Posted Jan 11 2011 11:35AM
You have to liken the Nets to the scrawny, pimply-faced kid in junior high who annoyingly keeps hounding the prettiest girl for a date. She says no, no, a thousand times no and when asked why, she replies: Just look at you.
That "pretty girl" in this case is Carmelo Anthony, who's turning up his nose right now at the idea of hooking up with the Nets long term.
Give the Nets props for being scrappy. But you also have to consider them foolish if they gut a talent-challenged 10-win team just to rent Carmelo for three months while trying to convince him to stay beyond this season. Meanwhile, Carmelo is still making it clear he'd rather be with the team next door. Which would be the Knicks.
He wants to sign with them as an unrestricted free agent next summer. A rival general manager suspects Carmelo is being pressed into playing for the Nets by his agent, Leon Rose, who's brokering the three-team deal with the Nuggets and Pistons. That's because Carmelo's best financial option at the moment is signing a three-year, $65 million extension, the kind of money that might not be as steep after the owners and the union roll up their sleeves at the negotiation table. But even if the next labor contract is weighed in favor of the owners, Carmelo realizes superstars will always get paid. Besides, he's already rich, and can make up for any "lost" income with New York-fortified endorsements.
The Nets are willing to roll the dice, even if Carmelo doesn't sign in advance, which tells you plenty about a franchise that's only on the public radar when Kim Kardashian shows up at games. The Nets are going down this choppy road simply and only because they're desperate to land a star before moving to Brooklyn and into the shadow of the King Kong franchise located at 33rd and 8th in Midtown.
Their fears are realistic: A borough filled with Knick fans will tune out the new team if the Nets are reduced to slapping Brook Lopez on billboards. If Carmelo joins and is then followed in 2012 by Chris Paul -- who's also represented by Rose -- then the Nets will have a solid core group. But who knows if that happens, given the ownership situation with the Hornets? And good luck convincing Carmelo that the No. 2 team in the New York market is his best career option, even if the Nets add past-their-prime veterans Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.
Why would Anthony attach himself to the Nets when he can just wait another three months and join the Knicks? They won't trade anything more than a rotation player (Wilson Chandler or Landry Fields) plus Eddy Curry's expiring contract to get Carmelo from the Nuggets now. They'd rather wait and see if they can get him for free this summer. They want Fields, Chandler, Raymond Felton, Amar'e Stoudemire and Danilo Gallinari on the roster in 2011-12, when Carmelo and the Knicks can win right away. Plus, the Knicks will gladly add payroll and laugh at the luxury tax, because they generate major revenue at the Garde. Say what you will about owner Jim Dolan, he's not shy about opening his wallet.
This grand Nets plan by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King better include a Carmelo signature on an extension, or it's a bad move that could set the franchise back years. Understandably, Prokhorov is anxious to make an immediate splash as an owner, and willing to use his vast fortune to make something happen. That's a great concept, except spending a lot of money and spending it wisely are not always the same. He may be loaded, but so is Paul Allen. And what have his billions done for the Blazers so far?
Not only could the Nets lose Carmelo, they'd also sacrifice first-round picks and Derrick Favors in the process.
(Speaking of Favors, they haven't done him any by stretching this Carmelo infatuation out for months. The poor, confused kid is going through a tough education; he's a rookie with only one year of college basketball experience, he's on a losing team, and because the Favors-for-Melo talk began in the fall, he hasn't been given any reason to unpack his suitcase from day one. That's not an excuse for someone who's off to a slow start, but it's there if Favors wants to use it.)
It's tough to be the Nets right now, no doubt. One year removed from a dreadful season, they're still running in cement sneakers. They're 29th out of 30th in scoring because no one on the roster scares anyone. Other than Lopez, who has any trade value? Where are the assets, other than Draft picks, Jay-Z and Beyonce?
The Nets' problems can be solved with shrewd general managing and a bit of patience and luck, something they need more than a star. Even if he did sign, the Nets with Carmelo wouldn't be ready to win right away, not like the Knicks with Carmelo.
It's a nice try, and it's good the Nets are doing whatever it takes. They've been consumed with getting a star at any cost, someone to follow in the footprints of Julius Erving and Jason Kidd, who both led the franchise to the championship round.
But if you're Carmelo Anthony, do you choose the Nets and a bit more money over your heart? He's the one who's gambling here.
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