Anthony's a different player, person as he returns to New York

Born in Brooklyn, 'Melo won a national title as a freshman with Syracuse

February 22, 2011|By Kevin Van Valkenburg, The Baltimore Sun

When Carmelo Anthony last called the state of New York his home, he was a baby-faced freshman at Syracuse University. He wore his hair in tightly-woven corn rows and his lanky frame had not yet filled out with muscle, but his beautiful jump shot and his ever-present grin seemed like harbingers of limitless potential.

There was little doubt that this skinny teenager who grew up on Myrtle Avenue in West Baltimore, and led the Syracuse Orange to an NCAA title as a freshman, was going to be a bona fide NBA star.

Anthony will once again call the state of New York home, having finally agreed on Tuesday to be the key component in a 12-player trade that will allow the Denver Nuggets, the only franchise he's played for during his NBA career, to send him to the New York Knicks.

And although Anthony has forever claimed Baltimore as his hometown — so much so that he has the city's name tattooed on his chest and neck — a part of him claims the city of New York as well. He was born in Brooklyn.

But much has changed in the seven years since he's been on the East Coast.

He did become one of the best players in the NBA during his seven years in Denver. Even during this bizarre season, he's averaged 25.2 points a game and 7.6 rebounds. But the journey was not always a smooth one. There were brushes with the law, squabbles with coaches and teammates, and playoff flame outs.

But Anthony returns to New York a grown man, in many respects. He is not the grinning teenager he once was. Physically, he is thicker, more muscular, and less apt to get pushed around in the paint. He is also a married man, with a son of his own. By all accounts, he is harder, less naive to the business side of professional sports. He said as much during a recent swing through Washington D.C., during his final weeks with the Nuggets.

Anthony watched and listened as public sentiment turned against him, both in Denver and across the country, as rumors swirled for months regarding his future.

"I turn on the TV, and I turn it right back off because it's always something, it's always a new team, always a rumor, always this person saying that, that person saying this," Anthony told reporters recently. "I try not to pay attention to it."

But now that the deal is finally done, at age 26, Anthony finds himself in the media capital of the world with a chance to reinvent his career. If he and Amare Stoudemire can help deliver the Knicks from NBA irrelevancy, it's likely that any lingering concerns about how he arrived in the Big Apple will quietly fade away.

"I think it's a great opportunity for him," said Jim Boeheim, Anthony's former college coach, in a radio interview with The Score 1260. "I think he wants to win, period. I think that's the key and New York's not a bad city to do it in, if you can do it there it's a pretty good deal."

In Denver, most Nuggets fans were simply happy to see the saga come to an end. Although Anthony was once the most popular athlete in the city, a poll posted Tuesday on the Denver Post website asked readers to react to the trade. With nearly 14,000 votes counted, 71 percent of those responding said they either "Loved" or "Liked" that Anthony was gone.

"I have tremendous respect for what he did here, what he gave us, what he gave me," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "I can't deny his personality and his skill level is a conflictive personality to a coach. And you know I thought we survived this year. ... I think we survived it in a positive way. Now, was it an A-plus? Probably not. But I look at the six years that I had with 'Melo as a blessing for a coach. We won a lot of games, and we won a lot of those games because of 'Melo."

In New York, reaction was mixed in the media. Several columnists questioned whether the Knicks — who traded four players and several draft picks to acquire Anthony — had surrendered too much. But Stoudemire was ecstatic about Anthony's arrival.

"With the offensive threat that Carmelo brings and I bring to the table, it's going to bring out the best in both of our games," Stoudemire said.

Anthony did not speak with the media Tuesday, but the early indication is he will wear No. 7 as his jersey number. The number he wore with the Nuggets and in college — 15 — has already been retired by the Knicks for Earl Monroe — who once went from the Baltimore Bullets to the Knicks — giving Anthony yet another opportunity for personal reinvention.

Stoudemire is already eager for the new chapter to begin.

"It's going to be great," he said. "It's going to be electric."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

kevin.vanvalkenburg@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kvanvalkenburg

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