Sources are telling ESPN that Carmelo Anthony has decided to get out of Denver -- and while neither Melo nor the Nuggets have made that official thus far, there's little doubt it's accurate. In late June, the prospect of Carmelo signing a $65 million contract extension seemed good, particularly with a potential lockout looming. But not anymore. Now, it's simply a matter of when Anthony goes and how much the Nuggets can get for him.
In retrospect, it's clear that Carmelo's decision to put his Colorado house up for sale wasn't as benign as many media outlets insisted it was. And the same goes for Chris Paul's toast at Melo and Lala Vazquez's July wedding, when Paul talked about Anthony and him joining Amare Stoudemire in New York.
This statement seems even more telling when twinned with reception detail reported by ESPN's Ric Boucher. According to him, Paul's toast was echoed by more forceful statements from Stoudemire and Melo's brother, Robert. Then, when Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke stood up to make a toast of his own, "the room was filled with an awkward silence, one wedding guest said. Kroenke tried to make light of the situation by suggesting Paul could come to Denver, but that elicited no response."
Since then, Anthony has spent a lot of time hanging out with Paul, Stoudemire and LeBron James, whose move to Miami, where he'll be joined by Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, established a template that players like Melo will likely emulate in the future: using their power to form super-teams capable of immediately challenging for championships.
Anthony obviously doesn't want to be left out of this new trend, and since Denver isn't in a position to add the stars with whom he'd like to share the court, he'll have to go elsewhere. And the Nuggets can't afford to let him play out the season and leave without obtaining compensation. If that happens, it'll add years to any rebuilding efforts.
With that in mind, the Nuggets need to find a new home for Anthony fast -- before the season starts.
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That won't be easy, given that teams without a prospect of signing him to a long-term deal won't bother bidding. Instantly, the field will be narrowed to just a handful of locations. The most likely destinations: New York, Chicago and possibly New Orleans -- although the Big Easy is a longer shot, given Chris Paul's current unhappiness with the Hornets' management.
Of this trio, Chicago has the most to offer the Nuggets in trade (plus the prospect of putting Melo together with Carlos Boozer and Derrick Rose), and New York the least -- although the Knicks could still potentially cobble something together by bringing other teams into the transaction.
For Nuggets fans, none of these scenarios is positive. The franchise will instantly take a huge hit, and recovering from it won't be easy. But the Nugs can't play out the season and then let Anthony sign with someone else, receiving zip in exchange, as happened with Dikembe Mutombo in the mid-'90s; the repercussions will be catastrophic.
Kroenke and company must act, and act soon, to bring the Carmelo era to a bittersweet end.