season was successful but not as much as anyone had hoped. Then there was the embarrassing first round defeat to the Utah Jazz and the feeling started to come in that the window of opportunity had closed. Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen struggled with knee injuries. JR Smith continued muddling in mediocrity. 'Melo and Chauncey willed the team to another 50 win season, but could not carry them in the playoffs. Individuals can win in the regular season. Teams win in the playoffs. 'Melo was embarrassed and ashamed by the team's showing and lack of heart in the playoffs. His career has hit a crossroads. The Nuggets have a 3 year $65 million deal on the table for him.

So that's enough back story. You're reading this because you want to know what I think about the very likely possibility Carmelo Anthony will no longer be a Nugget.

I'm disappointed completely, but not for the reason you think. I'm disappointed the Nuggets did not make the right roster moves to keep Carmelo and give him confidence in the franchise. I understand where 'Melo is coming from. I really do:

1. He was born in Brooklyn and played at Syracuse. He's a New York kid who wants to play in New York. You can't get angry at a guy following his dream.

2. He doesn't have confidence in the franchise. They have crippled themselves with bad contracts and have not made the most intelligent personnel moves.

3. He wants to win. He led his team so close to the promise land, but they didn't step up when he needed them the most.

4. He wants to win a championship. The window for this current team has closed. If you're going to be part of a team rebuilding, why not go somewhere you've always dreamed of playing?

5. He probably still feels somewhat betrayed that he was brought up in trade talks two years ago. He was playing at a high level, top 10 player in the game, and the face of the franchise. To shop him for no real reason is mind-boggling and has to sting.

Look, I hope and pray that a resolution can happen. I want 'Melo in Denver for his entire career. Unfortunately it looks more and more like that boat has sailed. I'm just begging the fans of Denver to show the world how to handle a player leaving in a classy way. We will not burn jerseys in the street. We will not have our owner, Stan Kroenke, lose his mind and verbally assault 'Melo. We should thank 'Melo for giving Denver a winner and for taking us as far as he could. We were so close but unfortunately too far away.

I'm also hoping that if a trade happens, he ends up in New York. I'll give you three great reasons why this would make the pain a little easier:

1. The rekindling of the Knicks-Heat rivalry. If you don't remember the rivalry from 1997-2000 between these two franchises, please look it up. It was one of the most intense rivalries in the league. In a day and age where rivalries are manufactured, this could bring a legitimate one back. 'Melo and LeBron may be friends, but they love competing against each other. Their head to head match ups are classic.

2. Walt "Clyde" Frazier doing play by play with Mike Breen on the MSG Network for Knicks games. If you haven't heard Walt's play by play, you're missing legendary mic work. He's a big reason I buy NBA League Pass every year.

3. More jerseys for my collection. (On second thought, that's a bad idea.)

Well there's my explanation, feelings, justifications and thought process. Yep, it's going to suck. One thing I know for sure, I will not stop being a Carmelo Anthony fan. I was a fan before he was Nugget, while he was a Nugget and after he's a Nugget. I'll still be watching and cheering for him, whether he's in Denver, New York or somewhere else. I'll always be a Nuggets fan too. One player doesn't define the love for your team.

At least I've still got NBA League Pass to watch everything, right?

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