Clearing the Smoke
Believe it or not, not trading Carmelo Anthony is Denver’s best option.
As soon as Melo realized that a Laker trade was about as likely as Christina Aguilera getting another shot at the National Anthem for a future super bowl, he went with plan B — state that if he wasn’t traded by the deadline, he’d sincerely consider accepting the Nuggets three-year extension that has been on the table since June. Two words for Knicks fans: won’t happen. As strong as Anthony’s desire is to get his money, his desire to play in New York outweighs that. The only thing I can see happening, is that he does want the money so bad, that he compromises, and accepts a deal sending him to the Nets.
Carmelo has made an estimated $60 million over the past four years alone. This is not a guy who should be making crucial career decisions that are almost solely based on money. If Meloreally cared about winning championships in New York, and ultimately becoming an icon in the city, wouldn’t the money be just a bonus? Think about it, if he really wants to play in the Mecca, with the goal of bringing the city their first NBA Championship since 1973, wouldn’t he see the obvious? By finishing the year in Denver (or elsewhere if a team is willing to rent him for the remainder of the season), he could sign with New York in the offseason, and sign with a much deeper team.
By playing out the remainder of the season, he would allow New York to not give up players, who could become vital role players for his Knicks down the road. New York has a promising and complete rookie in Landry Fields, a pool of potential in Danilo Gallinari, and they would give up zero future draft picks; either for collegiate guys, or for trade-bate when the Knicks make their attempt to bring CP3 or Deron Williams to town.
If the Knicks feel like they have to make this Melo deal happen now, they are forced to give up some combination of Fields, Anthony Randolph, Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and picks, depleting what could actually end up being a very stout bench in the Eastern Conference. Endorsements in New York City would, alone, cover what Anthony will lose in salary under the new CBA, so why strangle hold a team, that you want to go play for, and achieve the ultimate goal with, and force them to give up pieces that could prove vital for your championship pieces down the road?
When it comes down to it, Anthony doesn’t seem to get any of this. The Knicks are in no position to call his bluff (on accepting the Nuggets extension) and risk not acquiring him. It’s very easy to look at the Knicks roster and say that neither Gallinari, Chandler nor Fields are worth hanging on to if it means not getting Carmelo. And that if none of the above are enough to pry Anthony away, then to entertain the idea of sending Raymond Felton to the Nuggets in a deal that would allow Denver to unload Chauncey Billups‘ contract. If Donnie Walsh were to let Carmelo slip out of his hands, he would be appreciated in New York about as much as Tom Brady. Isiah Thomas would suddenly feel like such a long time ago. Carmelo knows all of this, he knows the ball is in his court and he has left the Nuggets absolutely zero leverage in making a reasonable deal. So what does Denver do?
We all know Denver’s options are limited, in part because Carmelo has handled this situation about as well as my nephew does when we take away his Nintendo DS. If I’m in the Denver Nuggets front office, call me crazy, but I call his bluff. If I’m truly not satisfied with the package the Knicks are offering (and I wouldn’t be), and the Lakers deal isn’t a real possibility (which it’s not), I don’t trade him. When your options are limited in a high profile business deal, sometimes you just have to back out. The Nuggets best hope would be to find a team that would be willing to take a chance on renting him for the remainder of the year, in hopes that Carmelo likes it in that city, or likes playing for that organization, and he stays there, or agrees to sign an extension before the current CBA expires (again, he does want the money). Some teams that come to mind would be Portland, or more likely, the Dallas Mavericks.
If no such offer presents itself, I’d keep him. Call his bluff. See if he’ll really sign the three-year extension. All signs say that he doesn’t want to be there, but money talks. Unlike Lebron in Cleveland or Bosh in Toronto, the Nuggets would then have a viable excuse when the press tries to hound them for letting him go for nothing. They can use the, “we thought we had a real chance to sign him to the extension” argument.
At the very worst, they do let Carmelo walk for nothing, but shave his $17 million in salary, along with an added $23-plus million in cap between Kenyon Martin and JR Smith at the end of the year and officially let the rebuilding process begin. Heading into whenever the next NBA season will be, the Nuggets immediately have a large Chauncey Billups contract for trade bate, or at the very least, let his $15 million shave off at the end of the next NBA season. It’s called a rebuilding process for a reason, rebuilding takes time. Does anyone really think acquiring any combination of Fields/Chandler/Gallinari and/or Felton and picks (from what surely will be a playoff team in the years to come) are the pieces the Nuggets need to move forward? Not a chance, call his bluff, and cost Melo exactly what he’s costing you — money.
If Denver tells Anthony all of this today, they regain all of the leverage, and even if Anthony tries to play hardball and decides to pick up his player option for next year, and not sign the extension, so be it. Even in that scenario, the Nuggets extend the trade deadline, cost Melo his beloved extension and buy time for a real offer.
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