Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't expect Nuggets to 'Melo out

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - There is no need to panic in Denver, but it's looking more and more likely that All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony may be on his way out of the Rocky Mountains sooner rather than later.

Anthony is the Nuggets' property for one more year, and former team executive Mark Warkentien offered the superstar a significant three-year, $65 million dollar contract extension back in June, a deal that remains on the table today even though Warkentien's own contract wasn't renewed when it came up in August.

Josh Kroenke, who will soon take over as owner of the team from his father Stan, is the real power in Denver these days and he hired Masai Ujiri as vice president of basketball operations to replace Warkentein, partially because it was thought Ujiri could open up the lines of communication with Anthony.

Ujiri, the Raptors' former assistant general manager, started his climb up the NBA ladder as a Nuggets scout during Anthony's rookie season in 2003-04, and he thought delivering a face-to-face meeting with the former Syracuse star wouldn't be all that difficult. After all, Carmelo had 65 million reasons to sit down with a team he has quite a history with.

Instead, Anthony has remained cold to the overtures of his current organization, and seems to be flirting with the lure of the Big Apple. He and his wife, television personality La La Vazquez, were both born in Brooklyn, a realization that is not lost on Ujiri.

Immediately after securing his new job, Ujiri consistently spurned teams calling to discuss trade parameters for Anthony, but reality has begun to sink in. He has taken a long, hard look at what has been left behind in Cleveland and in his old stomping grounds of Toronto after both of those franchises let their marquee players, LeBron James and Chris Bosh, hit the free agent market and bolt for Miami.

Ujiri can't let the same thing happen with Anthony and understands the odds of convincing his superstar to stay in the Rockies are minuscule and getting worse by the day.

Numerous sources have confirmed that the calls being fended off a few weeks ago by Denver are now being encouraged, with the intent of moving Anthony before next February's trade deadline.

The asking price looks to be at least one young player with a high ceiling, along with multiple future first-round draft picks that could help clear up a significant salary cap problem. With Anthony on board this season, Denver's payroll is approaching $83 million, far above the luxury-tax mark of $70,307,000

New Jersey has surfaced as the top suitor, with New York and Chicago also seen as options.

The Nets seem like the best fit for both Anthony and the Nuggets. They have a number of expiring contracts, draft picks and a 19-year-old rookie with a huge upside in Derrick Favors. More importantly, the Nets currently play in the shadow of Manhattan and are scheduled to move to 'Melo's beloved Brooklyn.

No comments: