Masai Ujiri and Dell Demps should get together and have a beer when the Nuggets and Hornets meet next season, because they’ve both been initiated into fire. Demps had to meet with Chris Paul within days of being hired by the Hornets, to try and convince him to chill out on his trade demands.
Now Ujrii faces the same charge when he says he’ll meet with Carmelo Anthony in the near future to try and convince the start that the Nuggets are still a place he can compete. Ujiri told the Denver Post that he’ll meet with Anthony and that the Nuggets still very much want him as their star. This of course refutes a report by Woj we told you about earlier that said the Nuggets were pretty much done with Anthony, and especially with his agent Leon Rose and representative agency, CAA.
This is likely a good-cop-bad-cop act by the Nuggets, with owner Stan Kroenke playing hardball to get the pressure to back off, and Ujiri on to smooth the wrinkles out. The question will be how much Anthony does want out, especially if New York, widely reported to be his top destination, is unavailable by trade. If he’d rather wait till free agency, even under the new CBA to go where he wants, he may relent and stay with Denver. If Ujiri is really able to pull a rabbit out of his hat, he could convince Anthony to sign the extension he’s been mulling over for three months. From here on out, it’s a negotiating power play, and either the Nuggets, or Anthony’s reps, will come out the winners.
So how do you convince Anthony to stick around? For starters, reminding him of how close they were in 2009. There’s a perception of shock around the league about this unraveling of the team. After all, they were in the Western Conference Finals in 2009! Except when you look at those playoffs, you can point to a lot of circumstantial events that led to that WCF appearance, and while the six-game series looked competitive, the Lakers still dispatched them with relative ease. But is anywhere Anthony can go going to be better? His options are the Clippers (giggle), Golden State in massive upheaval, the Nets in massive rebuilding, and the Bobcats continually trying to remodel with trades and no budget. Only Houston really provides a championship-caliber core, and even that’s loaded with the question of how much longer Yao Ming can play. Outside of marketing, which again leads to New York, there’s not much reason to leave Denver. That’s likely to be Ujiri’s pitch.
The big problem may be that as this is now a power play, it may be better for Melo to leave and keep his negotiating power than stay, if he can go somewhere with flexibility and promising pieces, like New Jersey. Staying would seem like a capitulation at this point, and free agency exposes him to the risk of losing millions under the new impending CBA. All of a sudden, Carmelo may be the one stuck between a rock and a hard place.