Clearing the Smoke
Believe it or not, not trading Carmelo Anthony is Denver’s best option.
by Bryan Confer / @bryanconfer
On February 9th, ESPN‘s Chris Broussard broke news that the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers had preliminary discussions on a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to L.A., in a deal built around Lakers center Andrew Bynum. At first glance, this actually made a lot of sense. The Lakers are seemingly always looking for their next superstar. For a franchise that has owned arguably five of the top 15 players of all time, acquiring Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t have surprised me. At least, not until I considered the facts.
Fact 1: Carmelo wants to play in the Mecca, aka New York City. Not exactly ground breaking news here, but a fact is a fact. I’m willing to bet that Melo doesn’t want to go play second fiddle to Kobe Bryant in L.A., even if he would be taking over the reigns within the next few years.
Fact 2: The Lakers plan on playing in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season. I’m also willing to bet, that they plan on meeting the Boston Celtics in a rubber match when they arrivethere. The only way L.A. contends with Boston in the Finals is with both big men, Pau Gasol and Bynum, on the roster. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Lakers met the Miami Heat in the final round of the tournament. Mitch Kupchak knows, and if he doesn’t, certainly Phil and anyone whose last name is Buss knows, the Lakers could compete and run and gun with the Heat, had they acquired Melo.
But even more so, they know that the real advantage, would be out-dueling the Heat inside, with Gasol and Bynum. The Heat have no one to contend with them two in the middle. There is not a bigger mismatch between two potential NBA Finalists, than the one the Lakers currently possess over the Heat down low.
Quick Note: I’m not trying to openly sleep on the Spurs here, so for the record, the Gasol-Bynum tandem is a Laker advantage over them as well come Playoff time, more so than a Kobe-Carmelo duo.
Fact 3: Carmelo Anthony has essentially handcuffed the Denver Nuggets to so few trade possibilities, that leaking a Melo to the Lakers deal, should up the ante on the Knicks trade offer, and make them want to get this done immediately.
These facts beg the question, were any of the Lakers trade talks real? Do they have any chance of coming to fruition? First, let’s go back, circa 2006.
When DWade and Lebron negotiated their contract extensions in 2006, their agents (Henry Thomas and Leon Rose, respectively), demanded three-year opt out clauses in their extensions. At first glance, this looks traditional, until I tell you that this was a first for any players to demand. Henry Thomas also represents Chris Bosh, who received the same principle in his deal.
Carmelo’s then-agent Calvin Andrews negotiated a guaranteed fourth year in Anthony’s deal, which is questionable (to say the least), for various reasons, but two really come to mind.
1) Normally, I’m all for doing your own thing, and not following the crowd. But in this case, I can’t come up with one reasonable explanation not to do “what everyone else was doing.” Why not negotiate a three-year out, and in the process, add to the greatest free agency class in the history of the NBA? It would have extended Anthony’s leverage in getting max money, due to the fact that after LeBron went off the board, teams would throw max offers at Anthony, like Amar’e Stoudemire’s deal, to keep their fans at bay, and to get something out of this historic offseason.
2) Whatever Andrews’ motives were, who in their right mind negotiates a client into a contract, which expires the same year as that sport/league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires? That’s almost as moronic as selling super bowl tickets for seats that aren’t readily available. You’re never going to believe this, but Melo has since fired Calvin Andrews. His new agent — you guessed it, Leon Rose.
Important Note: It has been debated whether or not Andrews negotiated in that guaranteed fourth year for another year of guaranteed commission. My buddy Paul Gant had Stephen A. Smith on his radio show a few weeks back, however, and Stephen A stated that “Melo told him personally that, ‘I’m from Baltimore, there is no way I am turning down a five-year extension worth $80 million.’” It should be noted that Anthony does have a player option worth $18.5 million for next season. This raises the question of why Carmelo wouldn’t exercise that option if he is so worried about making his money.
A couple reasons answer this. A) Melo, like the rest of us, has no idea what the new CBA will be in terms of player salaries, thus wants his extension under the current CBA. And, B) He wants to play in New York, and doesn’t want to sit through another year like this one, playing with uncertainty for a team in which he no longer wishes to play for, whilst waiting for a trade to occur.
So, were the Melo to Lakers trade talks for real? For the Nuggets, yes. For the Lakers, not a chance. As I stated above, the Lakers know what they need to win now, Melo isn’t part of that puzzle. The Lakers aren’t in any position where they need to start looking for Kobe’s “replacement.” Not yet, and when that time comes, they won’t have a hard time doing it. Not in this day of free agency. Everyone wants to play ball in L.A. When that time comes, they’ll find a way to make that happen. The bottom line is, this is Phil’s last year. He and the Lakers are playing for now, they’ll worry about future problems, when they arise.