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A Carmelo Christmas Carol ...

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On the eve of the Nuggets Christmas Day game in Oklahoma City, Carmelo Anthony was visited by three ghosts.

I have a Christmas tale to share with you about an NBA player named Carmelo Scrooge.

Carmelo Anthony had been nothing short of a scrooge since the basketball team he played for – the Denver Nuggets – offered him a maximum, three-year, $65 million contract extension at the beginning of the 2010 off-season. When presented with the offer by Nuggets management, Anthony defiantly said: "Bah, humbug! I’m not signing that contract!" And with that, Carmelo Scrooge promptly disappeared for the entire summer.

During Carmelo Scrooge’s departure, he participated in a wedding toast with his friends lauding the possibility of playing in New York together, he put his Littleton, Colorado house on the market for $9.5 million and, when Nuggets president and future owner Josh Kroenke flew to Baltimore – Carmelo Scrooge’s hometown – to pay Carmelo Scrooge a personal visit and inquire about the contract offer, Carmelo Scooge again said "bah, humbug!" while refusing to sign the contract.

Upon a begrudging arrival at Nuggets training camp, Carmelo Scrooge only spoke to the media for 10 minutes, hid his once childishly enthusiastic smile and when asked to participate in the Nuggets promotional photo ops for the season ahead, he again said "bah, humbug!" Instead of building on the enthusiasm and energy brought by head coach George Karl’s remarkable recovery from cancer, Carmelo Scrooge’s refusal to sign an extension clouded the entire training camp…forcing his head coach and teammates to answer "will he or won’t he stay?" questions for weeks on end. To all this, Carmelo Scrooge would just say "bah, humbug!"

As the season began, Carmelo Scrooge played hard, but he was all business. Carmelo Scrooge’s camaraderie with his teammates was professional at best and impersonal at worst, and long gone was that trademark smile. At the end of each game, Carmelo Scrooge hurried off the court and raced to the locker room where he was diplomatic but curt with the media. When asked about his future in Denver by members of the press, he’d say "bah, humbug!"

His presumed frustration with having to play in Denver finally boiled over after a game one night, when he said: "It’s time for change. Bah, humbug!" And as if all of that isn’t bad enough, Carmelo Scrooge allegedly to be demanded a trade to New York and New York only, severely limiting his team’s trading options even if they were to accommodate him.

Not surprisingly, Carmelo Scrooge put a damper on an otherwise joyous Nuggets season. Attendance was down. The fans were confused, divided and fought among themselves when discussing Carmelo Scrooge’s future. His refusal to sign the extension made it impossible for the Nuggets to give his teammates Chauncey Billups, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo and Nene – all of whom were in varying degrees of one-year contracts – a straight and fair answer about their futures, leading to inconsistent and often frustrating play among them.

And finally, Carmelo Scrooge’s refusal to commit to a future in Denver affected his performance on the court. He averaged fewer points per game than the previous season. He forced shots at the rim with career-low shooting percentages within close range. And the NBA referees, having heard enough "bah, humbugs!" from Carmelo Scrooge all season long, tee’d him up for more technical fouls than any other player in the league.

After a frustrating string of basketball games that saw Carmelo Scrooge’s Nuggets lose three out of six games, including a loss in which Carmelo Scrooge got scrooged by the referees at the end of the game, Carmelo Scrooge found himself alone in his Oklahoma City hotel room on Christmas Eve, staring at the bad wallpaper on the ceiling, pondering his future.

*****

Just as Carmelo Scrooge closed his eyes, he heard a knock at the door. Looking through the door’s peephole, it was none other than Carmelo Scrooge’s college coach, Jim Boeheim.

"Coach Boeheim?!" Carmelo Scrooge asked through the door.

"May I come in?" Coach Boeheim asked.

"Bah, humbug!" said Carmelo Scrooge. "Don’t you know what time it is?!"

But before Carmelo Scrooge could say anything more, Coach Boeheim magically walked through the door.

"What the?" said a surprised Carmelo Scrooge.

"You’ve been a bad boy, Carmelo," said Coach Boeheim. "Thinking only of yourself. Dissing your teammates. Not appreciating your fans. This wasn’t what we taught you at Syracuse University. This isn’t the Carmelo that was a leader. A leader who led his team to a championship. You need to learn a few lessons, my boy. And tonight, you’ll be visited by three ghosts."

"Three ghosts?! What the?! Coach?!"

And with that, Coach Boeheim disappeared.

*****

Suddenly, Carmelo Scrooge heard another knock on the door. "Bah, humbug!" said Carmelo Scrooge. "Who could this be?!" Looking through the peephole again, it was former Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik. "Coach Bz-deh-luck…damn, I never could pronounce your name. What’re you doing here?"

"I’m the ghost of Christmas past. Come on outside, Carmelo," said Coach Bzdelik. "There’s something I want you to see."

Carmelo Scrooge opened his hotel room door, but instead of standing in the hotel hallway he most surprisingly found himself standing along the back wall in Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke’s office. Present in the room was Mr. Kroenke himself and his son Josh, Nuggets executives Bret Bearup, Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman, manager of media relations Eric Sebastian and head coach George Karl.

"Yo, Stan!" barked Carmelo Scrooge. "Wassup?!"

"He can’t hear you," replied Bzdelik. "None of them can. Right now you’re looking at events that happened in 2008. April 15th, 2008, to be exact. And instead of talking, you should be listening."

Stan began to speak: "I’m afraid I have bad news, gentlemen. Carmelo has gotten himself into trouble again."

The group gathered around the elder Kroenke collectively gasped: "What now?!"

"Well, I’ve just spoken with the Denver police department and Carmelo got arrested on suspicion of a DUI last night."

"A DUI?!" said an exasperated Coach Karl. "But we have to play the Lakers in the playoffs next week. I doubt we’ll win a game to begin with because we’ve stunk all month, but without Melo we have no shot. No shot whatsoever. I’ve just about had it with this kid. It’s one thing after another."

"I know," said Stan. "First it was the marijuana in the backpack…"

"Bah, humbug! That was my friend’s!" barked Carmelo Scrooge, unheard from the back of the room. Coach Bzdelik gave him a suspicious look. "It was! I swear!"

Kroenke continued: "…then it was the ‘Stop Snitchin’ video…boy, that one was hard to cover up…followed by Team USA wanting to send him home from the Olympics after we lobbied for him to be on the team in the first place. That was followed by the brawl in New York and the suspension that ensued that cost us an entire season and forced us to trade for that nutcase Allen Iverson. I know, George, it never ends with Carmelo. I’m not sure what to do. Should we trade him?"

"Absolutely not," said Warkentien, while cramming mounds of popcorn into his mouth. "This is child’s play compared to what my boys did in Portland and at UNLV. As long as he didn’t kill anyone, I don’t see what the big deal is. And even then, as long as he gets away with it does anyone care? I mean, 30 points per game doesn’t grow on trees, you know."

Everyone in the room looked perplexed at Warkentien.

"No, no, no. Don’t trade him," said Coach Karl. "He’s a pain in the ass and he never listens to me, but he’s a good kid and has potential to be great. Truly great. I can work with this kid. Just give me some more time and don’t suspend him for the playoffs. Please."

"I agree with the coach," said Josh. "He’s just a kid and he’s a great kid. He’s only 24. He can still have a future in Denver. He can deliver a championship to our loyal fans."

"But how will we explain his latest incident to the fans and the media?" asked Sebastian. "I can’t keep covering for this guy. The press will be all over this."

"Just do your best," said Stan. "Look, I know it’s hard to stand by Carmelo. But we’re a family here and we protect those who are in our family. So once again we stand by and support Carmelo. I just hope we don’t have to do it again."

Coach Bzdelik turned to Carmelo Scrooge and led him out of the room. "You see, Carmelo, these people care about you. And look how you rewarded them…" Bzdelik opened the door to exit Kroenke’s office and suddenly he and Carmelo Scrooge were standing behind the Nuggets bench at the Pepsi Center.

It’s Game 3 of the 2008 playoffs first round and the Nuggets have lost the first two games of the series in blowout fashion. Entering Game 3, Carmelo shot a combined 19-46 from the field in the series thus far, turned the ball over six times and almost fouled out of Games 1 and 2 in Los Angeles, hurting the Nuggets cause greatly in both games. As Game 3 winds down, the 24 year old Carmelo is in the midst of a horrendous 5-22 shooting night and has been benched by Coach Karl.

Frustrated – and for all the Pepsi Center fans within earshot to hear – the younger Carmelo lashes out at Coach Karl: "Just don’t sit there!!" And pouts on the bench.

The game ends with a 102-84 Lakers victory. One of the worst home playoff blowouts in Denver Nuggets history. Led by Coach Bzdelik, Carmelo Scrooge follows his younger self and teammates into the Nuggets locker room where the younger Carmelo addresses the media.

"We quit. Everybody. From the coaches to the players, we quit. And I said it."

Soon after that statement, the younger Carmelo, his teammates, Stan Kroenke and the team executives desert the locker room, leaving Coach Karl alone in the corner. With one shaky hand clutching his dry erase board and another holding a marker, Karl desperately tries to come up with a game plan for the next game. A game that could be his last as Nuggets coach if the Nuggets lose. The Nuggets with Karl and Carmelo had been horrible in the playoffs in previous years, but they had never been swept. It shows on the old coach’s depressed face.

"Coach, I didn’t mean it!" Carmelo Scrooge said to Coach Karl. "I didn’t mean it, coach!"

"Remember, Carmelo, he can’t hear you," said Coach Bzdelik. "No one can."

Coach Karl finally gets up – tears in his eyes – and walks out, leaving Coach Bzdelik and Carmelo Scrooge alone in the locker room.

Bzdelik continued: "And you see, Carmelo, even after all your boorish behavior since coming to Denver and even after stinking it up in Game 3 and fouling out of Game 4 of this series and ruining your team’s chances to win just one game…your coach, your teammates, your team’s owner, your team's executives and your fans still stood by you. They stood by you. And what have you given them in return? I guess we’ll see…"

"What about all the game-winners I've made?!" said Carmelo Scrooge.  "What about the seven-straight playoff appearances I've led us to?  What about the time I got us into the conference finals? I've given them everything!  Everything!"

And with that final comment, Coach Bzdelik began to fade away, leaving Carmelo Scrooge alone in the locker room. "Coach Bzz-dah-leck…damn, I still can’t pronounce your name. Where’d you go? Where are you? What’s going on?!"

*****

"No one can hear you, Carmelo," said Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, wearing a gaudy fur coat, sunglasses and a giant gold necklace spelling out "THE KING."

"LeBron? What’re you doing here?!" asked Carmelo Scrooge.

"I’m the ghost of Christmas present," replied LeBron. "There’s something you need to look at."

LeBron the ghost opened the door from the locker room and revealed the inside of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. Playing on the floor are LeBron James the player and his Miami Heat against his former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The fans are booing, barking and screaming viciously at LeBron the player from the stands every time he touches the ball.

"You hear that, Carmelo?" asked LeBron the ghost.

"Oh, man. That’s brutal. I can’t believe they’d say that about your mother!"

"Well, maybe if she and Delonte hadn’t…oh, never mind…the point is that I was once a god here. They worshipped me. They loved me. They loved my family. I could do no wrong. Now? They hate me. They will forever hate me. And you know what’s worse than that?"

"What’s that?" asked Carmelo Scrooge.

"Everywhere I go they hate me. They hate me in New York. They hate me in Los Angeles. They hate me in Chicago. No matter where I go, people hate me except for a few hundred Heat fans in Miami," replied LeBron the ghost.

"You mean a few hundred thousand Heat fans, right?"

"No, I mean a few hundred. The Heat don’t have real fans. Just a few bandwagoners who bring their dates during the second quarter and leave in the third quarter. Miami is the worst place to play in the NBA – other than Newark, of course – and it’s a horrible sports town."

The fans at Quicken Loans Arena start getting angrier at LeBron the player on the court. Many start throwing beers, batteries and trash at him. Fights break out in the stands between fans and police.

"You see, Carmelo, I didn’t think I had it all. But I did. I could’ve been to Ohio what John Elway is to Colorado. Bigger even. But I didn’t think it was good enough for me. I listened to everyone but myself and now I play in a half-empty, hollow stadium where no one cares about basketball. And to top it off, I’m not even the leader of my own team. I’ll forever be Alex Rodriguez to Dwyane Wade’s Derek Jeter. And it sucks, man. It sucks real bad. Just remember that…"

Suddenly more and more beer cups start flying down from the stands. The game is canceled by the PA announcer.

"It’s getting dangerous, let’s get outta here!"

With that, LeBron the ghost walked Carmelo Scrooge down the tunnel and out of the stadium in Cleveland. After opening the door to the stadium, the two former Team USA teammates walk into Nuggets headquarters at Pepsi Center where Josh Kroenke, current Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets head of accounting can be seen talking.

"Hey, Josh! Masai! What’s up?!"

"They can’t hear you, Carmelo," said LeBron the Ghost. "You can only listen."

"What are we going to do, Masai?" frets a nervous-looking Josh Kroenke. "I want to do what’s best for the Nuggets, best for the fans and best for Carmelo. But I just took over this team and the first thing I’m supposed to do is trade our best player? And making matters worse, he not only won’t sign that extension but he won’t accept a trade to any team but the Knicks. Our hands are tied!"

"Maybe we can convince him to stay," says Masai, ever the optimist. "We have lots of cap space after the year is over. We have draft picks to play with. Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Nene continue to get better. Gary Forbes was an absolute steal. The Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks aren’t getting any younger. We could have a good team here with Melo!"

"I know, but he doesn’t want to be here," retorts Josh. "I flew to Baltimore over the summer and he told me to my face that he won’t sign that extension." Josh turns to the team accountant and asks "how much money will we lose if Melo leaves us?"

The accountant answers: "Millions."

"But we already lose millions!" replies Josh. "We spent way more money than a team in our market size can afford to spend just to build a team around this guy. And now he wants to leave?! I have other players who deserve an answer to their future. How many more times can I tell Chauncey and K-Mart ‘hey guys, thanks for your hard work and physical sacrifice all these years but we can’t talk about your future until I know what Carmelo wants to do’? Do you know how hard that is? And what about the fans? I mean, we raised ticket prices on them this year. Raised ‘em! In a recession, no less. And the only reason they’ve stood by us is because maybe – just maybe – this team can be special with Carmelo here. People are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars for that small chance at a championship. And now I’m supposed to trade the guy and get virtually nothing in return?"

"You have to do something!" Coach Karl barges into the room, exasperated. "Our team is falling apart. I’ve been working harder than hell to keep these guys together, but the team is fracturing. Chauncey is worried about his contract. Kenyon is worried about his contract. Nene is worried about his contract. J.R…well, he doesn’t worry about anything. Arron is worried about his contract. Gary is worried about his contract. Pretty soon, these guys are going to refuse to play as a team and only play for their next contract. I know I lied to my doctor when I promised to take it easy this season, but dealing with this isn’t what I signed up for!"

"We’re trying, coach, we really are," interjects Masai.

"Whatever you do, just give me a straight answer and soon," retorts Coach Karl. "I’ll coach anybody you give me. I will. I just want to coach guys who want to be here. I don’t care if we win 20 games…"

"I care," says the accountant.

"…as long as we have guys who want to be here. Please, is there anything you can do, Masai?"

Masai replies: "If Melo won’t sign that extension here before New Year’s, I have little choice but to aggressively try to trade him. I won’t let Carmelo do to Denver what Chris Bosh did to me in Toronto." In unison, Josh, Karl and Masai put their heads down…wondering about the season that could have been.

"I just said I wanted to play out the season, that’s all!" screams Carmelo Scrooge, to no avail. "I haven’t demanded a trade!"

"That’s what I said, Melo," said LeBron the ghost. "‘I just wanted to play out the season.’ Ha, you sound just like I did. But once you become a free agent, it’s easy to think the grass is greener elsewhere. Everyone wants a piece of you and everyone thinks they know what’s best for you. And no one thinks you should stay where you started. Speaking of grass…"

LeBron the ghost opens a side door and leads Carmelo Scrooge outside to a large, grassy yard. They’re at Carmelo Scrooge’s 5.7-acre, 21,000 square foot Littleton, Colorado house. In the yard Carmelo Scrooge’s beautiful wife, LaLa is playing with their adorable son, Kiyan.

"Look how happy they are," said LeBron the ghost. "Look at how much space you got. You think you’ll get that much space in New York? Or Chicago? Or Brooklyn? And for what you paid here? I just spent every last dime I had on a house in Miami that will eventually bankrupt me on the maintenance costs alone. They’ll be calling me M.C. LeBron in 15 years. You wanna do that? You’re in Colorado, man. Colorado has plenty of green space, great schools, reasonable taxes and great people. But I guess you think New York is better than that. We’ll see…"

At that point, the wind began to pick up blowing LeBron the ghost away and sending Carmelo Scrooge up into air, unable to control his body.

"I never said I didn’t like Colorado!" screamed Carmelo Scrooge as he was thrust into the air. "I just said I wanted to keep my options open! My options ohhhpeeeeennnnn…"

*****

Carmelo Scrooge landed on hard, cracked, dirty pavement. His legs hurt from the hardness of the ground. He is in New York.

Since the electric flying car still has not been invented, Carmelo Scrooge is immediately engulfed in smoggy, dirty New York air, causing him to cough violently. He next gets splashed by muddy water from taxi cab driving by. Sopping wet and trying to clean himself off, he gets a tap on the shoulder.

"Welcome to New York City in 2015, my man!" It’s Isiah Thomas, grinning from ear-to-ear. "I’m the ghost of Christmas future! Even I can’t screw up this job."

"Hey, Isiah, wassup man?!" Carmelo Scrooge and Isiah high-five each other.

"Well I’m gonna show you. Come on…"

Isiah leads Carmelo Scrooge down the street to Madison Square Garden where the New York Knicks are playing the Denver Nuggets. The Knicks are trotting out a lineup that includes a noticeably heavy 31 year old Anthony alongside longtime veterans Raymond Felton, Bill Walker, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov, who has improved his scoring average to three points per game. Carmelo’s Knicks are barely playing .500 basketball.

Meanwhile, the opposing Nuggets lineup features two-time All-Star Ty Lawson at point guard, all defensive team member and three-point shooting threat Arron Afflalo at shooting guard, five-time All-Star Kevin Love (whom they got after suckering David Kahn into dealing Love for J.R. Smith) at power forward, third-year sensation Quincy Miller at small forward and Marc Gasol at center. They’re playing for a 64 year old George Karl who decided to coach for one more year since the Nuggets are on the verge of competing for the NBA Finals after getting to the conference finals in 2014.

The Nuggets play hard and gutty, while the Knicks are in total disarray. The Knicks never recovered from Amar’e Stoudemire’s latest knee surgery – his third since 2012 – and never delivered on the promise of the Melo/Stoudemire combo winning an NBA title. The closest they got was a lone playoff series win in 2012. As Isiah and Carmelo Scrooge look on, Carmelo the Knick looks more like Antoine Walker the Celtic or Glenn Robinson the Buck than the Carmelo Anthony of his younger years. With a lifetime guaranteed contract under his belt and lots late-night partying in New York, Carmelo the Knick has let himself go…settling for jump shots rather than taking the ball to the rack, and playing in front of a disinterested Madison Square Garden crowd.

"Damn," said Carmelo Scrooge. "How’d I let myself go?"

"Well, you are playing for the Knicks," replied Isiah. "Do the names Eddy Curry, Larry Johnson, Steve Francis or Stephon Marbury ring a bell?"

"Yeah, so?"

"Then you should know that the Knicks don’t hold anyone accountable. We throw money at free agents and big name stars and then never demand that they stay in shape off the court or stay focused on the court. We’re the most disorganized franchise in the NBA. Isn’t it great?"

"Wait a second," said Carmelo Scrooge. "Why do you keep saying we?"

Just then, Isiah the Ghost of Christmas Future points to Isiah the head coach trolling the Knicks’ sideline. "You see that?" says Isiah the ghost. "After I convince you to sign with the Knicks in the summer of 2011, the Knicks re-hired me, I kicked Donnie Walsh out and then took over as coach for Mike D’Antoni in 2012. That’s why we haven’t won a playoff series since, even with you on the team. Instead of re-signing with the Nuggets – an organization that helped make you great and has stood by you through thick and thin – you choose to play in New York and you end up playing for me. But hey, I needed one more colossal failure on my resume and it just wouldn’t be the same without having you on the team." Isiah flashes his famously big smile while Carmelo Scrooge isn’t impressed. "Anyway, this game is boring. We’re going to lose…again. Six straight home losses." Isiah then held up a copy of the New York Daily News with a cover shot featuring Carmelo and a headline reading: "Carmelo A Zero for New York."

"Let’s get you home," said Isiah.

"Home?"

Isiah and Carmelo Scrooge leave Madison Square Garden, jump in a taxi cab and head to the Upper East Side to Carmelo’s condo, located in an unimpressive high rise without a doorman. When they walk into Carmelo’s unit, they see Carmelo’s wife LaLa seated on the couch and flirting with a handsome man in a very expensive suit and tie.

"What’s that guy doing in my apartment?!" asked Carmelo Scrooge.

"Oh, that guy?" said Isiah. "That’s your wife’s new boyfriend.  Soon to be fiancée after she divorces you. He’s an investment banker who works on Wall Street."

"Fiancée?! What the hell does she need a new husband for? I play for the Knicks dammit. I make tons of dough!"

"Well, not exactly," Isiah corrected Carmelo Scrooge. "As a professional basketball player living in New York in 2015, you’re barely middle class. Thanks to the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement that slashed player salaries by 40%, all the taxes levied in New York, the increased cost of living in New York, all the money your wife spends in New York and all the endorsements you lost for dissing Denver, you don’t have a lot left. And compared to a Wall Street investment banker, you’re practically a pauper." Isiah laughs.  "Plus, you're never home.  With all the distractions in New York...the clubs, the bars, the fashion shows, the women...LaLa needs a partner, not a partier."

"That ain’t funny," retorted Carmelo Scrooge. "Where’s my son?"

"Your son? Oh, he doesn’t live here. You and LaLa shipped him off to boarding school in Connecticut…"

"Boarding school?! He’s only eight years old!"

"But New York doesn’t have any decent public schools and the private schools require a waiting list and a lot of money to get into. You just didn’t have enough influence to get him in. Remember, you’re merely a basketball player. That doesn’t mean anything in New York compared to the models, actors, bankers, politicians, musicians, artists, restaurateurs, Yankees and all the other more famous-than-you people who live here. And before Amar’e got hurt, you weren’t even the best player on the team."

"I can’t watch this anymore, get me outta here," said Carmelo Scrooge.

"As you wish," replied Isiah.

Exiting Carmelo the Knick’s apartment, Isiah and Carmelo Scrooge magically stepped into the 2025 Hall of Fame ceremony in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"Now we’re talkin’!" exclaimed Carmelo Scrooge. "Finally…my Hall of Fame ceremony. So I didn’t win any rings…big deal…but at least I made the Hall of Fame!"

But instead of Carmelo the Knick being inducted, he’s merely a spectator as his Olympic teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade get inducted alongside former Nuggets teammate Chauncey Billups and head coach George Karl (at 75 years old now). It’s a proud day for all involved.

"Wait a second," Carmelo Scrooge asked Isiah. "Why am I not on that stage?! I belong on that stage!"

"You could have been on that stage, Carmelo," replied Isiah. "But you were more concerned about yourself than your teammates. Even I was a great teammate before I became the worst executive in NBA history.  Do you think I liked living in Detroit?  Do you think I lived in Detroit in the off-season?  Hell, no.  But that's where I was drafted and that's where my teammates were...and that's all that mattered. When you left the Nuggets, they got better. When you got to the Knicks, they got worse…of course, I contributed to that. And you weren’t invited back to the 2012 Olympic Team, either. Your Hall of Fame potential died when you left Denver. But hey, you got to play in New York, right? A big, exciting city. And that’s all that mattered to you."

"No," an upset Carmelo Scrooge said. "No. This can’t be. I belong on that stage!" Carmelo Scrooge raced up onto the stage, attempting to squeeze between Wade, LeBron, Chauncey and Coach Karl. But no one noticed him. No one acknowledged him. He would go down in history like the other would-be great but ultimately forgettable small forwards like Walker and Robinson. A footnote – at best – in NBA history.

Nevertheless, Carmelo Scrooge continued to rant: "I belong on that stage!! I belong on that stage!! Dammit, I belong on that stage!!! I belong…"

*****

"…on that stage!!!!" And Carmelo Scrooge awoke in his Oklahoma City hotel room, in the middle of the night, full of sweat and fear. Relieved that it was all just a dream - or was it? - Carmelo Scrooge leapt out of bed and raced down the hotel room hallway to Josh Kroenke’s room. Arriving at Josh’s door, Carmelo Scrooge frantically banged on the door until the young basketball executive opened it.

"It’s three o’clock in the morning. What is it Carmelo?" a sleepy Josh Kroenke asked.

"We have to talk," said Carmelo Scrooge. "I’ve been doing some serious soul searching..."