The person with the strongest negotiating position is the person willing to walk away from the table.
Nobody thought that was the New Jersey Nets — they needed a big star. They needed someone who could open their new Brooklyn home in 2012, who could attract other big time free agents to the team. They needed Carmelo Anthony.
At least that’s what the Nuggets thought, and it’s why they thought the Nets deal would always be there. So they flirted with other teams and waited. They pushed the Nets to bring in other teams and take on more salary. Denver’s front office thought they had the best hand because they had Anthony.
Then Wednesday Mikhail Prokhorov walked away from table.
He may have walked away from the table because he learned Anthony would not sign an extension with the Nets, and this was a play to save face and seem like the bad a— Russian billionaire. Although does anyone really doubt that a guy who made billions in the current Russian economy is a bad a–? That comes with the territory.
But whether he walked away because he was sick of the game or because Anthony said no — and despite the repeated statements that the deal is dead — don’t be surprised if the ‘Melo to the Nets talks start up again.
The Nuggets are going to look around and realize what Joni Mitchell told them — you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone. They’ll talk to the Knicks and the Rockets and whomever else may pop up, but they’ll never see an offer that has Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and cap relief.
Maybe they’ll miss that deal enough to pick up the phone and call, this time ready to deal and not try to squeeze blood from a turnip.
Carmelo Anthony may look around and see that the Nuggets are still not going to deal with the Knicks and that he is more likely to be shipped off to Houston or Dallas on the rent-a-‘Melo plan, where they don’t care if he doesn’t sign the extension. And if he doesn’t, he is leaving tens of millions on the table (depending on what the new CBA looks like).
Maybe that’s enough to get him to pick up the phone and tell everyone involved that he’d sign an extension in New Jersey.
Maybe the Nets will be willing to negotiate again, but on their terms this time.
I’m not saying Prokhorov is bluffing — he seems fully prepared to walk away and fight another battle another day. He can live without Anthony.
But he’s also too good a businessman not to come back to the table when he has the upper negotiating hand. And if those talks start again in a couple of weeks when things have cooled down, it would not be a surprise.