Melo staying in Denver, says he'll accept contract offer

The first player of the offseason to make a verbal commitment on signing a new contract is Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony.

The Nuggets formally offered Anthony a five-year maximum contract extension worth an estimated $80 million on Saturday morning and Anthony didn't hesitate to accept.

"We've informed the Nuggets that we intend to sign on July 12," Calvin Andrews, Anthony's agent, told ESPN.com. "Carmelo is very, very grateful for the commitment [owner Stan Kroenke] has made to him.

"Carmelo's fondness for the city of Denver, his relationship with the organization ... the thought of going elsewhere never entered his thinking."

Teams were allowed to extend offers to free agents as of 12:01 a.m. ET Saturday morning, but deals can't advance past the stage of verbal agreement until July 12. That's the day when the NBA is scheduled to announce the new salary cap for the 2006-07 season, clearing teams to make signings and trades official.

Anthony is expected to formally sign with the Nuggets at a July 12 news conference. He'll earn $4.7 million next season in the final year of his rookie contract before the extension kicks in the 2007-08 season, with the exact amount of the extension to be determined when the salary cap is established for that season.

The 22-year-old has averaged 22.8 points per game in his first three seasons, leading the Nuggets to playoffs in all three, and averaged 26.5 points last season to rank eighth in the league in scoring.

The other top players from Anthony's draft class -- Cleveland's LeBron James, Toronto's Chris Bosh and NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade of Miami -- were offered similar extensions in the early hours of Saturday and are also expected to sign their extensions this month.

If any of those players do chose to pass on an extension this offseason, they'd still have to wait two years -- until the summer of 2008 -- to have the ability to sign elsewhere via unrestricted free agency.

Fears in Denver that the Nuggets' rocky season and subsequent collapse in the playoffs would dissuade Anthony from making a long-term commitment to the club proved unfounded.

"That's over with," Anthony said Saturday in an appearance on ESPNEWS.

He also expressed hope that Nuggets coach George Karl and forward Kenyon Martin can mend their well-chronicled rift. Martin was suspended for the rest of the playoffs after a blowup with Karl in Game 2 of Denver's first-round series with the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets, according to NBA front-office sources, have aggressively shopped Martin in trade talks since the departure of general manager Kiki Vandeweghe, who was close with Anthony and Martin after bringing them both to Denver.

"I wish I could tell you, man," Anthony said when asked what it would take to heal the Karl-Martin relationship. "Them two guys, they're two different guys. Hopefully they can sit down and work it out, and if not we've got to move on and continue with the Denver Nuggets."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here.