With the Denver Nuggets making their lone stop in New York to play the Knickerbockers everyone knew regardless of the outcome on the court the real story would be if Carmelo would experience his next game at Madison Square Garden as a Knick. The media did not disappoint.
Chris Sheridan reported that he was informed by a very trusted source that Carmelo Anthony has made it known to the Nuggets he will only sign the extension on the table if he is traded to the New York Knicks. Carmelo’s representatives made sure that Sheridan shared the news with the rest of the league. (Sheridan followed up his article with a chat which was dominated by Carmelo to New York questions.)
The fact the Knicks are Carmelo’s number one choice is certainly not news. It is noteworthy though in that this is the first time there has been any definitive statement regarding who Carmelo will, or will not, agree to an extension with. The important thing to keep in mind is regardless of how definitive that statement was it was merely a calculated escalation of the pressure being exerted on Denver to ship Melo out of town.
From the day the Nuggets let the four team trade prior to the start of the season die this standoff, and it is a standoff, will end with either Denver agreeing to send Melo to New York for whatever they can extract from the Knicks or Carmelo agreeing to play somewhere other than MSG in order to not lose out on his max extension.
The latest salvo delivered on Sunday is simply another attempt to put Carmelo in what he believes is his perfect situation. Denver has wants and desires in this fight as well and do not expect them to simply roll over and ask the Knicks to put their castoffs on the next flight west because that is what Carmelo wants.
The question is how far is each party willing to go to try to get what they want?
Anthony completely disregarded any chances of him sloughing off in order to try to force a trade prior to the season and to his credit he has played as hard as usual. However, as the clock ticks down towards the trade deadline and Carmelo and his representatives become more desperate to force Denver’s hand they are going to have to dig deeper and deeper into their bag of tricks. That includes anything from playing selfishly, feigning injury, being disruptive behind closed doors and finally being disruptive on the court.
As long as Carmelo wants to avoid going that far he is not the only one who can make life difficult for the Nuggets. Carmelo’s agent, Leon Rose, and powerbroker confidant, William Wesley, can also threaten to divert players who are managed by their agency from playing in Denver. One of Rose’s clients happens to be a certain young promising point guard named Ty Lawson which could provide another piece of leverage for Melo’s representatives.
Denver can simply counter with one of Carmelo’s favorite lines: “We are keeping our options open.”
Not only does that put the pressure on Carmelo and his handlers, but it applies pressure to the Knicks. New York certainly appears to be working with Denver to provide a deal which is palatable for the Nuggets. Even so Denver needs to play chicken with the Knicks too in order to drain every possible drop of value from Melo as possible. Whether that be getting the Knicks to take on an unwanted contract, adding in another player and/or draft pick or breaking the trade into multiple iterations to acquire an extra $3 million in cash, if the Nuggets eventually are stuck dealing with the Knicks, they must do all they can to make the best of a bad situation.
I was a strong proponent of trading Carmelo early on in the season both to avoid falling into this cat and mouse game that will probably consume the Nuggets for the next two months and because doing so would have maximized Denver’s own pick in the upcoming draft. At this point, Denver needs to play this out in order to get the best deal they can for the franchise going forward. Their best friend at this point is the trade deadline. (Of course, the best deal possible was the four team trade which was scuttled two months ago, but that is all water under the bridge that hopefully will not be known as the flood that swept the franchise away.)
Denver can at the very least work with the knowledge that the worst they can do will be saving some money and ushering in the Danilo Gallinari era in the Mile High City. After all the consternation and gnashing of teeth, that may very well be the final outcome. However, it will take more than an unnamed source to set things in stone.