Anthony's 'Melo'-drama not worth losing sleep over

Posted: February 18, 2011

MY HEART BLEEDS for Carmelo Anthony - well not really.

The NBA is filled to the brim with lunatics running the asylum, but this particular superstar drama is getting tedious.

Anthony, the Denver Nuggets' star player, reportedly is having trouble sleeping and watching television and has become generally annoyed with answering questions about his uncertain future.

And now 'Melo's All-Star weekend in Los Angeles is likely to be ruined because he will again be subjected to a long string of trade questions and speculation.

The latest thing to get under Anthony's skin was a report on Wednesday the Nets had jumped back into the picture and were again trying to acquire him.

"I really don't know what's going to happen, to be honest with you," Anthony told reporters on Wednesday.

Yesterday, Ellen Pinchuk, a spokeswoman for Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, said in an e-mail that he had not changed his stance of last month ending his team's pursuit of Anthony.

"Mikhail has not changed his mind," Pinchuk wrote.

Still, conversation about some destination or another is sure to dominate the weekend in Los Angeles - especially since the Lakers have been mentioned as being interested in Anthony.

I hurt for Anthony - actually, I don't.

Things have shifted dramatically for the high-scoring swingman, unquestionably one of the NBA's top 10 players.

What started out as an ego-stroking game of "cat and mouse" under Anthony's control now looks like a lifetime decision that can have severe consequences if he makes the wrong move.

For the longest time, Anthony had fun with the attention and speculation. But the Nuggets simply refused to play by his rules. They haven't been intimidated into making a rash decision.

Now, the game isn't so much fun.

I have no qualms with Anthony's trying to force his way to the New York Knicks. He has played by the rules of the NBA contract system. He is a pending free agent and has the leverage to pressure the Nuggets to let him have his way or risk losing him to free agency over the summer for nothing.

Seems simple enough for Anthony. He can pretty much kill a proposed trade to anyone but the Knicks by refusing to sign an extension. Few, if any, teams would risk paying a high price without knowing he will stay. By killing any other trade, Anthony can simply stay put, then walk to the Knicks this summer in free agency.

But here's where the big rub comes in. Anthony desperately wants the 3-year, $65 million extension that interested parties will want him to sign. But with the NBA poised for a major collective bargaining fight after the season, there is a good chance that the future financial structure will be much worse for the players than the one in place and that the guaranteed money Anthony can get now won't be available under the next collective bargaining agreement.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native might have to decide whether his heart's desire to play for the Knicks is worth millions of dollars from his pocket.

'Melo probably cannot understand why he can't have his cake and eat it, too, as LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Amare Stoudemire and Carlos Boozer did last summer. Those guys all ended up where they wanted to play, and for the money they wanted to earn.

Actually, Anthony has no one but himself to blame. He was in the same 2003 draft as James, Wade and Bosh. But after the 2005-06 season, Anthony signed a maximum 5-year extension for $80 million, while James, Wade and Bosh signed 3-year extensions with a player option on the fourth. They got less guaranteed money but were unrestricted free agents last summer.

Had Anthony taken less guaranteed money in 2006, he'd likely be a Knick today, with a maximum-salary contract.

I'm not convinced the Nuggets will stick with their position through the Feb. 24 NBA trade deadline, but I applaud them for not letting Anthony bully them into a deal. They think the Knicks are trying to lowball them - gambling that the Nuggets will cave rather than risk getting nothing in return for Anthony if he becomes a free agent.

The Nuggets still think Anthony's pocket will overrule his heart and seem unafraid to let this play out until the trade deadline.

The Nuggets made a savvy move this week by supposedly leaking that they had made an offer to the Knicks for Anthony. The price was so high, Denver had to know New York would say no, but Knicks fans now know Anthony is obtainable.

Anthony also knows the Knicks might not want him as much as he wants them.

Now comes the story about the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets. Prokhorov's stance is what it is until he says different, but it's hard to imagine the Nets turning their backs if Anthony indicates he will sign an extension. They need another star to go with Stoudemire if they want to seriously challenge the Knicks for New York.

Since the Nets are committed to moving to a new arena in Brooklyn in 2012, I haven't figured out why Anthony feels that wouldn't still be New York.

But now, with Knicks having balked and Anthony having to consider what the next 3 years will be like without $65 million guaranteed, he might decide that playing in Brooklyn with the maximum cash might be as good as playing in Manhattan with no such guarantee.

However this plays out, I won't shed any tears for Anthony's anxiety over the next week. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

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www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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