A few months before Carmelo Anthony was traded to Oklahoma City, the New York Knicks -- along with every other team in the league -- were asked by the players' union to vote for the 2017 Teammate of the Year Award.

New York's pick? Yup, you guessed it: Melo, who just so happens to open the season against his former team Thursday night in Oklahoma City.

It's an honor that might surprise critics who saw Anthony as a selfish player in New York -- one more likely to tear a team apart than to keep it together. So why did Anthony's peers choose him for the award?

"He kept us together," Lance Thomas said earlier this month. "It's something that you wouldn't know if you weren't in there with us. It didn't ever get [discussed by media and fans]. ... But no matter what was going on, he was smiling, he was keeping all of that stuff outside of the locker room."

All of "that stuff" included trade rumors involving Anthony that began in January and didn't stop until he was dealt to the Thunder in late September. It also included a few indirect -- and direct -- criticisms of Anthony from ex-team president Phil Jackson that turned into national storylines.

Anthony didn't always keep his cool, which is understandable. But teammates say he never let the ongoing drama seep into the locker room.

Kristaps Porzingis, now the unquestioned face of the Knicks in a post-Melo era, says Anthony's approach to dealing with the off-court drama left an impression on him.