The five-month Carmelo Anthony trade saga is finally in the history books. The Denver Nuggets' superstar scorer is now a former Denver Nuggets superstar scorer, and he's headed for the bright lights of the big city. Carmelo's a New York Knick, just like he always wanted.
The rest of us? We get what we always wanted, too. Closure on this seemingly endless story.
Now that this trade has finally been put to bed, we can start to grasp what it all means. In honor of No. 15, below are 15 reactions to the blockbuster deal of the year.
1. Fans knew all along that this was going to happen. Ultimately, Carmelo was going to do whatever he could to be a Knick, even if that meant rejecting an extension offer from Denver or New Jersey and testing the free-agent waters this summer. New York was the only place he wanted to be and everything else was just distracting side chatter. New Jersey put together a nice package, but since there was no contract extension, it wasn't happening. Houston or Dallas? No way. The Lakers, for Andrew Bynum? Please — it was the Knicks all along.
2. We're left with exactly the same moral we took away from LeBron James' "Decision" this summer — in this league, stars always get what they want. The same way LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh took the reins and engineered their own union in Miami last summer, Carmelo was in complete control of his move to the Knicks. He controlled the Nuggets' front office, he controlled the media, and most importantly he controlled the right to sign that all-important $65 million contract extension, which is what made this deal possible. This is the NBA in 2011, people. The superstar has the power. Always.
3. Carmelo comes out of this looking like a jerk. He wanted to be a Knick all along, yet he forced the Knicks to give away half their rotation to get him. By flirting with the Nets for months (and for all we know, other teams too), he drove up the price and forced the Knicks into making a monstrosity of a deal that may hurt them, at least short-term. Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov comprise quite a quartet of valuable pieces. Carmelo will be hard pressed to win ballgames without them.
4. Rumor has it that Isiah Thomas was very involved with the negotiations that brought Carmelo to the Big Apple. For the sake of millions of Knicks fans' sanity, let's hope this is untrue.
5. This deal improves the Knicks in a big-picture way, but let's not get carried away and talk about their title hopes in 2011. Yes, they now have two of the 10 men who started the All-Star Game on Sunday night, and that's something — but it's far from everything. They still need more beef inside as Ronny Turiaf is nice, but alone he isn't enough. No offense Bill Walker, but they still need a bench. The Knicks are still building and they can't expect to win much just yet.
6. The Knicks only have three contracts on the books past the summer of 2012: Carmelo, Amare Stoudemire and Reynaldo Balkman. This sounds crazy, but they might actually have some serious cash to throw around on the free-agent market a year from now. Can you say Chris Paul? If not CP3, maybe Deron Williams or Dwight Howard? The money will be tight, but another superstar in the Big Apple isn't impossible.
7. One good thing about the Knicks' immediate future is that Chauncey Billups is better than Felton. Amare and Felton have thrived together in the pick-and-roll with the Knicks, but Billups brings size, toughness, better instincts and better shooting ability. He's won a championship and he can use his experience to help the new-look Knicks grow over the next two years.
8. One may feel sorry for Billups. He's a Denver native and he wanted to retire a Nugget but this trade throws his entire life out of whack. Maybe Billups will eventually go back to Denver, if not as a player, then maybe someday as a coach or a front-office guy. But for now, he's a 34-year-old veteran who may be missing having a dream job in his hometown.
9. Balkman, you might remember, was originally a Knick. He was first traded to Denver in the summer of 2008 before the Nuggets traded him back on Monday night. The 26-year-old forward was a late first-round pick of Isiah's in the 2006 draft (No. 20 overall). The No. 21 pick was a young point guard by the name of Rajon Rondo. Imagine if the Knicks had that guy. He'd look pretty decent next to Carmelo and Amare.
10. The Knicks now have Shelden Williams and Shawne Williams on the same team. What names do you put on those jerseys?
11. Where do the Nuggets go from here? They're in serious trouble without Carmelo around. They've got a nice collection of role players in the four Knicks, Nene, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith, but with no star, they've got no hope out West. They might have to consider opening a firesale and starting a long rebuilding process.
12. Denver's long-term plan is to turn all of their bulky contracts into draft picks, getting them under the luxury tax threshold and saving them a total upwards of $20 million. That chunk of change is nothing to sneeze at, but how long will it take them to turn that cash into a winning team?
13. You can't help but wonder how good the Nuggets could have been if they'd made the Nets' deal instead. At least then they'd have gotten Derrick Favors, who's a high lottery pick and a potential All Star within a couple years. Maybe then, they'd have some kind of plan to get back on track. It's hard to win in this league without star power.
14. As for the Nets' side of this whole fiasco, owner Mikhail Prokhorov comes out of this looking like a PR genius. The Russian billionaire claimed weeks ago that his team was out of the running for Carmelo. Now, even if that wasn't really true, he can claim he was never trying to land 'Melo, thus easily saving face. Controlling the media spin is big for the Nets. Rather than admitting that they lost the Carmelo sweepstakes, they can claim they never wanted him anyway. Nice work, Mr. Prokhorov.
15. Melo was No. 15 in Denver, but he won't be anymore. The number is retired in New York — twice, actually. Dick McGuire wore No. 15 for the Knicks in the 1950s, and then Earl Monroe wore it in the '70s. The team later retired the jersey in honor of both. No. 22, Carmelo's high school number, is also taken. Dave DeBusschere wore that one back in the day.