OKLAHOMA CITY — A new Carmelo Anthony chapter begins Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Anthony and the remade Oklahoma City Thunder open their season against the New York Knicks, who traded Anthony away shortly before training camp opened in late September.
Anthony played seven seasons for the Knicks, helping New York to the playoffs just three times and winning just one playoff series.
“This is an important game for me because it’s an opportunity for me to kind of go out there and close that chapter,” Anthony said Wednesday. “I don’t think that chapter has been closed yet. I think tomorrow with me running out on the court in a different uniform kind of closes that New York chapter.”
Anthony was the last major piece in a retooled Thunder roster that also includes new star Paul George and complementary players Patrick Patterson and Raymond Felton.
This comes a year after Kevin Durant’s departure for the Golden State Warriors left Russell Westbrook as the lone star in Oklahoma City.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti couldn’t do much last year after Durant’s decision. Westbrook wound up averaging a triple-double and winning MVP honors, but the Thunder did not make it out of the first round of the playoffs.
With George and Anthony on board, bigger things are expected from the Thunder this season, beginning with the opener.
The other major addition for Oklahoma City believes the focus against the Knicks will be lifting Anthony.
“Melo wants this. As he should,” George said. “Melo wants this game. And we’re gonna get it for him.”
While the Thunder are embracing the Carmelo Anthony era, the Knicks are trying to put theirs behind them. Anthony’s public back-and-forth with former Knicks president Phil Jackson became a distraction last season and into the offseason before Anthony decided to waive his no-trade clause to come to Oklahoma City in a trade that sent Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to New York.
Without Anthony, the Knicks are in a rebuilding mode, with Kristaps Porzingis as the face of the franchise.
New York coach Jeff Hornacek said he expects his team to continually build throughout the year.
“What we stressed to these guys is that we’re going to continue to work every day, no matter what happens,” Hornacek said. “We’re going to try to improve. We’re going to have ups and downs, but in the long run, if we stay together, continue to work and we try to fix those things …
“They may not be incremental jumps, but if you have little jumps throughout all 82 games, you’re going to be a much better team at the end of the year than you are now. So that’s really the goal.”
In the opener, Porzingis figures to spend plenty of time guarding Anthony. Porzingis said it would be “interesting.”
“I’m sure it’s going to be weird, but I’m looking forward to that game,” Porzingis said. “I think everybody knows what he’s doing, but nobody can still stop him. It’s going to be a challenge for me. I’m going to try to do my best.”