The conspicuous taps of the stilettos notifies everyone of the couple's arrival on the court, where her graying husband first stepped foot a quarter-century ago. La La Vazquez and Carmelo Anthony strut toward center court this 2028 night at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets are retiring Melo's No. 15, and the fans give him a loud cheer.
Indeed, it's crazy to think about it, but this night could come — a cordial homecoming for Carmelo.
Time heals all wounds, right? But, has there been enough time since the trade of Melo for him to get a warm reception at the Pepsi Center? That question will be answered Wednesday night, when Anthony and the New York Knicks play Pepsi, Melo's first game here since forcing his way out of town in February 2011.
Will Denver fans boo a player who turned his back on their city to go to a bigger one? Or, will they cheer him as a thank-you for resuscitating the franchise? Or, have they simply moved on — and look at Wednesday's game not as "The Melo Game," but another needed home victory for a surging Denver team looking to get home-court in the first round of the playoffs.
Anthony was asked Tuesday at Pepsi Center what he would tell fans who boo him tonight.
"I'd probably just smile at him. There's really nothing I can really say at this point," he said. "I don't think the fans really know why they're booing; in the media it was portrayed that I wanted to leave. There was a lot of things behind the scenes.
"At that point in my career, it was a decision I had to make. The team was starting to go into a different direction, a lot of guys were up for contracts, so there were a lot of decisions the front office was going to have to make."
There will be plenty of emotion Wednesday night, with the return of Anthony and a quartet of other former Nuggets on the Knicks: J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby. Three Nuggets are former Knicks, all acquired in the Melo trade: Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov. It's anyone's guess how the fans will respond.
"They should respond however they want," TNT analyst Steve Kerr said. "When you buy a ticket, you get the right to cheer or boo."
The booing could be bad. Kobe-bad. Many feel jilted by Melo. He seemed dedicated to trying to win a title in Denver, but he ultimately sought an opportunity in his wife's hometown, a marketing Mecca where he could play in "The Mecca of basketball," as Michael Jordan once described Madison Square Garden.
There's no question Melo left many Nuggets fans feeling angry, disrespected. They poured everything they had into supporting the Nuggets, and he made it clear to management he wanted out, forcing the trade. Melo disagrees with that portrait.
"At that point in time, it was making a decision if I wanted to start all over and rebuild or make a decision to go elsewhere," he said.
Melo supporters point out what sad shape the franchise was in when he came on board in 2003. The Nuggets hadn't made the playoffs since 1995, and he led Denver to the postseason every season he played here, including a conference finals run in 2009.
Any way one looks at it, when Anthony steps on the Pepsi Center court, it'll be a spectacle.
Say what you want about his lapses on defense, or his ball-hogging, Melo was a stud. He averaged 24.8 points per game as a Nugget. In New York, he's helping lead the Knicks toward the playoffs. His presence gives them a realistic shot at their first playoff series victory since 2000.
"He's developed as a player. Some of the things he's doing, seeds were planted here in Denver, and now here's the fruit of those seeds," said Melvin Hunt, the Nuggets assistant coach in charge of scouting the Knicks. "He does an incredible job playing out of double-teams because he's such a scorer, you almost have to double or tilt the floor toward him. And now he's finding people on the weak side of the floor. And he's really shooting the ball — their style, shooting the 3, walking up and trailing the play.
"And he's playing a lot of power forward, and that makes him a handful. Guys like him, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, it's a nightmare for coaches — it's sometimes an unfair advantage."
The Denver Post's Benjamin Hochman posts analysis, notes and more on this blog focusing on the Denver Nuggets.
The question looms. Should the Nuggets someday retire Melo's number?
"I would probably say yes," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "My gut feeling is, I don't know if you want to do it at a time when the fans are kind of angry and frustrated, and probably some fans are anti-Melo, but in time I would vote definitely, yes. What he did for this franchise, turning it around. He has to be one of the two or three best players in Nuggets history, in my opinion. I vote yes."
He then looked up at a reporter.
"It might be too early to write that right now, to be honest with you."
Retire No. 15?
Should the Nuggets someday retire Carmelo Anthony's No. 15 uniform? Nuggets reporter Benjamin Hochman discovers that fans on Twitter provide different perspectives:
@PeteWynn: I don't know why they wouldn't after the resurgent success he brought to the team. They only have, what, four retired?
@SnoopCal: are we that pathetic of an organization... that we have to retire a player's jersey.. who didnt want to be here ???
@ivyice21: if we retire it for him bringing us gallo, chandler, hamilton, mozgov....then sure
@nuggetshoops: I don't hate Melo and agree his # should be retired here someday. His leaving was as graceful as possible."
@cfranzen610: Melo is the single most important player in the history of the Nugget franchise, but he will not have his number retired.
@BallDoesLie: what about the conflict with retiring Anthony Randolph number?