It was assumed around NBA circles for weeks, perhaps months even, that Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony would eventually end up in the hands of the New Jersey Nets this summer. Carmelo wanted a trade, the Nets wanted a star, and both sides had the leverage to make something happen.
The rumors floated around, and then they heated up, and then they reached a boiling point where the deal looked almost done. And then Jan. 19 rolled around, when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov called a news conference, and all of a sudden the deal was totally and completely dead.
We’ve heard only a smattering of Melo drama since then, with no clear frontrunner in the sweepstakes over the past week and a half. The Knicks? They don’t have the pieces. The Rockets? Maybe, but then Carmelo wouldn’t sign the $65 million extension, so why would they pull the trigger? The Mavericks? Please.
None of the Nuggets’ remaining options appear to make sense. Their Plan A was perfect, and their Plans B, C, D and on down the alphabet are in complete disarray. General manager Masai Ujiri needs to find a team that fits two criteria—one, they have the goods to propose a juicy offer for Carmelo, and two, they can get the star to sign an extension. Aside from the Nets, that team doesn’t exist.
It appears that Ujiri has only one option left. He has to call the Nets back, and he has to beg.
What else can he do?
The problem is simple—Carmelo and his new bride Lala Vasquez want to be in a big market, and Carmelo is an East Coast guy, born and bred. He grew up in the state of New York, he loved it, and he wants to be back. He even attended Syracuse University.
Carmelo wants New York or New Jersey. And like it or not, he has all the leverage—simply by agreeing to sign for the $65 million wherever he’s dealt, he can control his destiny.
The Nuggets can’t send Carmelo to the Knicks. If all they get back for their star is Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields and Anthony Randolph (or a first-round draft pick in Randolph’s stead), their fans will never let them live it down. They can’t send him anywhere else. If Melo won’t sign, no team will give up enough for a two-month rental. Everyone else’s package will be even worse with the Knicks’.
The Nuggets’ only choice is to call the Nets back and beg. Call and beg.
Prokhorov loves to be the strong man in the fight. When he makes a statement, he doesn’t want to back down. So when he says the Melo deal is dead, he means business.
But this business is serious—it’s the futures of two franchises, if not more. Masai Ujiri and the Nuggets need to convince Prokhorov that the deal still makes sense, and it still has to be done.
For the Nuggets, it’s do or die.
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