By John Schmeelk
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Since the Carmelo Anthony saga started, I’ve insisted that he was the one with ultimate control over where he winds up. He has exercised that power and has made it clear the only place he truly wants to be long term is with the Knicks. Now Carmelo’s standing in the OK Corral, staring across the dusty road at the Nuggets, waiting for them to make their move. The entire NBA community and the city of New York are lining the streets, and anxiously waiting for something to finally happen.
Everything now rests in the hands of Stan Kroenke, his son Josh, and Nuggets General Manager Masai Ujiri. I’m 90% sure Carmelo ends up a Knick either via trade or free agency. Now it’s just a matter of how and that’s completely up to the Nuggets. For a second, let’s look at this from their perspective and try to figure out where they stand in all this.
There are a lot of reasons for Denver to make a trade. Can the Nuggets afford to let their franchise player walk and get nothing in return? It’s wishful thinking to count on Carmelo resigning with Denver after all this drama. Look what happened to Cleveland this year after losing LeBron James. If Denver makes the right trade, they can set themselves up for the future by acquiring young talent, draft picks, and clearing cap space.
The problem Denver has with a trade is perception. The rumored trade with the Nets (real or not) looms over everything. The package the Knicks or any other teams are willing to deliver to Denver will pale in comparison to the King’s ransom the desperate Nets were supposedly willing to trade. Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri don’t want their first move running the Nuggets to be trading their franchise player for 50 cents on the dollar.
As discussed in this space a few weeks ago, the Nuggets have very little leverage in trade negotiations. If Denver can’t find another team to make a better offer than the Knicks, why would Donnie Walsh increase his offer? If the Nuggets do trade Carmelo, Kroenke and Ujiri will have to get used to the idea that they’ll take a hit in the media, fairly or unfairly, over the trade.
Denver’s other option is to simply play out the season and try to win a championship with Anthony and throw caution to the wind about the future. Denver only trails Oklahoma City by four games for first place in the Northwest, and the 4th seed in the postseason. They are six games behind the Lakers for the second seed in the Western Conference. With Anthony, and some luck, the Nuggets have an outside shot of making some serious noise in the playoffs. There are advantages to this scenario.
This puts the ball back in Carmelo’s court and will make him choose what’s more important to him, going to New York or getting his full contract extension. No one is quite sure what Anthony will choose in that scenario. There’s still the slight possibility of a trade on draft night (though not with the Knicks since Eddy Curry will no longer be on the roster), or a sign and trade after Anthony opts out. It also gives Denver fans one more postseason title run and allows management to save face from making an unpopular trade.
Right now all Denver is doing is waiting to see if someone comes with a better offer that can top the Knicks proposal. So far, they’ve come up empty. I wouldn’t take the Lakers very seriously (Bynum has a bug contract and is injury prone), and the Rockets and Mavericks have yet to make a substantial offer to take on Carmelo as a rent-a-player.
Expect this to go on through the All-Star break at the earliest, and possibly up until the trade deadline. The Nuggets will float rumors out there to get the Knicks to offer more. It’s going to be torturous couple of weeks and Knicks fans should be prepared for it. Meanwhile, Carmelo, the Knicks and the rest of the league wait for Denver to make a move. It’s their play.
UP AND UNDER
Up: Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields continue to improve and are trying to convince Donnie Walsh with their play not to trade them for Carmelo. Gallinari is showing explosiveness we haven’t seen before, and Fields jumper is getting better by the day. Walsh will do all he cannot to include either one in a trade, but for now I think Fields is likely to be moved. Gallinari has more upside.
Down: James Dolan. Yes, you should worry about the Knicks owner getting involved in trade negotiations for Carmelo. He could swoop in and give up way more than the Knicks might have to in order to get him. Walsh is playing some serious hardball right now. Let him do it. It’s what he is good at. And no, don’t take the Isiah stuff seriously. That sort of thing sells newspapers and that’s why it’s getting reported. Isiah is not returning as GM of the Knicks, especially after the Rodney Heard illegal workout debacle.
Wilson Chandler gets an honorable mention here. He has lost his game, and his injury could put a wrench in the Knicks trade negotiations with the Nuggets. The Knicks need to protect him, but at the same time they need Chandler’s production to win games. It’s the ultimate Catch 22.
AROUND THE WORLD
Say whatever you want about LeBron James, but he is the best basketball player in the world. Seeing the Cavs now, and knowing that LeBron took them to within a few bounces of a NBA championship is startling. He took nothing in Cleveland and made it into something. No one else in the league, including Kobe Bryant, could do something like that.
Mark Warkentien was a very good hire by the Knicks, whether it was done by Walsh or someone else in the organization. He will work well with Walsh, won’t backstab him, and he’s a great basketball man. As a scout, talent evaluator, and trade broker he is a very good addition to the Knicks organization. You can’t have too many good basketball people, especially when the draft comes along.
For more on the Knicks, and everything else in the world of sports, dare to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.
- Schmeelk’s Stance: Center Of Attention (newyork.cbslocal.com)