Carmelo Anthony: Is He Pulling a Kobe Bryant and Threatening the Knicks?

Buckus ToothnailContributor IIIFebruary 10, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 14:  An injured Kobe Bryant sits on on the bench with Carmelo Anthony #15 of the Western All-Stars during the the NBA All-Star Game, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at Cowboys Stadium on February 14, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

After the recently rumored Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks trades for Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony began falling through, Anthony made the sudden announcement that he would now consider signing the three-year, $65 million extension offered to him by the Nuggets that he has declined since last June.

This announcement followed denials by Lakers management that they would consider trading starting center Andrew Bynum for Anthony and earlier statements made by the Minnesota Timberwolves, who would be the third team involved in a Knicks-Nuggets trade, that the terms of the rumored deal were not acceptable to them.

Speaking to reporters after a morning shootaround, Anthony expressed that if he wasn't moved before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the contract extension was "something that I would take a real hard look at."

This pronouncement marked the first time Anthony had publicly stated he would consider signing the extension and staying with the Nuggets.

With trade rumors involving Anthony dominating NBA discussions in recent months, including a failed prolonged courtship involving the New Jersey Nets being the first widely discussed deal possibility to the currently rumored trades involving the Lakers and the Knicks, Anthony's statement struck many league observers as odd and ill-timed.

After all, the Nuggets have been so desperately trying to deal Anthony precisely because he had let them know that he will not sign their extension, it being widely accepted that he wishes to play for his hometown Knicks instead. 

Rather than risk losing him to free agency with nothing in return, like what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer with LeBron James, the Nuggets have been entertaining offers from around the league, hoping to orchestrate a trade in which they would receive as close to fair value for Anthony as possible.

A trade would also be the best possible scenario for Anthony, given that if he were to sign with another team through free agency this summer, he is liable to potentially lose tens of millions in salary under the rules of the new CBA. 

If he were to be traded during the season, however, Anthony would be able to sign a similar three-year $65 million extension that the Nuggets had offered him with the new team under the rules of the existing CBA, which expires at the end of the season.

But with Anthony now suggesting that he might sign the three-year extension with the Nuggets if he isn't traded before this month's deadline, which is in exactly two weeks, it seems there is now much less incentive for the Nuggets to deal him.

If Anthony really wanted the trade to the Knicks to happen, then why would he make a statement like that especially now that the trade deadline is only two weeks away?

On the surface, it might seem that Anthony is being loyal to his team, the one that drafted him in 2003 and the only NBA team he has ever played for.

Or it may seem that Anthony cares only about the money, wanting the full three-year $65 million contract extension which he would unlikely be able earn in a new contract as a free agent.

However, the truth is likely to be much less simple.

Anthony made the statement to put added pressure on the Knicks to trade for him now.

By claiming that he would entertain the possibility of remaining on the Nuggets, he is letting the Knicks know that they do not have a lock for his services next season, and that their best and perhaps only chance to land him is to deal for him this season.

This is not dissimilar to the tactic used by Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant when he told a New York radio station in 2007, "I would like to be traded, yeah. Tough as it is to come to that conclusion there's no other alternative," after being frustrated at the lack of improvements made to the team by Lakers management.

By making a demand in public, Bryant forced the Lakers to make trades for the team by threatening to leave them.

Anthony, on the other hand, is forcing the Knicks to make the trade with the Nuggets by threatening to stay with them.

Up until he made his statement, it had been commonly debated why the Knicks would even bother trying to trade for Anthony this season.

If they were able to land Anthony as a free agent this summer, they would likely save themselves having to pay tens of millions in salary to Anthony given the anticipated revised maximum salary restrictions under the new CBA.

Perhaps more importantly for the Knicks, however, being that they are used to over-paying for players, is that they would be able to keep their current young roster intact by not having to trade key pieces of their nucleus in dealing for Anthony.

In the proposed deal with the Nuggets and the Timberwolves, the Knicks would need to give up their promising young forward, Wilson Chandler, whose 16.3 point and 5.9 rebound averages make him third on the team in both categories.  

Recent rumors suggest that the Nuggets are looking for more assets in the deal, including starting forwards Danilo Gallinari and Landry Fields, which would be devastating to the Knicks' current young line-up.

The Timberwolves would also want more from the Knicks than seldom-used Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry's bloated expiring contract for them to send Corey Brewer and a first-round pick to Denver, which is an important component in the deal.

So given that such a trade would significantly weaken the Knicks roster, why would Anthony be actually assisting the Nuggets by supplying them with more leverage in the deal negotiations, if he intends to play with the Knicks in the future? 

The answer, plain and simple, is money.

Anthony not only wants to leave Denver to become a New York Knickerbocker, but he also wants to do it for the maximum money possible.

It isn't enough that he can play for his "home team" that he supported growing up in Brooklyn or that he's in a major media market where he can earn more in endorsements and where his wife, former MTV host LaLa Vasquez, can resume her entertainment career. 

Even the prospect of playing with another NBA superstar in A'mare Stoudemire and potentially Chris Paul in 2012 on a perennial championship-contending team isn't enough.

What Anthony wants is to make the same kind of money that his fellow Class of 2003 draftees LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh make, with them having the foresight to sign only three-year extensions to their rookie contracts in 2006, allowing them to be unrestricted free agents last summer under the current CBA.

Anthony, advised by his then-agent Calvin Andrews, signed a four-year extension with the Nuggets, which prevents him from being an unrestricted free agent until this summer and under the new CBA rules. 

Anthony has since fired Andrews.

With having virtually no leverage to decide on which team he plays on and earn the maximum salary possible, Anthony is resorting to fear tactics

Knowing that Knicks owner James Dolan is desperate to have him on his team, Anthony is using the uncertainty of whether he will sign the extension with the Nuggets as an attempt to get Dolan to buckle to any of the Nuggets' demands, doing his best to ensure a trade does happen.

That says a lot about Anthony's commitment to actually winning, playing such a deliberate part in getting Dolan to trade away the very pieces that would strengthen the Knicks' chances of winning the NBA title for years to come.

And it says a lot about Anthony as a person

Despite professing a love for his hometown Knicks, he is willing to weaken the franchise and his own championship prospects all so he can grab as much money as he can.

He is basically willing to bet away the Knicks' farm and his own future and legacy for guaranteed cash now.

Anthony would be best served to remember that the last time he made such a decision was when he opted for the four-year extension instead of the three-year deals made by James, Wade and Bosh, leading to his current predicament.

The irony of Anthony throwing his own hat into the trade discussions between the Nuggets and the Knicks in his attempt to influence the outcome is that the Nuggets might take seriously his supposed willingness of signing a contract extension with them.

And if the Nuggets hold off on trading Anthony because they believe he will stay with them, then Anthony's veiled threat against the Knicks will only have backfired

Given that Anthony might still sign with the Knicks over the summer as a free agent despite losing millions in salary, his recent statement will have made a loser of the Nuggets as well, having lost their chance to trade him while they could and getting nothing in return, except perhaps a pick in next year's lottery.

And the ultimate winner will be the Knicks, who will sign Anthony for much less with a new contract instead of a contract extension and still be able to retain their valuable assets in their hopes to build a championship team. 

And that, my loyal readers, would be sweet irony.

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If Denver does trade him to Los Angeles, here are the "Top 5 Reasons Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers Won't Win Rings".

If they feel they might lose Carmelo to free agency, "Should The Denver Nuggets Trade Him To The Los Angeles Lakers?"

If Los Angeles doesn't get Carmelo in a trade, "Laker Disappointment: Is It Inevitable?"

With how his "decision" has affected the Nuggets and other teams this season, "Is Carmelo Anthony, Not LeBron James, A Cancer To The NBA?"


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