By Ben Fisher
Amidst all the talk, typing and to-do surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s proposed trade to the New Jersey Nets, the biggest question is the one that has yet to be asked of the man in the middle of it all: What has changed for ‘Melo?
Over the last several months, while engulfed in speculation pertaining to his professional future, Anthony has at least appeared to maintain a certain level of steadfast consistency. No. 15 wanted to be a Knick and was prepared to wait until the summer – when he could exercise his right as an unrestricted free agent – to do so.
No, he was not going to demand an immediate trade or stop playing hard for the Denver Nuggets. No, he was not going to trash the organization and transform himself into a pariah in the only NBA home he’s known. Sure, he may have fibbed when he suggested that he would consider remaining in Denver past this season, but was he supposed to say ‘no’ and completely alienate his current fans and teammates?
In short, Anthony wanted a clean break, something he had every right to and, yet, no chance at getting. Not when the Nuggets couldn’t bear the idea of losing him for nothing (rightfully so), but then seemed stuck with just one possible trade partner barring another NBA team willing to cough up major assets for a rent-a-superstar. Not when the Knicks didn’t have the kind of trade package to entice Denver while the determined Nets continued to knock on the door with talented youngsters and appealing draft picks.
And so the saga has dragged on, reportedly delayed by – no surprise here – Anthony’s reluctance to sign an extension with New Jersey. What’s more surprising is that, if some sources are to be believed – the teams are making continued progress on an increasingly complex deal (meaning that Anthony may be warming to the idea of being a Net.
Which brings us to our earlier question. The most likely answer is that Anthony is simply buckling under the pressure he’s facing from all sides – Denver, who know that their best return for the Syracuse product only comes to be with him in Jersey; New Jersey, whose new owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) wants to make a splash to make his team relevant as they prepare for a move to Brooklyn and obviously covets Anthony; and agent Leon Rose, who simply seems eager to get his client out of Denver and sees the biggest dollar signs coming from the swamp.
If that’s the case, then Anthony is a sympathetic figure in this whole soap opera. Even though he was likely prepared to finish out his contract with the Nuggets and put his focus into getting them to the postseason before exercising his right to leave, it’s hard to fathom this messy situation resolving happily and the 26-year old winding up as anything but a persona non grata around the mile high city.
To paraphrase a commercial featuring one of Anthony’s close friends, what should he do?