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Carmelo Anthony traded to Thunder in blockbuster deal

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Melo joins the Thunder after helping drag New York out of the doldrums of NBA standings.

Philadelphia 76ers v New York Knicks Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The New York Knicks have traded perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony to the Oklahoma City Thunder, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal marks the end of a seven-year period of Anthony as the face of Knicks basketball.

As part of the deal, New York receives Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick via the Bulls.

What took so long?

Anthony was originally expected to be dealt to the Rockets in early July. There were talks of a three-team trade that would have sent desirable assets from Portland to New York, Anthony to Houston, and Ryan Anderson and other parts to the Trail Blazers. But those three-team trade talks quickly broke down, as Portland — and other potential trade partners — were reluctant to take on Anderson’s remaining three years at around $60 million.

Why take a 29-year-old shooting specialist on an undesirable contract when you can deal with the Knicks directly?

Trade talks were tabled then resumed when Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum began recruiting Anthony in August. The New York Daily News’ Frank Isola reported Melo’s camp was “cautiously optimistic” a deal would get done before Knicks media day on Sept. 25. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith appeared on First Take on Thursday, reporting Isola’s report was “not true,” and that the Knicks and Rockets hadn’t spoken in weeks. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski also reported New York and Houston hadn’t spoken, according to ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption.

On Friday night, it was reported that Anthony expanded his list of desired trade destinations to include the Thunder and Cavaliers, and merely 12 or so hours later, the deal was done.

Why did Anthony get traded?

The 33-year-old Anthony, a 10-time All-Star and 2014 scoring champion, helped revitalize a dying Knicks franchise when he was picked up in a trade from Denver to New York in 2011. He averaged 28.7 points per game in the 2012-13 season to secure the scoring title and lead New York to a 54-win season — its best record since 1996.

But Anthony’s image was smeared after Phil Jackson took control as Knicks president of basketball operations in 2014.

New York has failed to make the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, including a franchise-worst 17-65 record in 2015. Jackson, who insisted on implementing his dated Triangle Offense, blamed several of the team’s woes on Anthony’s ball-stopping tendencies, saying the team could not win with him on the court. He also publicly expressed his desire for Anthony to waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to a championship team — a sentiment he shared twice this summer.

Why this trade makes sense for the Thunder.

The Thunder are in win-now mode, and Anthony is a splashy add to make for a three-headed offensive beast alongside Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem any longer, and the weight is surely lifted off Westbrook’s shoulders to triple-double every night.

But defensive issues still exist, and that will be OKC’s biggest question mark heading into the season. Westbrook struggles at times on that end, and defense has always been the glaring flaw in Anthony’s game.

But this is a low-cost move for the Thunder, who lose a one-way center in Kanter, and McDermott, who has struggled to find his place in the league.

Why this trade makes sense for the Knicks.

Anthony really forced the Knicks’ hands to make a deal before the start of training camp, and the threat of circus to start the season was surely there if they didn’t. That’s why this deal was done so quickly, and for a return that doesn’t make much sense on paper.

In Kanter, the Knicks gets an offensive-minded big, who struggles defensively, and a three-point specialist in McDermott, who only fired at 36 percent a season ago. They are also receiving a second-round pick, but this can’t be the return New York had hoped for.