Explaining the Contradictions in the Carmelo Anthony Rumors

The Denver Nuggets have been putting on the full court press lately trying to combat the media frenzy that is the Indian Summer of Carmelo. They are pushing the angle that Carmelo Anthony is a Nugget and he wants to be a Nugget. They have articles up by Aaron Lopez reminding everyone that Kobe Bryant asked publically to be traded and remained a Laker for life and an interview with Carmelo where he never says he does not want to be a Nugget.

There have been numerous stories hitting on various angles of Carmelo’s situation. He is not going to sign the extension. Actually he probably will sign the extension. Never mind, he wants to be traded. Hey Carmelo has never once said he wants to be traded. Now there is news that Carmelo’s new bride, Lala Vazquez, has said it is possible Carmelo could play for New York. Everyone is treating every article like the Rosetta Stone or the Dead Sea Scrolls expecting to find some kind of clue, some hidden message that will tell them what Carmelo is going to do.

There is one explanation for all of the confusion and misinformation. Carmelo is going to make sure he does not turn into LeBron James. I believe Carmelo learned a great deal from everything LeBron went through this summer. Melo watched LeBron go from the most beloved person in Ohio and local hero to the subject of jersey fueled bonfires in the streets of Cleveland. LeBron got what he wanted, but he did everything the wrong way and became the most hated man in Ohio since…well…ever.

No athlete, or non-athlete for that matter, wants to be the focus of that kind of hatred. Unlike LeBron who was oblivious to the reaction of regular people to the way he handled his free agency Carmelo is being very smart about getting what he wants.

So what does Carmelo Anthony want? That is easy. He wants to (1) win a championship (2) while playing where he wants (3) with whom he wants (4) while he gets as much money as he can. In his mind he can get number one after he gets numbers two and three and if he plays his cards right number four will take care of itself.

I think Carmelo has informed the Nuggets at this point he would rather play elsewhere. However, he knows if the Nuggets are going to trade him they must get something in return. If all Denver gets is a couple of role players and some expiring contracts, they have no reason to trade him. They would be better off getting a trade exception in a sign and trade next summer. That means he cannot go public with his demands as that would destroy any leverage Denver has in negotiations with other teams.

Carmelo has not signed his extension yet, even though I am sure he is giddy over getting that kind of cash locked in. If he wants to be a free agent after the upcoming season, he will have to opt out of the final year of his current contract, which will pay him $18.5 million for 2011-12. That means he will be leaving $83.5 million on the table. Even if he were to sign a free agent contract under the terms of the current CBA (maximum starting salary of 16,324,500 with maximum annual raises of $1,305,960) he would only receive $73.1 million over those four seasons. Now, consider that no one knows what the terms of the next CBA will be. It may be an unknown, but I would be my house that the top level salaries will decrease, and probably the maximum number of seasons too which will further increase Carmelo’s monetary sacrifice.

In order to cash in for playing where he wants he must be traded before the deadline in February, which would allow him to sign his extension with his new team. So by keeping his mouth shut in public, or even making comments to make all the speculation seem silly, and helping Denver to keep his trade value as high as possible he can name the teams he would agree to sign an extension with he can orchestrate playing with a new team of his choosing, which is why we keep hearing about why he would be willing to play for the Knicks or Magic or Rockets or Nets, while collecting all the monetary compensation he can receive.

The real kicker is by keeping quiet he can avoid being the bad guy. Once he is traded he can say he always loved Denver and the fans, but the team did what it did out of fear. Because of the carnage that was left behind in the former homes of LeBron and Bosh the Nuggets jumped to conclusions and acted hastily.

The truth is Carmelo could put an end to this at once, not by saying I am a Nugget, but I want to be a Nugget. Obviously there is no rush to sing the contract extension. It will be there for him all season long. If he wants to wait to put some pressure on Denver to make changes to the roster, that shows a complete misunderstanding of the Nuggets current assets. Denver could not sign anyone they wanted because they were and are over the cap. What should have been their best asset, Kenyon Martin’s expiring contract, has little value because there are no teams at this point who need to dump that kind of salary. There is not much of a market for J.R. Smith coming off the terrible shooting season he experienced last year. Nene holds considerable value, but how does trading him make Denver better when they lack front court depth as it is? Ty Lawson could bring something nice back, but that would only hurt the team’s future which would make Denver a weaker team once the extension kicked in.

The reality is when players do not jump at the chance to sign extensions , it is usually not a good sign for their current team. There are only a handful of players I can think of who balked at signing an extension. Rashard Lewis passed on a two year, $25 million extension with Seattle. Hedo Turkoglu declined a four year, $35 million extension with Orlando and Amare Stoudemire said no thanks to a large contract extension with Phoenix. What do those three players have in common? New teams the season after rejecting the contract they were offered. I understand Carmelo has not rejected the extension he has been offered, but the fact that he did not agree to sign it quickly is a non-rejection rejection.

If you want to hear something straight from Carmelo’s mouth that helps explain his thoughts on Denver look no further than the interview he gave on the Nuggets’ official site linked to at the beginning of this article. When he was asked why LeBron wanted to leave the Cavs he provided the following quote:

“I think in Cleveland he felt – I don’t know, I’m just assuming – he probably felt that he did it for a long time and he was getting there year in and year out and he just couldn’t get over the hump.

If LeBron felt that way about Cleveland who repeatedly won more than 60 games made it to the finals once and the conference finals once and never lost before the conference semifinals, do you think Melo believes he can get over the hump in Denver?

I am sorry Nuggets fans, but Carmelo wants out and he is pulling the strings at his disposal to get his way while doing his best to avoid being the bad guy. I have no idea if Melo will be traded sooner or later, or where he will end up, but I firmly believe he will indeed be traded.

I am sure Melo would say I am coming up with my own analysis of a situation, but in response to that I would reply, “Then prove me wrong and sign the extension.”

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  • David

    Jeremy, you could be right. But I think there’s another possibility, and it involves taking what Melo says at face value. He says he wants to see what the team does to improve. And he doesn’t necessarily misunderstand the team’s assets. He might realize that Kenyon’s contract has no value now, but that could change closer to the trade deadline. Ditto for J.R. if he plays well and stays out of trouble off-court. Melo might just be waiting for the trade deadline, and why wouldn’t he? You never know, the Nuggets could pull off a “Pau Gasol”. (OK, so I’m dreaming on that one!)

    What worries me more than Melo not signing the extension are the reports that he sold his Littleton house and the well-known fact that LaLa wants to be in NYC or L.A. I think that Melo thinks he might have a better chance of winning elsewhere, and that he and certainly his wife might be happier in NY. But I think there’s a chance that Melo might still be hoping that the Nuggets do something to show him they can compete for a championship. Maybe it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

  • Chris

    Melo come play in MILWAUKEE!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.roundballminingcompany.com Jeremy

    David, taking what Melo says at face value can be just as misleading as listening to any of the other rumors swirling around. Everyone is pushing their own angle whether it be agents, front office staff, Lala or Melo himself. Taking all of the news/rumors we have to work with at this point I stand by my analysis.

    It is certainly possible the Nuggets hire a new GM, he meets with Melo and convinces him Denver gives him the best chance to win. It is not an overly difficult case to make and I will be throwing together a post presenting the Nuggets side of things soon. At this point I would like to hear someone poke a hole in my hypothesis (that’s what she said!).

  • TSal

    Chris….Seriously??? That’s more of a facebook comment. I do think Melo will wait to see who the new GM is and what they plan on doing. Melo has ties to the East coast and that’s fine and all but he also wants to win. How would going to NJ help him win a ring? I don’t think he wins one by going to the Knicks. that would be the worst Defensive Duo (Melo, Amare). Denver has to get creative and really build a competitor. I really think they need to restructure that team by keeping Melo, Arrafalo, Nene, Lawson, Harrington, and Chancy. Everyone else is expendable.

  • KW

    With the exception of his selling his house…I wonder if Melo is simply unwilling to sign an extension until we get a new GM hired. I don’t think I’d sign a long term agreement until I knew what kind of energy and vision was driving the decisions.
    Overall, I’d support his holdout if it was because he didn’t want to work for a team with bogus leadership. He may end up doing all of us a favor by putting the cork to ownership.

  • ParkHillNative

    Was anyone else as annoyed as I was this summer, when all these various big-name players were purported to be making lists of where they’d like to play, and Denver never got a single mention?

    Chris Bosh was rumored to have made some list of 4 or 5 teams, I don’t remember who they all were, but none of them were the Nuggets.

    Chris Paul was reported to have given a list of 3 or 4 teams, none of them the Nuggets.

    Shaq came out with some list of 2 or 3 teams, none of them the Nuggets.

    Obviously Denver’s FO status must be a big concern, but is there anything else these guys know that we don’t know? The Nuggets were a couple of inbounds passes away from the Finals two years ago, and were the 2nd-best team in the West last season ’til K-Mart and George Karl went out.

    It just seems to me like everybody in the NBA seems to know that the Nuggets are going nowhere and nobody should take them seriously or want to play in Denver. Is it anything besides the FO situation? Is it because Melo really is letting certain people know that he has no intention of playing for the Nuggets much longer?

  • Tom

    There’s several reason nobody “wants to” come to Denver, some basketball related, some not.

    Basketball related:

    1) No GM.
    2) No young assets beside Lawson.
    3) There hasn’t been any payroll flexibility and there still might not be for the forseeable future depending on Melo.
    3) Unknown makeup of team in near and long-term.

    Just from a basketball standpoint, I wouldn’t really want to come to Denver either. There’s just no stability/certainty due to the fact that just about everyone on our roster could be gone as ETO’s/FA’s by next year. The only guys who even have contracts to be on the roster in 2012 right now are Birdman, Balkman, and Lawson. Billups will be FA. Melo who knows. Nene has an ETO. Harrington has an ETO. Martin/Smith/everyone else is an expiring. I wouldn’t want to sign a 4-5 year contract here seeing as there’s zero clue what this team is going to look like. And at the moment, nobody to even steer the ship.

    Non-basketball related:

    1) Not a major city.
    2) No “side” benefits.
    3) Weather.

    Denver simply isn’t a real major metropolis. That designation is saved for LA, CHI, NY/NJ, Boston. Next tier is like Miami, Houston, Dallas, Philly, DC, ATL, NO. Denver is probably on that next tier with Portland, SA, Pho, and others. For guys looking for the bright lights… we don’t have them.

    We’re also are lacking in side benefits. Texas/Florida both don’t have state income taxes which is a huge benefit. LA has Hollywood. NY/NJ is the center of the known world at the moment. Denver offers… skiing. And the ability to hit your driver an extra 20 yards.

    Weather is also a factor. Most people enjoy warm climates. That’s another reason why LA, Texas, FL are such destination cities. Some guys just can’t handle cold, snow, or dry.

    Denver is a phenomenal city but as far a basketball (or any sports really) destination, it just isn’t too high on the list. It’s just reality.

  • asdqqq

    Just a minor correction Jeremy. If Melo were able to sign a new contract next year under the current CBA, it would start at just over 18 million a year, 105% of his previous salary. A player can always get up to a 5% raise over his previous salary in the first year of a new contract, regardless of the max. Also the raises would be based on that new first year salary, while they are based on the first year of his current max contract in an extension. Assuming the raise rate where he resigns with someone who has his Bird rights, the four year total, I believe, would be about $83.37 mil, only chump change less than the extension. But he’d be able to get a 6 year deal instead of a 4 year deal and a no trade clause if it was under the current CBA. So if the current CBA were going to still be in place, you could get a lot more guaranteed money by waiting and signing a new contract rather than taking an extension.

    And if the new CBA negotiations are at all like the last one, where the current best players basically passed the salary cuts (in the form of a max amount for players that were previously making less than the max) on to the next generation of players by ensuring that they could always get raises on their old salaries negotiated under the prior CBA, Melo might not be looking at losing much if any money even under a new CBA.

  • ParkHillNative

    @Tom, I hear you on all that. I haven’t lived in Denver since 1998. I always remember in the past that it seemed like a problem, that the city seemed unattractive to basketball players. The city has grown and changed a fair amount since I moved away (I still come back to visit 1-2 times a year). I guess I just always kind of hope that the Nuggets might move up the ladder a bit in the eyes of the league. I wasn’t thrilled with the Iverson acquisition years ago, but I thought it bode well for the Nuggets that a player like him seemed happy to be joining the team.

    Maybe another knock against the Nuggets is that Denver is in particular not a basketball town. The Broncos just rule everything, even when they haven’t made the playoffs for 4 or 5 years. The Nuggets come incredibly close to making a Finals appearance, and the following season they can only sell out 22 of their 41 home games. I live in the East Bay now. I went to see the Nuggets play in Oakland against the Warriors this last season. The Warriors fans were incredibly energetic, and there were close to 18,000 of them that night — for a lottery-bound team! I wonder if Carmelo Anthony dreams of playing in a real basketball city, where lots and lots of fans really care deeply about the team.

  • http://roundballminigcompany.com john

    denver always comes close to selling out. let denver win a championship and it will become the broncos/nuggets state of mind here. i lived here my entire life and we love our broncos. manily cuz they spend money and they have won championships. once the nuggets win one championship they dont have to go back to back just one and you will see a huge difference.

  • The Big Bill

    Very true. Denver is not a city that attracts basketball players, but who cares. If the Nuggests can pull off one championship, players will be willing to come to Denver. Winning an NBA championship is much different from winning a superbowl. I think the last 20-30 or so years, only 7 NBA teams have won championships. All of these championship teams never have any problem luring talent to their cities. We love the Broncos because they put Denver on the map. As soon as the Nuggets reach that status, the entire state will support them.