Well now that training camps and the NBA preseason is in full bloom. The Carmelo Anthony saga has been dailed down as the parties in interest play the PR game heading into the upcoming regular season. Regardless whether Carmelo exits Denver in the next few weeks, near the NBA trade deadline or via free agency, allot of sabers have been rattled. But does it not seem like Donnie Walsh said it both bluntly and best, when he said:
“That’s today and yesterday it was a done deal, I think there’s a lot of posturing going on out there.” (Referencing the stalled Nugget’s-Net’s blockbuster transaction to land Anthony in New Jersey on Monday September 27, 2010)
What does all the whirling of trade rumors and “done deals” tell any of us? Absolutely Nothing? Or that the Nuggets as a result of a clear impasse with their franchise player (who holds all the leverage if he chooses to retain it) are running misdirection and smokescreens in an effort to avoid being “Lebroned.” Are the Nuggets attempts to strong arm Anthony to settle for less, a squeeze play that could back fire on Denver? Doesn’t the recent history of the migration of star players and the formation of Powerhouses and Super-teams point to several trends and tendencies. Patterns which suggest that Melo’s best path is still free agency rather than aceeding to the Nuggets attempted squeeze play. A squeeze play that could easily place the Star Forward in a catch 22?
From the get go of the Anthony “Melodrama” multiple sources from all sorts of online publications have had the Star Scorer virtually on his way to one location or another. But many “a sure thing” has been refuted by reality. Hold ups with near certain transactions between the Nuggets and the Nets are mingled with stories of the Hornets, Magic and Warriors willingness to deal for Anthony without him agreeing to sign an extension. Stories have also mentioned the Bobcats, 76ers, Bulls and Raptors as possible trade destinations in swaps that could include Anthony for Gerald Wallace, Joakim Noah or Andre Iguodala. Several articles from CBS Sports Basketball analyst Ken Berger chronicle the stall of the multi team trade that would have landed Anthony in New Jersey, head coach George Karl’s possible role in abating Anthony’s reported standoff with the Nuggets and Denver’s hard stance on trade scenarios that will keep Denver competitive and forestall a rebuild. Those articles describe the pitfalls Denver faces in trading Anthony to anyone of various suitors.
The pitfalls/roadbumbs outlined of each suitor are:
- - The multiplayer trade with the Nets stalled due to a mix of the Nuggets search for a better offers and/or additional assets in the multi-team deal and Charlotte and Utah’s frustration with the ensuing delay. But most importantly, the Nuggets were reportedly looking to obtain an assurance that Anthony would sign an extension to stay with the Nets. An extension to play with Nets that Anthony was not willing to sign, refuted by Anthony’s statement that he did not say he wanted to play for the Nets, despite other reports to the contrary.
- - New Jersey’s highly touted bid to secure Anthony has reportedly also suffered from Carmelo getting word from former Nets’ players of the 2nd class stature and obscurity of the Nets Franchise. Moreover, consultation with Anthony’s superstar friend Kobe Bryant appeared to suggest that Anthony not just make a rash move to a place he is not as enamored with, all which would suggest that Anthony has given pause to the idea of spending two to three years in Newark, New Jersey.
- - The Bulls talks with the Nuggets broke down as it became clearer that Joakim Noah would be required to round out a deal of a package of players from Chicago that would also include Taj Gibson and Luol Deng (and his onerous contract). The Bulls since those rumors started had been working to resign Noah to an extension, which was recently consumated.
- - The 76ers would want an assurance that Anthony would sign an extension in order to ship Iguodala and other players to Denver;
- - The Bobcats would also want an assurance that Anthony would sign an extension in order to package Wallace with other players;
- - A package of players from the Raptors that would include Jason Kapono, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young would also be contingent amongst Anthony’s acquiescence to sign an extension.
Most of the scenerios outlined above fail to pass what Berger correctly dubbs the Melo extension test (as in Melo acceding to sign an extension in a sign and trade transaction). Additionally many teams in the Eastern Conference are also weary of playing a facilitative role in a trade that would strengthen the rival franchise that acquires Anthony’s talents. Lastly, Berger’s most recent article indicates that stalls in trade talks are a result of Denver’s hard stance to obtain maximum value to remain in playoff contention despite losing Anthony. Denver’s hardline has dissuaded possible trade partners, who would look to add Anthony to a rounded rosters poised to make a playoff impact with the Star Forward on board.
Berger’s article discussing Denver Coach George Karl’s role in assuaging Anthony, points to Denver’s strong desire to retain their star player or have him agree to surrender his leverage. However another synopsis of the breakdown of the Denver/Nets multiplayer trade, points out that Coach Karl is not likely to want to be part of a rebuilding process. Thus there are questions that beg to be answered. Namely why would Anthony want to stay on board with coach Karl whose future is clouded and uncertain do to the possibility that he may retire after the 2010-11 season? Would Carmelo Anthony really surrender his leverage solely on a promise that Denver would trade him away if he doesn’t find contentment in a last ditch tryout with the Nuggets.
Would that ‘promise’ mean that they would guarantee to trade Melo to his desired destination while still leaving that destinations roster in tact to fulfill Melo and that team’s post season and title aspirations? As Walsh stated there is indeed allot of posturing going on over at the Denver Camp with regards to Anthony’s tradability to the Knicks. Yet, the writing is on the wall with regards to the advantages of free agency as a means of preserving leverage and providing a Star player a means to choose their desired destination. A means far more palatable than acceding to the Nuggets’ attempted squeeze play on Melo’s leverage and volition.
For instance the tendency of Star players and free agents is generally to migrate from small and mid size market teams to larger market teams. The migration of players such as Vince Carter, Kevin Garnett, Paul Gasol, Ray Allen (via trade) and that of Lebron James, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amare’ Stoudemire, Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady (via free agency) underlies that tendency. Yet with rare exceptions the best path for Superstar migration is free agency. Rarely do sweet heart deals exist amongst rival general managers that land players of Garnett or Gasol’s caliber to teams with other stars in tow.
Most Stars also relocate to teams with either another star on the roster. Examples of this tendency can be found in Gaol’s pairing with Kobe Bryant, Garnett and Allen’s pairing with Paul Pierce, Lebron and Bosh’s pairing with Dwayne Wade, Carter’s pairing with Jason Kidd then Dwight Howard, McGrady’s missed pairing with Grant Hill and later pairing wit Yao Ming, Jason Kidd’s pairing with Dirk Nowitzki, and Shaq’s pairing with Wade prior to his decline. Exceptions exist where stars migrate laterally to teams in comparable markets such as Steve Nash’s move to Pheonix, McGrady’s move to Houston, Carter’s move to Orlando and Kidd’s move to Dallas but in those instances each player’s lateral move was to a destination with another Star player.
The advantages and leverage of franchise player migration via free agency should not be easily discarded. The pit falls of the Nuggets squeeze play should also be avoided by Anthony if he is intent on not settling for less.
In the age of the super and power house teams (Heat, Lakers and Celtics), a new paradigm for Star players emerges. No longer may it suffice to exit via trade to another team with a star already on board, if the trade results in a decimation of the receiving teams supporting cast. Sweet heart deals are rarer than finding a needle in a hay stack with only the light of a crescent moon.
A relocation (via a trade on onerous terms) could lock a Star player into a holding pattern with teams not rounded or talented enough to compete for titles with the powerhouses and superteams of the current era. With a possible hard cap that could limit the acquisition of players via the mid level extension and other exceptions, rounding out a capable supporting cast may become harder to do. Shouldn’t the Melo extension test take the current competitive environment of the NBA into account? If it does, isn’t it clear that Anthony’s best move is to avoid the Nugget’s squeeze play and strip mine of his career aspirations via a trade to a compromised destination?