The harder NBA owners play hardball with the players association, the better off the Nuggets might be.
First off, the article by Chris Sheridan from ESPN.com...
For me, the two main passages are...
If you look at an imaginary NBA growth chart that begins in 1999 -- when the last lockout ended -- and carries out 20 to 25 years, which is when LeBron James, Kevin Durant and their ilk likely will be nearing retirement, that chart continues to go up and up and up in terms of popularity, especially as it relates to the younger demographic that has tuned out baseball and embraced basketball. (And that's just domestically. The equation gets much larger when you factor in the global markets the league has cultivated so determinedly for the past decade.)
Most people expect the National Football League to be going through its own labor war a year from now. And if there is no NFL next October, there are going to be an awful lot of idle sports fans, many in the demographic Stern is trying so hard to appeal to, sitting around looking for something to fill the void.
While nobody, including Sheridan, is calling a settlement any sort of slam dunk, I think these are two very astute points by Sheridan (among others in his article). For whatever people think about the NBA or how it's run, I think there's very little debate in the fact that Commissioner David Stern has been and has continued to be an incredible commissioner. Even though he represents the owners, he's always done a fabulous job of promoting the sport with foresight and kept it popular and relevant during a time where the NFL juggernaut has overshadowed and overtaken the sports scene in America. This doesn't even count the immense strides its made overseas which can't be overlooked.
I just can't see him allowing all the goodwill that's been built up over the last several years (that coincided with this latest wave of generational-type players) to be flushed down the toilet by a prolonged lockout. And the second quote I have above might very well be a critical opportunity for the league to take precedence over the NFL, simply because football might not be being played. You can bet Bud Selig is slobbering all over himself thinking about a full fall season where there's no NBA or NFL. I can't see Stern allowing that to happen.
Now, what does this mean for the Nuggets? Well... potentially a lot. The Nuggets leverage over Carmelo Anthony is almost completely tied to the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). If the new CBA is similar to this one, Melo's potential "lost" salary from just up and leaving the Nuggets would be much less drastic than everyone has painted. Instead of possibly losing anywhere from $20-30M over the next 4 seasons, he might only be losing $10M. If he does move to New York, you can bet there would be an uptick in endorsements to help offset the $10M, I'd guess he could pick up another $5M over the four years without too much difficulty. So really, he'd only be "losing" ~$5M during the four years, or about ~5-6% of his income. Honestly, if he truly wants to go to New York, that's not a very hard pill to swallow.
Also, any package the Nuggets do receive if we trade Carmelo Anthony will likely have multiple draft picks and the ones we receive in 2011 would have a lot more value if a lockout wasn't pending as underclassmen wouldn't be as scared to declare. However, the value of the 2011 draft picks is inversely related to how much leverage we have on Melo.
In addition, if there is no hard cap, which I don't believe there will be, the Nuggets future financial shape doesn't look as pretty in regards to signing good players. The idea is the Nuggets could potentially shed ~$62M from its current $82M payroll (leaving us with just $20M in guaranteed contracts next year) if we let Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith expire, Nene opts out, we buyout Chauncey Billups, let Melo walk, and jettison the rest of the riffraff on the roster (Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams, etc). The hard cap would force difficult decisions on other teams which would then allow us to sign them with our new found money. If there is no hard cap though, teams that would otherwise have a hard time conforming to a hard cap would have the flexibility (mainly through "Bird Rights") to sign their key players.
Basically what it boils down to is the harder the line the owners take in the upcoming few months, the better off the Nuggets are. It continues to give us maximum leverage over Melo (either in telling him he's accepting a trade to XYZ team or eat the lost income, or we force him to sign it or eat the lost income) and puts us in a position to possibly trade for players that teams would cut loose if there was a hard cap but would sign otherwise. It's definitely something we should keep a very close eye on, especially for as long as Melo keeps wearing a Nuggets jersey this fall and winter.