As the true story of how LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh colluded...errrrrr...agreed to sign with Miami unfolds, I'm getting less and less confident that Carmelo Anthony will re-sign with the Nuggets.
First off, major props to Denver Stiffs reader "ThrowItDownBigManThrowItDown" for bringing Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski's amazing expose on the LeBron James signing to our attention in a FanPost earlier today. While this article proved to be a fascinating and insightful read about the process that brought LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together in Miami, in many ways I wish I hadn't read it. After finishing Wojnarowski's column, it makes me fearful that the Nuggets may not keep Carmelo Anthony after all, regardless of how much money Melo might be leaving on the table if he jettisons Denver for New York or elsewhere.
Among the many shocking revelations to come out of Wojnarowski's column, I was most struck by LeBron's obsession with being wooed (not surprising, I guess, considering what a self-obsessed jerk LeBron has turned out to be) and the number of times William Wesley - aka "Worldwide Wes" - was mentioned. That would be 17 times in case you were counting, too.
Being a self-professed NBA aficionado, I've of course heard of Wesley prior to this afternoon. But I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't know about or grasp the full extent of Wesley's influence over the business endeavors of the modern NBA and many of its players. I wrongfully assumed that Wesley was just another entourage guy; a hangers-on who loiters around NBA players but has no skin in the game or real influence.
After reading several articles and blog posts on Wesley ranging from a 2007 GQ article not-so-subtlety-titled "Is This the Most Powerful Man in Sports?" to True Hoop's Henry Abbott's relentless collection of facts and innuendo about Wesley, it appears as though Wesley has a great deal of influence over the players he's closely associated with. And lucky for us as Nuggets fans, one of those players happens to be Carmelo Anthony (I'm trying to be sarcastic with that line, by the way).
I encourage Denver Stiffs readers to read about Wesley. But the short synopsis is that Wesley is most closely affiliated with NBA super agent Leon Rose, a former high school basketball standout from the same New Jersey town that Wesley is from, Cherry Hill. Wesley was able to milk his relationship with Rose and former NBA player Milt Wagner (another Cherry Hill resident) to work his way up to working for Rick Mahorn, Michael Jordan (no joke) and has even been an "aide" to Allen Iverson.
Meanwhile, as far as agents go Rose is no slouch. Rose's clients, past and present, have included Melo, Iverson, Richard Hamilton, Eddy Curry, Eddie Jones, Andrea Bargnani, O.J. Mayo, Jonny Flynn, Ty Lawson and...you guessed it...LeBron James. From everything I've read today, Rose and Wesley are a tag-team operation with Rose doing the out-front negotiating and Wesley operating mysteriously in the background. They're kind of like the Bush/Cheney of the NBA, I guess.
According to Wojnarowski, Wesley was involved in Cleveland's dismissal of head coach Mike Brown (despite coaching the Cavaliers to back-to-back 60-plus win seasons) and was instrumental in LeBron's departure from Cleveland, even though LeBron's "inner circle", made up of his boys from Akron, wanted the self-anointed "King" to stay in Ohio. And according to the GQ article, while running the Knicks into the ground Isiah Thomas drafted and/or acquired Rose clients in hopes of landing LeBron in New York some day.
So while many Nuggets fans and members of the Denver media are confident that Melo will stay in Denver (and why shouldn't they be...not only was Melo offered a $65 million extension but he's owed $18.5 million in 2011-12 if he doesn't opt-out of his contract, meaning he'd be leaving $83.5 million on the table if he forgoes the extension), count me in for being skeptical. And worried. I may not be the biggest Melo fan in Denver, but I'm the first to recognize that this franchise doesn't make seven-straight playoff appearances without #15 in uniform and if anyone deserves a max contract in the NBA, Melo is on the list.
Why the skepticism? Because Melo is presumably being counseled by the same characters - Rose and Wesley - who "handled" LeBron's free agency which essentially ruined four franchises (the Cavs, Raptors, Nets and Knicks) while making the Heat a dominant NBA force of years to come. Granted, LeBron's situation was more complicated given that he had his boys from Akron, including Maverick Carter (the alleged mastermind behind the brilliant "The Decision"), involved. But just like Rose and Wesley aided greatly in jerking LeBron out of Cleveland - while jerking the city of Cleveland around in the process - the very same thing could happen in Denver. You see, when you're hanging out with the Jay-Zs, Michael Jordans and the Bill Clintons of the world, as Wesley is alleged to, places like Cleveland and Denver just don't cut it.
By now you're probably thinking: what are Nuggets fans and the organization to do about all this?
I say: read the tea leaves as much as possible, start working on a contingency plan for a post-Melo world and don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a deal before it's too late.
In hindsight, as pointed out by Wojnarowski it was obvious that LeBron was leaving Cleveland all along: the dive in Games 5 and 6 against the Celtics, the refusal to take Tom Izzo's phone calls, the refusal to meet Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in person, the refusal to talk to new Cavs coach Byron Scott for more than a handshake moment, and so on. The signs were everywhere, but Cavaliers fans and NBA purists like me just didn't want to believe it.
Melo certainly hasn't pulled a LeBron on us in Denver...yet. But we must be somewhat concerned about Chris Paul (allegedly) announcing that "We'll form our own Big 3" in New York at Melo's wedding...in New York. We must be somewhat concerned about Melo's wife's obsession with extending her 15 minutes of fame for another 15 minutes in a big media market...like New York. We must be somewhat concerned that Melo - who has no endorsements to speak of other than a slightly above standard Nike deal - hasn't jumped at what's essentially an $83.5 million contract extension. And after seeing what just happened with LeBron and Cleveland, we must be somewhat concerned about Melo being under the influence of Rose and Wesley.
I get that there's no loyalty left in sports, either from organizations or from players. That said, the Nuggets have done the right thing by offering Melo a max contract extension now. But if Melo waffles on signing the extension and more and more signs add up that he's heading elsewhere, the Nuggets may have to do one more right thing and trade Melo while they can.
Otherwise, we're going to get LeBron'd in Denver.
Photo courtesy of AP: Tony Dejak