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.”