Carmelo Anthony is many things—professional basketball player, team leader, prolific scorer, husband and...coward.
Like the infamous Jesse James many years before them, the Denver Nuggets are about to go down for the count. Not in a blaze of glory, no; they are going to be taken out by the ultimate beguiler, an assassin who will leave them within an inch of their basketball lives.
In battle, the definition of cowardice is someone who deserts his troops. Is that not what Anthony has done? If not yet in deed than certainly in mind.
When pushed, Anthony has at once said, "I never said I wanted to be traded, I never once said that.'' While also stating, "I'm here, man, I'm here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds.”
It would seem these messages are mixed. And, despite remaining mostly silent, Anthony's brief moments of communication speak volumes.
This is the new breed of player spawned in the summer of 2010, the year of “The Decision.” Players speaking in tongues heretofore unknown as they make their way out of town forever changing the landscape behind them.
For Denver the aftermath of Anthony's likely, if not imminent departure, will certainly be sobering.
Prior to the arrival of Anthony, the Nuggets hadn't seen the playoffs since 1995. However, from the very first moment Melo donned the familiar powder blue and gold jersey in 2003, the Nuggets never missed the playoffs again.
They'd become perennial playoff contenders whose climb reached it's ascension during the 2008-09 season taking them all the way to the Western Conference Finals. They did not reach the mountaintop, but were emboldened by their progress.
The swagger didn't last as the Nuggets were beset by an injury plagued 2009-10 campaign, the worst of which saw coach George Karl leave to battle cancer and the team swiftly eliminated from the first round of the playoffs.
What should have been seen as an anomaly, however, has instead turned into the norm. Despite the return of a healthy Karl and the team returning intact, a dark and foreboding uncertainty looms over the Nuggets future as rumors swirl about the fate of Anthony.
Of late, those rumors have increased tenfold with the Knicks surging once again to the forefront.
After an unusually cool (for the Knicks), poker-faced month of September, New York has switched gears regarding their trade assets. Suddenly, they are willing to include anyone but the $100 million man (Amare Stoudemire) in their desire to make Melo as a Knickerbocker a reality. What was moments ago an implausible afterthought has now served to fan the fervor.
Still Anthony, content at the moment to let the action take place around him, is keeping his head down preferring instead to put up gaudy numbers in the preseason. With every basket, however, he plunges his round-ball dagger into the organizations heart.
"I'm still able to wake up in the morning, smile, come here, laugh and joke with my teammates, play basketball and compete," the Denver Nuggets' star forward said. "That stuff doesn't bother me."
The unfazed Anthony has Denver practically eating out of his hand.
This summer the team promised Anthony a three-year, $65 million contract extension which he has yet to sign.
Should he stay, Anthony most certainly has an opportunity to become the most celebrated Nugget in team history. Moreover, while not quite at the level of James' monarchy of the Cavs, he's virtually been given the run of the place.
In addition to being the piece that spawned Denver's renaissance, having led the Nuggets to the playoffs every season following his arrival, his accomplishments are relatively heady:
- three-time NBA All-Star
- three-time All-NBA selection
- NBA All-Rookie team
During the 2009-10 campaign Anthony led the team in minutes, points, rebounds, steals and games played among other categories.
And the Nuggets, when healthy, are one of the leagues, if not the West's premiere teams. Just one short year ago in 2009, they gave the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers everything they could handle.
And still none of this is enough.
Further complicating the issue is that no one knows why he's leaving, especially Nuggets coach George Karl.
"I don't know why (Anthony) wants to leave or if he does want to leave,'' Karl said. “My thing is to try to keep him here.”
But how can Karl possibly keep the team superstar and lynch pin to the Nuggets success when no one truly knows why he's leaving? And, like King James before him, that is the key to this assassination. Keep them guessing. Talking about you, but always wondering.
It would seem Anthony has done the king one better, however, with his continued insistence on plausible denial regarding the rumors. Of course his situation is much different and therein lies the rub for this prince with his Machiavellian designs.
As long as I've been watching basketball, players who love the game have said one thing—it's about winning.
If winning is Anthony's goal, then he has that in Denver. Whether they climb to the top of the mountain depends upon a number of variables that no one can truly predict. Ask those who've been there and lost never to return again.
However, if he leaves for any team other than Chicago as presently constituted (debatable), he's going against the credo of all great players because he can't and won't win.
As incredibly distasteful as LeBron James' exit from Cleveland was, no one can say he isn't about winning. He remained in the East and improved his chances exponentially by joining a talent-base that far exceeds the one he had in Cleveland creating a super-team that has seemingly overnight rocked the league.
Anthony wouldn't be doing that.
The East is no longer the LEASTern conference. In many ways its become tougher than the West. And despite the fact that Anthony would be getting away from the Lakers, his inheritance would be the Magic, Celtics and superstar-laden Heat.
He'd be joining a team that at best in the powerhouse that is the East, would be number four—even that's not guaranteed. Going from No. 2 in the West to No. 4? I'm no expert at math, but last time I checked that hardly constitutes winning.
If you are scared, as James was, you improve your situation by any means necessary. That requires forethought, objectivity, options (good ones) and planning. What you don't do is deny, deny, deny and then slink off into the night to a situation that even the casual fan knows is worse.
“I have my reasons why I am keeping my options open,” Anthony said. “People that really know basketball, know the sport and know the business of basketball, understand and know why I’d be keeping my options open.”
Translation: It's only a matter of time before Melo Yellow deserts his team for presumed and delusional greener pastures where few, if any, exist outside the mile high city.
When that happens, both Anthony and the Denver Nuggets will be losers.
Meanwhile we'll watch and wait, captive participants in this drawn out circus that is nothing more than a charade masterminded (albeit aimlessly), by an exceptional basketball player taking the cowards way out.