Carmelo’s standoff – a game of chicken into the abyss?
“The sweet wouldn’t be as sweet without the sour.” (Vanilla Sky 2001)
Due to a player option which can be exercised or bypassed next off season, Anthony’s situation presents the more imminent challenge for his current franchise. In the wake of Anthony’s decision not to resign the contract extension offered to him by Denver, various teams have been listed as possible trading partners with Denver. Several were mentioned as preferred trade partners (Nets and Clippers) with the Nuggets due to the organizations insistence that a they get back young talent and draft picks in any trade scenario. The Bobcats, Warriors and Rockets were also mentioned as possible trade partners, with rumors out there that Anthony may prefer landing in Houston over the oft mentioned union with Stoudemire in New York. While some suggest that a pairing with Kobe and Gasol in Los Angeles may also be a possibility. The Nuggets may want Carmelo to accede to a sign and trade to a team that presents Denver the best package of young players and draft picks. But the teams listed all raise questions as to whether they will be ideal landing spots for Anthony or whether they’ll provide sufficient value in a trade with the Nugget’s for Anthony’s services.
Would Anthony be best served by joining relatively young teams in the Clippers or Nets without another mature marquee talent in place to help shoulder the burden of expectations and leadership? Would Anthony want to play in Kobe’s shadow for Los Angeles’ other team? A youthful Warriors team, could pair Anthony with David Lee and rising star Stephen Curry (if their trade package precludes those two). Then again if you think D’Antoni is skittish, moody and plain out whack what have you with Don Nelson? The Rockets could present the Nuggets an interesting mix of players in return. But wouldn’t concerns over the long term durability of Star Yao Ming, give Melo pause for concern? A package of players from the Lakers would likely include Andrew Bynum who has had a history of injury to his right knee in the past several years. The Lakers like the Mavericks, Bobcats and Magic (who could also offer an intriguing package of mostly veteran players) would have to obtain Anthony’s services via trade since all three franchises are currently over the salary cap and are projected to be likewise the next offseason. Whereas the Clippers, Nets, Warriors, Rockets and Knicks should have a reserve of cap space to make a bid for Anthony next offseason (but the Rockets would have to choose between Ming or Anthony).
The advantage of Control in the face of Uncertainty:
In a tug of war between the Nuggets and their franchise player, Anthony’s advantage is only tangible if he is willing to accept the risk (of injury or that of an adversely refashioned CBA) that comes with preserving his right to test free agency. Unlike James or Bosh before him, Anthony will not have the benefit of the current CBA or the certainty of knowing whether it will be drafted in a manner favorable to star players such as Paul and him (though I believe it likely will). James and Bosh, found themselves in a desert barren of championships with their respective teams knowing that the opening in 2010 presented them an oasis with a dynasty beckoning. Carmelo on the other hand will have to play a game of chicken with his current franchise, fully knowing that he may be jumping into an abyss of uncertainty.
But on the other side of the abyss Carmelo may enjoy a measure of control. Carmelo’s plight is one that presents him with a decision between a premium on certainty or control. Carmelo can enjoy the certainty of an extended contract under the terms of the current CBA (with or without a trade out of Denver). On the other hand, Carmelo can take a dive into the abyss understanding that next summer he will have control. The control to determine which suitor seeking his service is in best position to advance Carmelo’s championship aspirations and player legacy.
Back to Lebron James destiny as the ‘Chosen One.’ Lebron’s decision in the wake of the summer of 2010 set an example of how free agency may be used as an opening to excercise free will and control. An opening for players to exercise a measure of control over their fates/legacies. An opening that may be significantly altered of closed depending on the outcome of power politics in the NBA (I doubt that it will happen so readily). Lebron may still be basektball’s chosen one whose decision opened a path for other marquee players, with possible league altering repercussions on the horizon.
With the ball in Carmelo Anthony’s court, will he bide his time in his standoff with the Nuggets, knowing full well that his option to test free agency leaves him in control? Will Anthony’s rumored insistence on joining Stoudemire in Gotham as his only sign and trade preference advance New York slow to ripen but sweet as caramel dreams of a championship caliber super team?