Congratulations are in order for Mikhail Prokhorov as he calls what appears to be a formal end to the Carmelo Anthony to the New Jersey trade discussions. He is doing a service to his franchise, to his management team, to his coaches, to his players, and to the league all in one fell swoop. And, at the same time he is doing a service to himself.
The Denver Nuggets have been attempting to convert a crisis into an windfall opportunity as Nuggets management sought to obtain draft picks, young players with potential, and salary relief all at the same time. It is difficult to criticize the Nuggets organization for seeking to get all it could out of the situation, however, the truth is the Nuggets never held all of the cards. They just acted like it.
Why is this Good for Mikhail Prokhorov?
This is good for Mikhail Prokhorov because he is not allowing a player to directly embarrass him by turning him down after a highly publicized face-to-face meeting the way LeBron did to several of the franchises in the league, by holding court and asking them to grovel for his services.
Another episode like that would be bad for the league and the reflection on its players. I am a strong advocate for “player rights” (in the club and on the court), however, there are times where it gets out of hand. This is not one of them. To Carmelo Anthony's credit he has not stopped playing or started sitting out practices to “force a trade," so it would be hard for him to be the poster boy for bad behavior by players. He also has done nothing to lead his current franchise on about his intention to resign with them.
Wads this a good Public Relations Move by Prokhorov?
Prokhorov was able to come in and get his management team off the hook. The breakdown in discussion is not their fault and they appeared to show exceptional willingness to do whatever it took to make the deal happen, even if it meant risking the loss of inexpensive assets with substantial upside potential. The team owner made a good business decision and has strengthened his relationship with his executive staff.
There is simply no need to create additional sunk costs on this particular foray, when the end result would be two more losing seasons. The New Jersey Nets get out of this discussion without getting fleeced. That makes Prokhorov a winner here.
Who Controls the Carmelo Deals?
This deal was Carmelo Anthony's deal to make or break. The only way the trade makes sense for a team with an 11-31 record this season, if they are acquiring a star player that they will be able to keep for upcoming seasons. New Jersey would have had the slimmest of chances (runway model on a crank diet slim) to slip into the eighth seed in the east, even if they acquired Carmelo. The Nets would have found themselves with roster depth of akin to a teaspoon and an elite scoring forward on a team that has no defense. This would hardly be the recipe for success in the short term.
For that reason alone, the New Jersey Nets should have been an ugly girl at the Carmelo courtship party with nothing to offer but promises that she will be better looking after the moving in together and growing older.
For Carmelo, a move to a depleted New Jersey Nets team is a clear step down and one he is wisely avoiding. He owes nothing to New Jersey and really nothing more to Denver. He is meeting his contractual obligations and letting Denver know in no uncertain terms that they can stop investing in him for their future.
What Does Denver Do Now?
Denver needs to get on the phone with the Knicks or a contenders that needs a small forward. And, since most of the contending teams are either strong at the small forward or have substantial contract obligations at that position, Denver needs to get on the phone with the Knicks and make deal happen before the trade deadline. To get some assets in return.
Denver has not seemed focused on getting better immediately, there is no “We have to win now!” attitude with that franchise. The need to move Melo for picks or youth and shed salary for the next three years. Without New Jersey and New York competing in a bidding war, there negotiating strength has diminished substantially.
The other locations that Melo listed on his list of preferred destinations, such as a LA and Houston, seem to lack the appropriate elements to make a trade desirable for the Nuggets. The Lakers are unlikely to make a trade (and Denver would be stupid to do anything to make the lakes better), the Clippers have some hefty contracts attached to Kaman and Davis (and neither of those players is really desirable to Denver due to position, injury history, and age), and Houston would be unlikely to secure a signature from Melo on an extension.
So do Denver and New York make a trade on New York's terms or allow their window to close?