Carmelo Anthony leaving New York had slowly become a foregone conclusion, but that didn't make his trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder any less shocking. As the NBA world was trying to come to grips with their biggest stars beefing with the White House, the Anthony trade took the craziest sports Saturday in some time to another level.
Thanks to a strong recruitment effort from his new teammates, Russell Westbrook and Paul George, Anthony made the decision to waive his no-trade clause and approve a move to middle America. It may not be enough to overcome the Golden State Warriors, but the Thunder are now one of the most interesting teams in the league as a result of the trade.
The primary gut reaction from fans and players alike was to highlight the still-growing divide between the Western and Eastern Conferences in the NBA, intensified by the movement of yet another star player on Saturday. The gap is becoming so significant, in fact, that some are comparing it to the epic battles from Game of Thrones.
Western conference games gonna be like game of thrones battles against the white walkers— CJ McCollum (@CJMcCollum) September 23, 2017
Is LeBron really gonna go to the Western Conference after all this— Jeremy Woo (@JeremyWoo) September 23, 2017
Melo to OKC. This is how the Western Conference Playoffs are going to look... pic.twitter.com/KeOFxGxS7f— Jim Marek (@MarekJim) September 23, 2017
UPDATE: Your 2018 NBA All-Star Lineup after Melo to OKC.— Villaz (@ChrisVillaz) September 23, 2017
Left: Western Conference Starters
Right: Eastern Conference Starters. pic.twitter.com/hPuVqpM2Mc
Sam Presti, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony walking into Chesapeake Energy Arena like... pic.twitter.com/WVJhNCfgqp— Randy Cruz (@randyjcruz) September 23, 2017
The west is sooooo Lit!!! Russ PG Melo!!! It's Lit!!!!!— Brandon Jennings (@brandonjennings) September 23, 2017
Like I said ... The Association crazy lol— C.J. Miles (@masfresco) September 23, 2017
Okay🤣I can't wait for this WEST😂 #Ripcity— Jusuf Nurkić (@bosnianbeast27) September 23, 2017
On the Thunder side of things, Oklahoma City loyalists were stunned at GM Sam Presti's ability to acquire another star without giving up much in return. He has certainly had his missteps—trading away James Harden is a big "Oops!" in retrospect—but Presti is getting a ton of love for the talent he has been able to put around reigning MVP Russell Westbrook this offseason.
Gonna give Sam Presti my Nissan Sentra to see if he can trade it in for a Ferrari— Leigh Ellis (@LeighEllis) September 23, 2017
Sam Presti after turning Cameron Payne, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony... How in the hell.. pic.twitter.com/IkE23o3PXg— Josh Eberley 🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) September 23, 2017
Live look at Sam Presti ... pic.twitter.com/CGmHq0Pnj8— Jacob Unruh (@jacobunruh) September 23, 2017
Sam Presti this offseason pic.twitter.com/mPIYgAU9QN— Russell TripDubBrook (@Jhickness9) September 23, 2017
Knicks fans were also forced to reconcile with the fact that they'd lost their long-time leading man, receiving a return that does not exactly inspire a ton of passion within the fan base. Doug McDermott and Enes Kanter for Carmelo Anthony? Come on, son! But at this point, it appears most fans are happy to move on to a new Knicks era as many spent a lot of their Saturday afternoon wishing Anthony well on his way out the door.
When the Knicks are gonna be even more trash but you have a shot at the No. 1 pick next Summer & you happy for Melo pic.twitter.com/vNV5bcXiNi— CHELSEA PL CHAMPIONS (@New_Tape_City) September 23, 2017
Good bye to Carmelo Anthony, who I love and who will play great in OKC— Seth Rosenthal (@seth_rosenthal) September 23, 2017
Love him or hate him, he's one of the best basketball players ever to wear a New York Knicks uniform. Good luck to Carmelo Anthony in OKC. pic.twitter.com/wJnCxQ6FlY— Jake Montgomery (@JakeM0NTGOMERY) September 23, 2017
Make no mistake: Carmelo Anthony was one of the great New York Knicks ever. Failed by the team, but a privilege to have him play in NY.— Howard Megdal (@howardmegdal) September 23, 2017
And really, that's probably how it should be. Anthony played his part in the Knicks' run of dreadful play of late, but he carried himself like a professional despite dealing with a front office that openly provoked him and let their intent to trade him be known. It was not exactly the best work environment for an aging star, and now he'll get to begin anew alongside two of the league's best players.
In any case, the NBA season can't get here soon enough. Chris Paul is in Houston, the Thunder are assembling a legit squad around Westbrook, Jimmy Butler will boost the young Timberwolves, and the Eastern Conference will.... exist, I guess? After all this offseason movement, it's about damn time we get to see what it actually looks like on the hardwood.