Carmelo Anthony and the will he/won’t he, New Jersey or New York (or Chicago) drama, it’s been an entertaining little sideshow to the NBA season. Some nice garlic mashed potatoes next to the rare prime rib.
But for everyone involved, this saga has reached the point of diminishing returns. With the arrival Wednesday of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov in the United States, it is time to get this massive three-team deal done. Or not.
There is now motivation on every side to wrap this deal up or let it die. It’s a trade that sends Anthony along with Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton to New Jersey; brings Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, other players and a couple first-round picks to Denver; and gives Detroit Troy Murphy and Johan Petro as well as some second-round picks. That is just the framework, there are at least 14 players and numerous picks involved.
The motivation to end this should start with Carmelo Anthony himself. In an interview with Sports Illustrated this week he said he wanted to do things differently than LeBron James and the public relations flubs he made all summer long. And I have stuck up for Anthony here before — I think his telling Denver he is not returning well in advance is far more fair to the franchise then what happened in Cleveland and Toronto.
But the longer he seems indecisive — he may know in his mind what he will do, but that is not the perception — and the longer this drags out, the longer he holds the fans in Denver hostage. The longer he raises the hopes of Knicks fans and all 12 Nets fans, the more they will react like the spurned fans of several cities did to LeBron. Simply put, the longer this drags out the more he comes off exactly like what he was trying to avoid.
‘Melo, meet with Mikhail Prokhorov or don’t — either choice sends a message. Just be clear whether you will sign the three-year, $65 million extension or not. That way the deal dies or the pressure falls to everyone else involved to get it done. It’s time for you to come clean. Because right now that is not how it looks.
For the Nuggets, you need only to look at history to see why they need to make this happen soon. For Denver, the diminishing returns are real and tangible — the closer to the trade deadline the less leverage they have. Everyone knows Anthony is gone one way or another. The offers will not get better. Remember how Toronto’s trade options for Vince Carter fell as he quit on that team? This situation is different — Anthony has not stopped trying, although he admittedly is distracted — but the result is the same. As the Feb. 24 trade deadline nears, nobody has real incentive to increase their offers or take on contracts like Al Harrington because they know you have to move Anthony or get nothing.
Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke may be trying to force more big contracts off the books, but someone is going to have to tell him that will come in separate deals. You can’t be so frustrated with the situation as to shoot the franchise in the foot. Don’t set the rebuilding back any farther than you have to.
For the Nets and Knicks, you’ve got other moves to make, other trades to consider. This is holding up everything. Same is true of the Pistons (although they don’t appear to be the problem). All three of those teams are multiple moves away from striking fear in the hearts of the Celtics and Heat. But right now, this one potential trade is holding up everything else. As the trade deadline approaches, they need to focus on other moves (whether that is to fill in players around Anthony or to look at options other than him). That clock is ticking while this saga drags out.
The sideshow has become bad for basketball. The Nuggets are distracted. Rip Hamilton can’t get off the bench. The Nets … it’s hard to tell if the distraction is making them play worse, but they’re not playing well.
Make it happen or make it stop. Either way. It is time.