TheKnicksWall.com is proud to present an exclusive Q&A with Evan Wheeler. As a Denver Nuggets fan, Evan is able to give us Knicks fans an insight on everything that went on in the Melo era.
Q: What would you regard as the high and low points of the Melo Era?
A: I would have to say that the highest point of the Melo Era was obviously the magical playoff run in 08-09. In this run we went to the Western Conference Finals, but ultimately lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in 6 Games.
The way Melo played that year in the playoffs was just fun to watch. The way Carmelo and Chauncey led that team was very fun to watch. It was probably the only time as a Nuggets fan that I thought we had a legitimate shot at bringing home a championship. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers were on a mission that year.
Another high point for me during the Melo Era was the fact that Carmelo made Denver Nuggets basketball relevant again. I remember when we drafted Melo with the #3 Overall Pick back in 03. The feeling I got as a Nuggets fan of having him as the future of our franchise was just unbelievable excitement. For much of Melo’s first 2-3 years with us he carried our team and led us to our 1st playoff appearance in 9 Years. This impressive feat was achieved while Melo was just a rookie! So, him putting this team, and city on his back early on in his career, as well as bringing back relevancy to Denver Nuggets basketball was a high point for me as a fan.
I remember going to the Nuggets 3rd Game against the Minnesota Timberwolves back during the 2004 Playoffs. It was the only game we won in that series, but the enjoyment and excitement I saw that one game give to all the Nuggets fans in the Pepsi Center was a unreal feeling. That energy was due to Melo’s unbelievable rookie play.
Some other memories from the Melo Era for me are him scoring 41 Pts as a rookie. Him leading us to 7 Straight Playoff Appearances, and to our 1st Division Title since 1988. Him helping us win 3 Northwest Division Titles in total. Seeing Carmelo make 4 All-Star Teams. Watching the 14 Game Winning Shots he made. Watching Melo score 30 Pts in 6 straight games. And finally, when on December 10, 2008, he tied George Gervin’s NBA Record for Most Points in a Quarter with 33. I still have the cover of the Denver Post released the day following that historic moment.
Some of the low points of the Melo Era were obviously all the 1st round exits because we had an enormous amount of talent on some of those teams. Losing to the Lakers in the 2009 Western Conference Finals was also a low point just because we were so close to bringing that championship back to Denver.
Some other low points were Melo getting arrested in 2004 for Marijuana, 2008 for a DUI, and his involvement in the 2006 Knicks-Nuggets Brawl. Those are just incidents you don’t like seeing your Franchise/Star Player involved in.
Q: What was your first feeling when Melo did not sign the extension in the summer?
A: When Carmelo did not sign the extension with us in the summer I was very worried that he he didn’t want to stay here anymore. I thought he would eventually sign it in a couple weeks, but then when I heard all of the reports regarding what was said at his wedding, and once again, I became very worriesome.
Q: What’s your take on the process from the moment Melo didnt sign the extension to the trade.
A: Frustrating. Very frustrating and draining. As a Nuggets fan, I could only imagine how much the process wared on Melo, Josh Kroenke, and Masai Ujiri. To hear that your franchise player wanted out for whatever reason was just very saddening, frustrating, and overall shocking because of the success we had here over Melo’s tenure.
Q: Describe Melo in one sentence, if possible.
A: I would describe Carmelo Anthony as a great scorer, good player, super clutch, one of the top 10-15 players in the NBA, and most importantly, a man who changed the basketball culture here in Denver.
The toughest part to this season had to be the whole “Melo-Drama”. I think it wore on all of us Nuggets fans, and especially on the rest of our players and coaches. I think it cost us several games this season.
Another tough thing is the inconsistency of this team throughout the first half of the season. They were mainly inconsistent on defense, but at times, as well as on offense. I felt the effort of some guys dipped because of the distraction of whole “Melo-Drama”. Also, constant injuries once again were a very tough part of this season, but I would say the overall distraction that the “Melo-Drama” was to us fans, and the rest of our team, the games it probably cost us, and the injuries have been the toughest things or parts of this season so far.
Q: Looking back on it, what was the best part of the trade?
A: I’m not sure there was a “best part” for us Nuggets fans.
Losing your superstar is always tough. I would say the best part was the fact that ultimately both parties got what they wanted. We got some really good young, talented players back from the trade in Gallinari, Chandler, Felton, and Mozgov all of which are good building blocks for the future, and Melo got what he wanted. I’m glad both parties got what they wanted, and for the most part I think from a professional stand point no feelings were hurt that bad.
Q: Looking ahead how do you feel about this season and the upcoming playoffs?
A: I think given all the circumstances, and the whole “Melo-Drama”, this season has been an up & down one, but one that was successful. I mean, we’re still going to end up finishing as a top 5/6 seed in the West, and the new guys we brought in have given us a new found energy. There is now a sense of team oriented basketball because we no longer have one stand out player. This teamwork has shown to be successful by us going 17-6 with our new team.
As for the Playoffs, I’m excited for them as always and I think we got a shot to do some damage and make some noise. I know OKC has beaten us twice within the past week or so, but they don’t scare me. I’m sure once we get Afflalo and Anderson back it will make for a fun, tough, and gritty series between two young and hungry teams.
Q: Do you think Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov are better pieces to build around than Carmelo Anthony?
A: In all honesty, no. I mean, let’s be honest right now, today Carmelo Anthony is the 2nd best, if not the best scorer in the League behind Kevin Durant. Melo is a franchise guy, a superstar, which are very rare to find, let alone acquire. If you have one of those guys it’s easy to build around him and put pieces around him to win a championship ASAP. Plus, when you have a guy like Amare Stoudemire to put next to him that doesn’t hurt either.
With that being said I love Gallinari, Chandler, Felton, and Mozgov and I am very happy to have them on this team. I think for the future, if you can have a guy like Gallinari who can eventually become an all-star, plus someone like Chandler who has the potential to be a 20 point scorer, those are really good pieces to build a team around. Add in a good PG in Felton, and a 7 foot athletic big in Mozgov, and you have some nice core pieces.
So I think from an overall stand point, I would rather build around a 22 year old potential all-star, a 23 year old potential 20 point scorer, a 24 year old 7 footer, and a 26 year Old PG who can go off for 18 and 8 on any given night.
So I think for the future and potential wise I’d rather build around those 4, but if you were to ask me right now, I’d rather build around an already proven star, and elite scorer in Melo.
Q: Do you think Denver fans will hate Melo as much Cleveland fans hate Lebron?
A: In all honesty, I think 80-90% of Nuggets fans will probably end up hating Carmelo as much as Cleveland fans hate LeBron James.
I just think the overall resentment some fans will get from Melo wanting to leave will be too much for fans to not despise him. See, us Denver Sports Fans are very loyal to our teams and players, but when one of them turns their back on this city or us fans we tend to take that personal because of the constant support, loyalty, and love we show them.
For me, as a Nuggets fan, I will never hate Carmelo Anthony. Like I said before, HE made Denver Nuggets basketball relevant again, HE led us to 7 straight playoff appearances, 3 Northwest Division Titles, and 1 Western Conference Finals Appearance. For all of those achievements I will always be grateful to Melo for what he did here.
The man also gave us 7 1/2 great years, and for the most part, tried his hardest to bring a championship here to Denver. I will always respect him for that, and appreciate that as a fan of the Denver Nuggets.
In all honesty I hope to see Melo accomplish his goal and bring a championship to New York, for the city, and all of you Knicks fans. I will be rooting for him to do that. I’m not gonna lie there will always be a tad bit of bitterness, but all-in-all, I hold no hatred towards Melo, rather, I hold gratefulness, respect, and appreciation for Melo.
I will be rooting for him as a Knick except for when he plays us. I will always hold a little sadness in not ever being able to see Melo wear that #15 gold & blue Nuggets jersey, or drop 30 on opposing teams at the Pepsi Center again, or not being able to chant “MEEEEELLLLLOOOOO” at the Pepsi Center after he makes a mid-range jumper.
I will miss those things, but I hope Carmelo knows he still has a Nuggets fan here in Denver pulling for him in New York.
Be sure to follow Evan on Twitter: @coloradoevan