Two interesting bits of news on the Melo front today – first, within this report Ken Berger notes that Knicks and Nuggets executives will meet in person over All-Star Weekend to discuss the new chef at Spago, and maybe the future of Carmelo Anthony. If they get around to it.
Also, the Melo negotiations are already heating up: the Knicks reportedly turned down an offer from Denver just yesterday. So sayeth Frank Isola in this morning’s Daily News:
According to a team source close to the negotiations, “there is a deal to be made” but whether Anthony joins forces with Amar’e Stoudemire in New York between Tuesday and the Feb. 24 trade deadline likely comes down to the Nuggets either lowering their asking price or the Knicks turning over their roster to acquire one of the NBA’s top players.
The Nuggets, according to a source, are asking for three starters – including Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton – plus Eddy Curry’s expiring contract and at least one first-round pick. In that proposed deal, Anthony and veteran point guard Chauncey Billups would be coming to the Knicks.
The article goes on to describe Donnie Walsh – fresh off crushing a 36-ounce Porterhouse – putting out a Cuban on Masai Ujiri’s thigh, politely asking the wives to leave the room, and explaining to him very slowly that he doesn’t run this family the way his father did, that he knows your family did business with his father, that until tonight he respected you and your family, that he won’t be backed into any deals his father might have made, and that if you don’t pay him the protection money you owe him so that your two-bit, whisker-biscuit, mom-and-pop storefront in Denver can stay open, he is going to be very, very disappointed.
Suffice it to say, good for Donnie – the Knicks can’t afford to give up that much unless Walsh has a secondary heist in the works to shore up the rotation. At this point, though, I would’ve thought we’d be farther along; after dragging this out for the last seven months – Ujiri was hired in August – when will the Nuggets realize this is about leverage over equal value?
I understand that the Knicks’ set of assets makes it difficult to hammer out a deal. They have some very valuable trade assets in Felton, Chandler and Gallinari, some assets that aren’t very valuable at all in Bill Walker, Shawne Williams etc., and very few of those in-between assets that might be the tipping point in getting this deal done. (Landry Fields, for instance, is worth so much more to the Knicks than to anyone else, because where do they find a shooting guard to replace his minutes?) The Nuggets feel short-changed, they feel they have to ask for something, so they may as well insist on everything. And Donnie Walsh, to his credit, has insisted that giving up those kinds of assets for one player, however great, no longer flies in this house.
My problem with all this is that Denver has been staring at the various combinations since the summer, and they still seem beholden to the idea that at some point, New York will cave to this deal. But why would they? We’ve heard that New York is Anthony’s desired destination for months, and obviously Melo will say nothing publicly to change that perception. The Knicks themselves have played about to expectations, with no significant injuries or Ponzi scheme lawsuits to alter the course of the franchise. So why, if the Knicks were unwilling to make the trade before the season, would they suddenly be more inclined to deal now?
The caveat here, as ever, is of course that we have no idea what was really on the table, and when. I know I post pictures of fake team logos, opposing players in drag, and stills from “Deal or No Deal,” but I’m actually not a real journalist. Still, we can agree that the deal reported this morning, plus or minus a few players, is the basic package these two teams have been discussing most of the year. And still, Denver isn’t willing to play ball.
In a way, these negotiations are much like Carmelo’s last two years with the Nuggets: Denver knew it would come to this and waited, waited, waited in the hopes that something might change when there was no reason anything should change. The Knicks have been of the same mindset all year and have rightly held fast to their demands, and the Nuggets had to have known it would come down to a lesser package – Chandler or Gallinari, not both, and maybe no Fields either. Keeping Melo and going down with the ship may not be the wrong move, but whether the Nuggets accept the Knicks’ counteroffer is a decision they should have made months ago. They stood pat, and I suspect they’re now finding a fast-rising tide; the question is whether they’re prepared for it.