As the Carmelo Anthony trade talks careen toward an inevitable tipping point, the key question is this: If Melo isn’t dealt by the time the Nuggets convene for media day Monday, will the disgruntled superstar be there?
Despite noise coming from Anthony’s camp – in particular, according to sources, from influential adviser William Wesley – that Anthony either won’t show for camp or will make things ugly if he does, there was no word Sunday from Anthony himself as to whether he’ll be in Denver this week.
“If Melo doesn’t show,” said one person connected to the trade negotiations, “it’s disaster mode for them.”
While Nuggets officials are holding out hope that a face-to-face meeting with Anthony could change things, sources familiar with the hard-line stance being taken by Anthony and his agents at Creative Artists Agency see that as a combination of wishful thinking and desperation. It’s been a month since Denver hired former Toronto personnel man Masai Ujiri to replace Mark Warkentien as GM, and Ujiri still has not been able to arrange an in-person meeting with Anthony.
So Ujiri, facing his first major crisis as a top basketball executive, has spent more time meeting with Nets president Billy King – whom he and fellow Denver exec Josh Kroenke convened with in New York last week – than with Anthony himself. And that wasn’t the only meeting of importance in the past 72 hours, CBSSports.com has learned. Wesley, long an unofficial master of NBA maneuverings who is now a full-fledged CAA agent, sat down last week in New York with Nets minority owner Jay-Z in an effort to pave the way for Anthony’s arrival, a person with direct knowledge of the meeting said.
Anthony’s insistence on forcing his way out of Denver, the mounting pressure on Ujiri to get the best deal possible, and the prospect of an ugly scene with Melo in Denver this week had one person connected to the trade talks predicting Sunday that Anthony would be traded in the next 24-48 hours.
“Better than a 50 percent chance,” said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the teams’ business.
Given the lack of public fanfare that has surrounded Melo’s trade demand – the words “trade me” have never come out of his mouth – my personal prediction is that Anthony will show up at media day and training camp as long as he’s a Nugget. But even sources who acknowledge that Anthony would want to avoid the image hit that would come with a no-show or negative-show believe that any positive spin offered by Anthony in the coming days would only be for public consumption. As with Chris Paul in New Orleans, making waves publicly would only hurt Anthony’s chances of getting shipped to one of his ideal destinations because it would erode whatever leverage Denver has.
A desire to meet face-to-face with Anthony, however, isn’t the only factor keeping Denver from pulling the trigger on a deal. No, Nuggets officials don’t want to finalize a trade before hearing from Melo directly. But sources say there also are reservations among some of the decision makers in the Nuggets’ front office about accepting No. 3 pick Derrick Favors as the biggest asset in return for Anthony. Some Denver officials, sources say, have a strong preference for Joakim Noah or Blake Griffin. For that reason, it is believed that the Bulls or Clippers could jump ahead of the Nets in the sweepstakes if they’d agree to include one of those respective players. As of Sunday, however, there was no movement on either front.
Only more waiting, and the countdown to the next unofficial deadline in the Melo saga: His whereabouts when the Nuggets report for camp Monday.