Were Carmelo Anthony to stay in Denver, the Hornets would make an attractive trading partner to improve the Nuggets at the trade deadline. Instead, the Nuggets will likely be dealing Melo and some day the Hornets will deal Chris Paul to join him.
Losing your team's best player can be a rotten feeling for a fan, but at least our team isn't on the verge of contraction. In early December, NBA fans learned that the league had purchased the destitute New Orleans Hornets from incompetent owner George Shinn. Exactly what this means is unclear, but with NBA Commissioner David Stern floating the "contraction" word around recently, one has to believe that the Hornets are targeted to be dissolved.
New Orleans was never a good fit for the NBA. Even before the atrocities of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans as a city was in contraction mode, losing thousands of citizens annually emigrating elsewhere. And many of those who stayed in New Orleans can hardly afford absurdly expensive NBA tickets, plus New Orleans isn't home to enough large companies to support and sponsor the team. When the news broke that the NBA would be purchasing the Hornets, Deadspin leaked their financial statements...and it's grizzly. Sadly, the Hornets' disastrous financial state is more the norm than the exception of the modern NBA team.
But anyone who follows the NBA closely knew that the Hornets were doomed. Hence why many of us suggested that the Nuggets (long before Melo decided we weren't good enough for him) deal with the Hornets to bring in center Emeka Okafor and his monstrous contract along with other salary cap throw-ins in exchange for Kenyon Martin's expiring contract. And when the rumors surfaced that Chris Paul was going to pull a Melo himself, I suggested that the Nuggets try to get their hands on Paul to entice Melo to stay in Denver. I'd be ecstatic to see Paul and Okafor come to Denver for Chauncey Billups and Kenyon Martin's expiring contract, and then have Billups take a buyout and re-sign with Denver.
Under normal circumstances, a team of the Nuggets caliber (yes, and that includes those ugly losses at the Clippers and Kings) would be buyers right now, looking for a deal to get them into the Western Conference stratosphere. But as we've become all-too-accustomed to this season, these are not normal times. As Nate Kreckman mentioned on his Saturday morning radio show, this might be the most bizarre season in Nuggets history...and that says a lot for a franchise that's had a litany of bizarre seasons in the last 20 years.
And thus, it's time Nuggets fans wake up to the reality that we are very much sellers. And as we learned this weekend, more than Melo may be up for a deal.
Beginning Friday night, rumors abounded that the Nuggets are looking to deal Billups and/or Al Harrington alongside Melo in a possible Nets trade, essentially assuring Melo that he'll have some talent around him when he arrives in the Garden State. Without said talent, Melo signing that three-year extension is a non-starter with the Nets.
Like many readers of this site, I'm ready for the Nuggets to get a Melo deal over with and move on already. We knew a month ago that the MeloDrama would eventually tear this team apart, and we're seeing the cracks in the dam now. I know head coach George Karl has taken a lot of heat for the team's recent play - some of which is certainly justified - but I actually think he deserves some credit for holding the team together to date and keeping the Nuggets in the playoff hunt. Blame Karl all you want, but the Nuggets shoddy play of late points right to #15. Melo brought this on himself and his teammates as soon as he decided to follow in LeBron James and Chris Bosh's dubious footsteps.
If there's a silver lining to the delay in the Melo-to-the-Nets deal, it's that the longer we wait the more likely it is that the Nuggets make the playoffs and the worse the Nets get. The Nets are so bad right now, you'd think Kiki Vandeweghe came back to coach them again.
But until a deal is finally consummated, Melo must at least pretend like he wants to be a Nugget and attempt to take down the opponents before him.
SCOUTING THE HORNETS...
-Chris Paul: Healthy again, Paul has regained much of his game that made him one of the most feared and respected point guards in the NBA, dishing out nearly 10 assists and stealing almost three balls per game.
-Emeka Okafor: After a mediocre first season in New Orleans, Okafor is having a slightly more productive 2010-11 campaign and his making a remarkable 58.5% of his field goal attempts.
-David West: The seldom mentioned West is having another fine NBA season, averaging over 18 ppg on over 50% shooting. K-Mart has historically defended West well, however.
-Marcus Thornton: Pegged by many to have a breakout second season, Thornton's production is way off from last year...and so are his minutes. In just 14 minutes of playing time, Thornton is averaging a paltry 6.3 ppg on an unacceptably low 39% field goal percentage.
-Jason Smith: I hate to pick on a Colorado guy whom we all know will be a future Nugget and future Denver Stiff, but Smith is seven feet tall, grabs just four rebounds per game and makes only 42% of his field goal attempts.
The countdown to Carmelo Anthony's last game in a Nuggets' uniform is on. The surrealists can hope he'll re-sign with the Nuggets, but the realists will win the day when he's finally traded.
Opposition's Take: At the Hive