The Denver Nuggets and Ty Lawson are set to host Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks. Is the return anything more than a hostile homecoming?
Fly-over cities in the NBA: Cleveland (no longer serving Lebron James), Toronto (no longer serving Chris Bosh), Orlando (no longer serving Dwight Howard), New Orleans (no longer serving Chris Paul) and Denver (no longer serving Carmelo Anthony). The forgotten NBA cities are full of bitter fans in a league driven by the superstar players moving to big markets. So when Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver on as a member of the New York Knicks who is going to turn up the heat?
The Denver Nuggets have a distinct advantage over those other cities left with empty arenas by the NBA’s superstars because they alone will be in the playoffs. They will not squeak into the playoffs and get blown out in the first round, but instead have the potential to grab the third seed in the West and make the favorites, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, run for their playoff lives with the Nuggets up tempo style. While Carmelo Anthony looks more and more like Wylie Coyote on the New York Knicks, unable to catch a championship team, Lawson the roadrunner has been a top five-point guard in 2013, and Melo’s last remaining teammate from just two seasons ago.
I’ll get back to the superstar now. Melo moved to the Big Apple to be the NBA’s premier figure. He also moved into a pressure cooker big enough for criticism of both Carmelo Anthony and the New York Jets Tim Tebow, another Denver transplant. Whatever the reason Anthony chose to go to Madison Square Garden over staying at the Pepsi Center still causes a nauseating feeling among fans known as Melo-drama. However, I find the heat on Melo, his inability to play defense and his general laziness on the floor in New York, both familiar and over the top. There were always complaints about Anthony’s work ethic in Denver, but in New York it often detracts from Anthony’s ability as a scorer. And I find myself on the side of Melo’s defense.
I still believe that the Nuggets played their best basketball in December 2009, months after losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. That Nuggets team was as good as any in basketball and Melo was the key piece, the scoring punch of a system built around him. Adrian Dantley replaced George Karl, who was battling throat cancer, on the bench and the team fell apart. That was the end of the Melo-era, a show now on Broadway. Anthony was a great player, but he is still not on a team as close to a championship as those last two with Chauncey Billups.
Pictures of Carmelo Anthony in Denver uniforms have all been erased and forgotten. The NBA collective conscious now sees Anthony in Blue and Orange, a scorer still trying to prove that he can lead a team to a championship. Perhaps at the end of his career this blue and yellow jerseys will emerge again. To judge his legacy, everything begins in Denver until he brings a Knicks team closer to a championship. If I’m Anthony, having my legacy housed in a city that I held hostage demanding a trade is not appealing.
As for Denver, they have a team on the rise since Anthony left, looking for their 100th victory since his departure tonight. General Manager Masai Ujiri is on a mission to win a championship and there’s no reason to believe he might not some day find the formula.
What’s the key to success under the current Ujiri system, post-Anthony?
The Rule of Lawson.
And one of Lawson’s rules should be that Anthony never wins another game in Denver.
That’s a new legacy.