With the current uncertainty of Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony's future in Denver lingering over camp like a teenager at a college frat party, we are left to wonder...WWWD.
What Would Wark Do?
For those who don't recall, in my previous life as a frequent commenter on Denver Stiffs I advocated that we clean house in the Nuggets front office. It was shortly after this past summer's draft (which was handled poorly) and I had just HAD it with the "decision by committee" arrangement that seemed to be paralyzing the Nuggets ability to get things done.
That was then.
If there was one sure thing you could appreciate about former Denver Nuggets Vice President/GM Mark Warkentien it was that he got deals done. You wouldn't hear "rumors" and such before a Wark deal was completed. You'd open up the paper, or log on to your computer the next morning, and you'd suddenly see former Nuggets guard Allen Iverson traded for Chauncey Billups. Or former center Marcus Camby traded for a trade exception and a pile of goo. Or Arron Afflalo's arrival in exchange for a worthless second-round draft pick. Even the Al Harrington signing came out of nowhere this summer. "Wark" had an ability to structure a deal and wait out a team until they were desperate enough to pull the trigger. Don't you think that would come in handy right now?
Warkentien had his faults, and they were huge. He tended to be condescending, he was alleged to have burned bridges and had a bit of a tough reputation. And yet he got things done.
That leads us to today. If Warkentien were here how would this situation with Carmelo Anthony be handled? Most certainly Wark would be doing everything in his power to keep Melo in Denver. The two were tight (remember Wark saying he wanted to make Melo the John Elway of the Nuggets?). In fact, despite Wark's ability to look at you like you just drooled on your shirt, most players loved him. Nuggets head coach George Karl is a close friend, and so was former assistant coach Tim Grgurich (who is said to have left over the team's firing of Warkentien). I firmly believe the "atmosphere" in Pepsi Center would be quite a bit different than it is today if Wark were still around.
If Melo was indeed going to be traded on Wark's watch then we have to believe he'd put together a better trade than what we saw this last weekend. I'd say with utmost certainty he wouldn't put a deal together that cost Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke an extra $9.5 million. However, it's hard to do deals when you have a dysfunctional front office. From the outside looking in, the Nuggets have looked paralyzed and hand-cuffed with expiring deals that may encumber them until the trade deadline (particularly with Kenyon Martin recovering from yet another knee surgery....which was announced shortly after the draft).
Decision by committee is how Stan Kroenke and team President Josh Kroenke seem to like to run the Nuggets, and it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. According to some in NBA media circles, the Nuggets are seen to outsiders as having a "peculiar and unclear power structure" atop the organization. Moreover, Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri is new to the job and the perceived indecision regarding trading Melo could hurt the Nuggets' image even more among possible suitors for Melo.
I'm not convinced, however, that this all isn't carefully planned out with an eye toward the anticipated new collective bargaining agreement and potential lockout looming in 2011. There are very complicated moving parts to this Carmelo Anthony situation and it's playing out in a way that isn't very close to reality.
I can't help but wonder though....if Wark were here would Melo already be traded? Rather, a better question would be: would Melo be signed to the extension? Unfortunately, the answer is most likely not. The alleged dysfunction in the front office was crippling even when Wark was around. And while I have no doubt that he would have done his valiant best to keep Melo, there's a larger game being played here by Stan Kroenke. One that involves changing the NBA as we know it.
Carmelo Anthony is but the first chess piece.