Carmelo Anthony Receives Warm Welcome in Rare Appearance at Garden as a Fan
IBexclusive News Monday, January 28, 2019.
(IBEXNews) - Anthony sat baseline with his son, Kiyan, and was shown on the arena’s Jumbotron in the first quarter. Following a highlight package of his record-breaking 62-point game from 2014, Anthony stood up and waved at the crowd. At halftime, Kristaps Porzingis walked over and hugged his former teammate.
“The energy is always good in this building,” Anthony said during the Knicks’ 106-97 defeat to Miami. “I’ve had some great years in this building.”
Anthony, who hasn’t been at an NBA arena since being banished by the Rockets in November, said attending Sunday’s game was about witnessing Dwyane Wade’s second-to-last game at the Garden during his farewell tour. That’s assuming Wade plays again when the Heat come to NY on March 30. Otherwise, it was Wade’s final game at MSG and he finished with 15 points and a season-high 10 assists.
“It means a lot because it was very difficult for me to come out the house and come to an NBA game,” Anthony said, “but if it was one moment that I could come out and be here in this seat, is to come see him finish it out here in the Garden.”
Technically a member of the Bulls but really without a team, Anthony fizzled out in stops at OKC and Houston after being traded by the Knicks. He has been waived or traded four times since 2017, but made it clear Sunday he wants to play again in the NBA.
“I look forward to coming back to this building and playing some more,” Anthony said.
Wade expected the positive reaction from the Garden crowd for Anthony, noting his friend’s impact was greater than basketball.
“Melo did nothing but be a great citizen in this community, even when everything went bad here with Phil (Jackson) he still was a model citizen in this community, even in front of you guys (the media),” Wade said. “When it’s tough every day to get in front of the cameras I thought he did a great job conducting himself the right way. He left here with his head up high and thanking the New York fans for what they meant to him and his family.”
It was an ugly ending to Anthony’s tenure in New York, including four straight losing seasons and a feud with president Phil Jackson. The divorce was long and public. But, predating Jackson, Anthony led the Knicks to three consecutive playoff appearances, including a division title in 2013. The Knicks have gone 39-90 since Anthony’s trade to the Thunder and their defeat Sunday dropped them to 10-38 this season. They’ve lost nine in a row overall and 22 of their last 24 games. They haven’t won at MSG since Dec. 1.
“(Anthony) was the one when you came in here, you were like, ‘Oh goodness. We gotta get ready for this guy,’” said Knicks coach David Fizdale, who was an assistant with the Heat for eight seasons. “He could put 50 on your head. He made this place electric. He really did. And I know that was one of those things, him being a New Yorker too (Anthony was born in Brooklyn), just added a whole other air to it. I know him being here means a lot to the guy in the other locker room, D-Wade. They’re really close and really good friends. I know him being here means a lot to him.”
With more perspective, Anthony also looks back differently at his time in New York. After once describing the Knicks as “hell,” he then said in October, “I didn’t have a bad experience (in New York).” After being dealt to the Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick, Anthony experienced a steep career downfall. He was traded from the Thunder to the Hawks as a salary dump, then bought out. He was signed by the Rockets but was banished from the team and eventually traded to the Bulls as another salary dump.
He’ll be either traded or bought out by the Bulls, clearing the way to join another franchise — perhaps the Lakers.
“It’s about the right fit. It’s about the right mentality,” Wade said. “The toughest part for GMs, presidents, owners and players is how to handle an aging superstar, right, in this game. It has to all work perfectly. Everyone has to make the right sacrifices. And it has to be the right group and it has to be the right coach. It has to work perfectly when it’s an aging star in this game. And unfortunately his last stop in Houston, it wasn’t the right stop. But Carmelo can play basketball.”