Three quick takes on Carmelo Anthony’s claim Wednesday that he’ll have to “take a real hard look” at finally signing an extension with the Denver Nuggets if they don’t trade him before the Feb. 24 trading deadline:
1. Hearing Melo publicly say for the first time that staying in Denver is still an option he’s considering doesn’t exactly encourage Nuggets officials.
It’s far more likely to frustrate them.
They’ve had an extension on the table for Anthony for about eight months. The Nuggets believed that Anthony was close to signing the extension right around the time of the draft last June, only for Anthony’s handlers to deliver numerous warnings from August forward that Melo wants out.
The Nuggets are well aware that Anthony -- in the event he isn’t traded and then offers to sign the extension -- would purely be doing so because he wants to secure the richest possible contract under the current collective bargaining agreement. Not because he’s had a true change of heart.
And that’s not how Denver officials, according to sources familiar with their thinking, want to rebuild their team, knowing that Anthony could well sign for an additional three years and $65 million and still be disgruntled. Or, worse, try to force a trade next season.
So you can expect the Nuggets to keep searching for a deal to trump New York’s underwhelming proposals until they run out of time to do so. They are by no means done exploring their options … and definitely not just because Anthony has tossed out a new maybe about staying.
The Nuggets certainly don’t want to trade him just for the sake of trading him. They’d rather keep Anthony than do a bad deal with the Knicks, then cross their fingers that the league’s next labor pact -- through a franchise tag or some other unknown mechanism -- offers some sort of protection/compensation to teams that lose their star in free agency, should Anthony indeed have the guts to opt out of his contract so he can sign with New York outright.
Yet this much is a lock: Denver won’t stop looking until there’s no time left to look. That’s especially true because teams willing to trade for Anthony without the promise of an extension can only be encouraged by Melo’s increasing public fretting about missing out on the extension money, since the strategy of teams such as Houston and Dallas has always been: Get Anthony first and then worry about trying to convince him to stay -- no matter how much he longs to be in New York -- with a hard, hard sell over the next four months.
2. As much as the Nuggets continue to shop for the best possible Melo offer, I’ve been advised that they’d prefer to do an Anthony deal at least a few days before the trading deadline rather than allowing this process to drag all the way to the trade buzzer.
Reason being: Sources say Denver wants to have at least some time to fully explore follow-up trade possibilities for the likes of Nene, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, because players on expiring deals like Martin and Smith are no longer eligible to be dealt once the deadline passes.
Nene, meanwhile, is widely regarded as the most likely Nugget to leave after Melo. Denver’s Brazilian center has an $11.6 million option for the 2011-12 season that he’s expected to forego so he can become an unrestricted free agent.
3. Irrespective of how serious or not L.A. is about a potential Andrew Bynum-for-Melo swap -- and despite Melo’s well-chronicled bond with Kobe Bryant -- one source close to the process maintains that one reason Anthony is lukewarm about the prospect of going to Lakers is because he doesn’t want to move even farther away from his family on the East Coast than he is now.