OKLAHOMA CITY -- Hours after he was officially traded to the Thunder, Carmelo Anthony took part in the team's media day and said the opportunity to play with Russell Westbrook and Paul George was a significant reason he elected to waive his no-trade clause.
"Russ don't really do the convincing," Anthony said Monday, with a laugh. "He came to New York and played pickup at my gym. I saw him in Paris at fashion week. Me and Russ became closer and closer over the years. He was a big part, he was a big reason why I wanted to come here. To see his loyalty to the city, to this organization, what he was able to do on the court -- I wanted to be a part of that.
"Adding PG was just another reason why I wanted to come here," Anthony continued. "Our relationship, our friendship, our respect for one another as basketball players was the reason that I wanted to play alongside him and have an opportunity to compete for a championship and kind of just bring some more energy -- not like this city needs any more energy, but it's a different energy, a different focus, a different motivation that myself have, Paul has and Russ has, being that we haven't won a championship yet in our career, and we see that, and that's our ultimate goal."
Anthony also pushed back at the assumption he wouldn't want to play in a small market like Oklahoma City, saying, "That's because nobody really knew me."
"... It's a different energy, a different focus, a different motivation that myself have, Paul has and Russ has, being that we haven't won a championship yet in our career, and we see that, and that's our ultimate goal."Carmelo Anthony
Anthony spent 6½ seasons in New York. After then-team president Phil Jackson publicly announced in March his desire to trade the 10-time All-Star, the relationship with the front office deteriorated, culminating in Anthony's trade.
"Win, lose or draw, you know, I was there every night," Anthony said Monday. "I came in and competed every night. I stayed professional throughout all of the ups and downs that comes along with being in New York. It was a lot of noise, so I had to find some type of quietness and find some 'me' time to try to figure this all out. But I don't think the fans will have anything bad to say because I think they understand. They're very educated. They understand what it's like playing in New York. For me, I feel like I've embraced all of those challenges playing in New York.
"There are times in sports where everybody has to go their separate ways, and there are no hard feelings," Anthony said. "There's no bad blood between myself and that organization or anybody over there. But I'm here now, and I would like to close that chapter and begin this new chapter."
Thunder general manager Sam Presti praised Anthony's professionalism.
"He's a rather dignified guy, in my opinion, in the way he conducts his business," Presti said. "We all know it's been a challenging situation for him, and those types of things happen, but I thought he handled it the best way he could."
Adding Anthony is just another piece for the Thunder's already-impressive rebuild around Westbrook. Oklahoma City acquired George in July in a deal with Indiana that sent Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to the Pacers.
"Amazing, man," Westbrook said. "To be able to play with those two guys and the rest of the guys we have is amazing, man. I'm excited. I'm looking forward to making a great run, and I'm happy they're here."
Said George: "I think we definitely felt great about what we had previous to Carmelo being traded. But now adding someone like Carmelo takes this team to another level. In my eyes, he's one of the best players that this league has ever seen, and it's a luxury to play alongside him instead of having to deal with a cold tub right after the game and playing [against] him."
Westbrook won league MVP honors last season as a lone wolf, becoming the first player since 1962 to average a triple-double. George has spent his career as the unquestioned alpha on his team, and Anthony has been the go-to scorer on every team he has played for. With the trio coming together in OKC, Anthony said there would be an adjustment period, but he is optimistic they can figure it out.
"I didn't want to come here to try to outshine Paul or Russ and vice versa," he said. "We're trying to win basketball games, and by any means necessary, we're going to do that. I'm going to bring my skill set to this team, to this organization, and that's what I'm here for. I've always been kind of a product of my environment and being able to just be a chameleon in the sense of just blending into my situation and making that situation work, whatever it calls for, whether I was with the New York Knicks, whether I was on the USA team and even here in Oklahoma."
Prior to Anthony's arrival, the expected topic of conversation heading into OKC's media day was Westbrook's unsigned extension, worth $207 million over five years. The offer has been on the table the past two months, with Westbrook neither accepting nor rejecting it and a deadline of Oct. 16 looming. But with him back in Oklahoma City after a busy summer and training camp opening, he said he'll turn his attention to that matter.
"It's been a long, long summer," Westbrook said. "I had a baby. So I've been working on a little fatherhood. But like I said before, man, this is a place I want to be. I love being here. I'm excited about the season. Obviously, with a lot of new changes, and I'm excited. From that, I'm going to leave it there."
Westbrook signed an extension last summer in the wake of Kevin Durant's departure to the Warriors, but he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
"Like I told you guys last year, this is a place I want to be," Westbrook said. "I love being here. I love the fans. I love the people here. I'm back now to get a chance to simmer down and get everything situated. Obviously now with a few changes, I'm good. I like where I'm at. I like where our team is."