Carmelo Anthony on Bulls in 2014 free agency: ‘I was going to Chicago’

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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LeBron James has won three championships in 15 years.

Dwyane Wade has won three championships in 15 years.

Carmelo Anthony has won three playoff series in 15 years.

Anthony is painfully aware of his lack of team success relative to his friends/peers. He’ll also point out: He never had the teammates LeBron and Wade did.

But is that partially Anthony’s fault?

Appearing on ESPN, Anthony discussed potential opportunities to join LeBron and Wade on the Heat in 2010, Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah on the Bulls in 2014.

LeBron (Cavaliers) and Wade (Heat) signed shorter rookie-scale extensions in 2006, allowing them to become free agents in 2010. Anthony said they urged him to do the same. Instead, Anthony locked in longer with the Nuggets. While LeBron and Wade were uniting with Chris Bosh in free agency, Anthony was stuck in Denver. Had Anthony taken the three-year extension, it could have been him – not Chris Bosh – on Miami’s big three.

Anthony:

We didn’t know that that was going to happen. It was just conversations at that point in time. We always said we wanted to play with each other – USA teams, world championships. We always said that, coming into the NBA as well. We don’t know that was going to come into fruition. We didn’t know even how that was going to happen. At that point in time when they brought that to me, it was just an idea.

The Miami situation, that was just an idea. That was just at the idea stages. And I was about to sign shortly after that conversation.

This is spot on. Stars talk about teaming up far more than it actually happens. Anthony could have left guaranteed money on the table, but four years in advance, he had no way of knowing how it’d turn out. Players sometimes sacrifice money for winning and get neither. Anthony took the safe option, and that was totally fine.

There’s also no guarantee the Heat would’ve been as good with Anthony instead of Bosh. Bosh proved excellent as supporting traditional stars. His defense was essential to Miami. Anthony probably wouldn’t have developed those complementary skills.

Anthony eventually engineered a trade to the Knicks. New York was mediocre, and Anthony had a chance to leave in 2014 unrestricted free agency. He reportedly nearly chose the Bulls.

Anthony:

I was going to Chicago. Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah. I was there, right? I was there. And then I started getting whispers behind the scenes. “Yo, look, this person ain’t gonna be there. It ain’t really right. This and that.” And it was all of that started to come up in the midst of my decision-making. I wasn’t going to let anything cloud that. I met with New York last. They was the last team I met with, because I knew that I was ready to move on from that situation because of what I was dealing with and going through in New York. After that, I met with New York the last meeting and said, “Tell me what you’re going to do for the organization, for us to put a team together to go compete and try to win. That was my conversation with them. There was a lot of things that was promised, a lot of things that was said. And I said, “You know what? Because I belong in New York, I’m going to roll with you. I’m going to roll with you.”

It sounds like Anthony is talking about Tom Thibodeau. The coach and management were already experiencing tension that led to Thibodeau getting fired the next year. Once again, Anthony had sound reason to pick the lesser team. He rightfully snuffed out that Chicago was soon in for major change.

However, also once again, Anthony took the bigger contract. He keeps glossing over that.

There’s nothing wrong with that. He’d look better by just admitting it. By saying he trusted the Knicks – the Knicks! – to build a winner, Anthony looks foolish. That’s a shame-on-him situation. Just say he took the money.

Anthony was a very good player whose main skill, scoring, draws the largest paychecks. He also didn’t contribute much as a defender and passer. His high salary and narrow skill set made it difficult for his teams to build a winner around him.

He could have have put himself in different situations. But many of the same people who say Anthony didn’t win enough also criticize Kevin Durant for taking an easy route to the title. It’s so hard to please that crowd.

Anthony sounds generally satisfied with his career (at least until this last stretch). He played the role he wanted and made a lot of money. That matters.

It’s easy to second-guess his contracts. But with different moves, we’d probably just be second-guessing a different set of circumstances.