Benjamin Hochman has been the Nuggets beat writer for The Denver Post for the past four seasons. He is the one who broke the Carmelo Anthony trade late last night. I spoke with him today to get his thoughts on the deal and insights into how the players will adjust to their new surroundings.
What was your initial reaction when you confirmed the trade?
Relief. I’ve typed so much about Melo, I feel like Seinfeld signing those residual checks for the Super Terrific Happy Hour. I think everyone involved in the trade was relieved. This became a soap opera, featuring an NBA All-Star, a Russian billionaire, a reality TV star and media from America’s largest market. I think it was fitting that Melo made an appearance on a national talk show ("Conan") the same night he was traded. Everything in this process was over the top. From a basketball standpoint, my reaction was that both teams benefited. No, the Nuggets didn’t want to trade the greatest player in franchise history (apologies to Glen Gondrezick). But they got three young players who combine for around 50 points per game, a few draft picks and got under the luxury-tax line. My guess is Denver will make a couple more moves before next season, but at least it has some assets.
Did you ever think at any point during the season that Melo wanted to sign the extension and stay in Denver? When did it finally strike you that he was definitely going to be a Knick?
Since the summer, I knew he would end up in New York -- I just didn’t know what borough. With the Nets moving to Brooklyn -- where Melo lived until he was nine -- I thought he might buy into the excitement of that move. But he always wanted Manhattan, and even after a sit-down with Proky [Mikhail Prokhorov], Melo wanted the Garden, he wanted Spike [Lee], he wanted Amare and maybe Chris Paul in a couple years. He wanted it all, and he got it.
What's the mood like in Denver with Melo leaving?
It’s fascinating. Some fans understand Melo’s situation. They respect what he did, taking this downtrodden franchise to the playoffs every single season he was in Denver. But other fans were insulted. They took it personally that he wanted to leave Denver. These were the fans who booed the past couple months at the Pepsi Center.
How do you think Melo's playing style will fit in with the Knicks and Mike D'Antoni fast-paced offensive system?
Well, Melo hasn’t always been a fan of defense, so I think he’ll fit in just fine. Jokes aside, I’m sure the coach will get the guys to adapt. Chauncey Billups came to Denver (fast-paced) from Detroit (slow-it-down), and he had Denver in the Western Conference Finals his first year [in 2009]. And, yes, Melo sometimes slows the flow of the offense by holding the ball for, seemingly, 25 seconds, but he is one of the more versatile players of this generation, so I’m sure he’ll adapt swimmingly to the new system.
How do you see the Knicks players adapting in Denver?
George Karl coached his first NBA game the same year Carmelo Anthony was born. The guy is a lifer, and the reason is because he can adapt to his players, run a democracy, but still splash in a little dictatorship when need be. I think the new guys will like his style, as long as they’re committed to passing the basketball and hustling back on defense. It will be very interesting to see how Karl balances point guard Ty Lawson, who will start, and Raymond Felton, who started for New York and, arguably, could have been an All-Star.
You can follow Jared Zwerling on Twitter.