Carmelo Anthony Traded to Thunder, Ending Turbulent Era With Knicks
After scoring more than 10,000 points for five coaches over seven seasons without all that much to show for it, Carmelo Anthony is finally leaving New York.
The Knicks on Saturday agreed to trade Anthony, a 10-time N.B.A. All-Star and one of the league’s great offensive players, to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick, according to a league official briefed on the negotiations.
The deal, completed just two days before the start of Knicks training camp, will allow the 33-year-old Anthony to join forces in Oklahoma City with two other marquee players — Russell Westbrook, the N.B.A.’s reigning most valuable player, and Paul George, a four-time All-Star — as the Thunder begin a wildly ambitious bid to challenge the supremacy of the Golden State Warriors, who have claimed two of the last three N.B.A. championships and are the strong favorites to win another next season.
At the same time, the Knicks can finally close the chapter on Anthony’s turbulent tenure in New York and try to move on without him. Anthony, who desperately wanted out of New York, had been determined to join the Houston Rockets. But as training camp neared, he agreed to waive his no-trade clause for a couple of more teams, including the Thunder.
It will not take Anthony long to see his old team again: The Knicks are scheduled to play their season opener in Oklahoma City on Oct. 19.
The trade comes after a tumultuous summer for the Knicks, who fired Phil Jackson after a disastrous tenure as team president and hired Scott Perry as the new general manager.
It became increasingly clear that Perry, along with Steve Mills, who was promoted to team president in the wake of Jackson’s departure, wanted to move on from Anthony.
Both Perry and Mills have repeatedly expressed their desire to commit the struggling Knicks to a rebuilding plan that would emphasize youth and defense. Although they did not say so directly, that description seemed to leave no role for the 6-foot-8-inch Anthony, who has never been much of a defender and is fairly old by basketball standards.
With Saturday’s deal, the Knicks signaled the continuation of a youth movement centered on Kristaps Porzingis, their 22-year-old power forward. But their defense remains in some doubt.
Kanter, a 25-year-old center from Turkey, averaged 14.3 points in 21.3 minutes a game for the Thunder last season. But Billy Donovan, the coach of the Thunder, had such little faith in Kanter’s defensive abilities that he could not keep him on the court in a playoff series against the Rockets last season.
In May, Kanter made international headlines when he was detained in Romania after the Turkish government canceled his travel documents. Kanter, who was later allowed to return to the United States, has been an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Shortly after news of the trade broke, Kanter posted a heartfelt farewell to Oklahoma City.
McDermott, a 25-year-old forward, averaged 9 points a game last season.
The Thunder will be Anthony’s third N.B.A. team in a professional career that began in 2003, when he was selected by the Denver Nuggets with the No. 3 pick in the draft not long after he led Syracuse to an N.C.A.A. championship as an 18-year-old freshman.
Anthony went on to spend seven and a half seasons with the Nuggets before forcing a trade to the Knicks in February 2011. It was a controversial deal that the Knicks’ owner, James Dolan, approved over the objections of Donnie Walsh, who was then the team president. Walsh did not want to surrender so many players to acquire Anthony when the Knicks could have simply waited a few more months and tried to sign him as a free agent.
With the Knicks, Anthony continued to play at a high level and was an All-Star in each of his six full seasons with the team. He appeared in 412 regular-season games for them, averaging 24.7 points, 7 rebounds and 3.2 assists while shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from 3-point range.
For much of his tenure at Madison Square Garden, he was also the team’s most popular player — a reputation owing to his wizardry on offense, his generally friendly demeanor and the fact that he had roots in New York, having been born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, before moving to Baltimore.
Still, he had his detractors, too, including many fans (and coaches) who believed he was too focused on manufacturing shots for himself rather than creating for his teammates.
And Anthony’s individual success with the Knicks did not translate into something larger. He led them into the playoffs three times, but only once, in 2013, was he able to get them past the first round. In his final four seasons with the Knicks, they had an almost unthinkable record of 117-211.
Amid this long stretch of futility, Anthony underwent knee surgery in February 2015 and missed the remainder of that season. In the two seasons that followed, he looked, at times, older and slower, although he was still a premier player.
He also became an increasingly unhappy one under Jackson, who wanted the Knicks to employ the triangle offense he had used in winning a record 11 championships as an N.B.A. coach in Chicago and Los Angeles. But Anthony, many of his teammates and, for that matter, much of the N.B.A. felt the intricacies of the triangle were out of date in a league that was beginning to emphasize high-tempo play, as exemplified by the Warriors.
Still, it was Anthony’s opposition to the triangle that stood out and no doubt irked Jackson, who resorted to aiming barbs at Anthony on social media, perhaps to help convince him that he would be better off elsewhere.
Instead, it was Jackson who was forced out, in part because of the rift he created with Anthony as well as a separate one that arose between Jackson and the Knicks’ other standout player, Porzingis.
Jackson’s ouster initially made Anthony, with two years still to go on his Knicks contract, look like the survivor. But Mills, who had spent three seasons working under Jackson, had other ideas. First, he spent an enormous amount of money to reacquire Tim Hardaway Jr., a 25-year-old, 6-6 swingman who had originally been drafted by the Knicks before Jackson traded him.
Hardaway gave Mills a player with offensive skills that could help make up for the void left by Anthony’s departure. Once Perry joined the organization, he began to search for a team that wanted Anthony and where Anthony would actually be willing to go.
He found a landing spot in Oklahoma City, which has a dynamic offense led by Westbrook and a top-shelf scorer in George, whom the Thunder acquired in an off-season trade with the Indiana Pacers.
With the Thunder, Anthony now has a more realistic chance of winning his first N.B.A. championship, although the Warriors remain an imposing obstacle.
As for the Knicks, Anthony leaves behind a ragged trail of brilliant and disappointing moments, all of it colored by seemingly endless dysfunction. He loved playing in New York and being a part of the city’s fabric. But for Anthony, the Knicks and all of their many impassioned fans, his long run here ended up as a profoundly bittersweet experience.