The Nuggets reached the 2009 Western Conference finals. Carmelo Anthony thought Denver should have won the title.
A year later, he requested a trade (and ultimately got dealt to the Knicks).
Anthony on “All The Smoke”:
Contrary to what anybody an every believes, I never wanted to leave Denver. I never told people that. But I never wanted to leave Denver. But it’s like they put my back against the wall.
We go to the Western Conference Finals in 09. What are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to build on that. You’re supposed to add pieces, plug and play, don’t mess the core up.
They got rid of Dahntay Jones. On that team, Dahntay was a key piece on that team. Get rid of Dahntay Jones. They’re like, “We ain’t re-signing Chauncey. We’re about to trade J.R.” K-Mart – contracts is up, and the lockout’s coming?
So, I’m not about to rebuild. I’m not going to rebuild after we done went to the Western Conference Finals. We’re supposed to be building, not rebuilding. And I went to them. I’m like, “I don’t want to go, but if y’all going to rebuild, it’s time for me to go somewhere else.”
This is, favorably, semantics. If Anthony didn’t want to leave Denver, he didn’t have to force his way from Denver. He didn’t want to rebuild, which was his prerogative. But because the Nuggets wanted to rebuild – their prerogative – he wanted to leave.
Denver earned its run to the 2009 conference finals. But by the time Anthony got traded, Billups (34) and Kenyon Martin (33) were on the downswing. That Dahntay Jones was such a significant loss shows how vulnerable this team was. (Keeping J.R. Smith could have gone further for raising the ceiling.)
Anthony probably wouldn’t have liked how the Nuggets performed if they kept the band together.
Sometimes, teams run their course. Then, it’s on incumbent players to decide whether to stay the course or use their leverage to try to leave.
Anthony made his choice.