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How we got here: Stan's big statement

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The Denver Nuggets erstwhile owner may be looking for cost "austerity" within the NBA in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement...but does that mean he will spend on the other side?

 

"But it's a lot of things that come into play. Whether it's the future of the organization or where they're headed or where they're trying to go, or whether it's contractual stuff with players and guys that are up [to be free agents] at the same time. People don't really know that type of stuff. They just think that I'm being stubborn and I just want to get up and leave -- just throw away eight years of my life"

Carmelo Anthony to Ian Thomsen of SI.com

 

The Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony were destined to part ways.

Caught in an NBA system who's revenue sharing is completely tilted toward larger market teams it seemed like the Nuggets and Melo were on a wild roller coaster ride that was inevitably going to end. We have, sadly, reached that point. With the imminent departure via trade of the best player in Nuggets history we will be left with a sad, shell of a team that will struggle to win in the last 25 games of the season.

This is not to say that Melo leaving the Nuggets wasn't helped by a horrific front office structure. A pseudo-executive in Bret Bearup who wanted to trade Melo up to three years ago, and a duo of Vice Presidents (Mark Warkentien, Rex Chapman) who couldn't get along. The hiring of an inexperienced new General Manager/Vice President in Masai Ujiri who had no tangible experience working a deal for trades ... and a young heir who's only 30 years old (Josh Kroenke) who runs the team.

I can live with Melo leaving because it's part of the business of the NBA. Melo doesn't "owe" Denver anything at all. The Nuggets don't owe Melo anything either. It's business and should be taken as such. Yet, troubling signs have appeared since this summer. Enough for me to truly question the direction of this team.

Late Spring/Early Summer 2010

Two events happened during and after the NBA finals in June. First off, Carmelo was interviewed during the NBA Finals in LA, and was asked about the future of the Denver Nuggets. He indicated he would like to see the Nuggets pursue a big man so they can move Nene back to power forward (where most everyone agrees is his natural position). Believe it or not, this was the first time Melo has indicated a desire for a big man publicly. Melo was quite supportive the the Nuggets lack of movement on a big man the previous summer (at least publicly). It was clear, however that the Nuggets could not compete for a championship without a player who can justifiably be called a "big". 

A few short weeks later, the Nuggets front office offered Melo the infamous 3 year $64.7 million extension. An offer which would expire exactly one year to the day later if Melo didn't sign it. Reports at the time indicated that Melo would be inclined to sign. I believe this to be true, at the time Melo was serious about signing the extension and would attend to it after he got his wedding out of the way.

How things change

July/August 2010

The Decision ... Front Office Chaos ...  an owner seemingly unwilling to spend for an adequate big man ... and a media overblown toast at a wedding all conspired in the dog days of summer to create what we have now. Melo's desire to go to the Knicks.

At the Draft, the Nuggets botched several attempts to trade into the draft to select a big man (trying to buy the Lakers pick of Derrick Caracter). In another move, Stan Kroenke vetoed a trade that would have exchanged Golden State Warriors center Andris Biedrins and some other players for Kenyon Martin because of "cost". It all ended with a slightly pathetic press conference held by Rex Chapman when he said, "We tried".

The Decision didn't help matters. The hour long love fest where Lebron James took his "talents to south beach" may have put a bug in Carmelo Anthony's ear about the possibilities of having his ego stroked for an entire off season. Make no mistake, Carmelo has a gigantic ego and that plays a huge part in all his decisions. That, coupled with a palpable sense of paranoia from the Nuggets front office and you have what I call a July to forget. Yet, things really didn't get ramped up till one very confusing week in early July when the Nuggets front office chaos came in to full view of the public. A chaos heightened by Stan Kroenke's refusal to commit to a contract for either Chapman or Mark Warkentien.

Mark Kiszla wrote a surprising column detailing that Melo "can be traded" if he didn't sign the extension. Two days later Mark Warkentien gave an interview to the Denver Post in which he said he wanted Melo to be the "John Elway of the Denver Nuggets". Front office infighting was becoming public. After another vetoed attempt to trade for Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves (again because of cost) Chapman and Warkentien were let go (not before Wark convinced Kroenke to sign off of the free agent signing of Al Harrington ... which in hindsight is seen as Wark's revenge on Stan Kroenke) It's important to understand that these contretemps were playing out while the Melodrama was hitting high gear.

Then, Chris Paul makes a joking toast about forming a big three at Carmelo Anthony's wedding reception and from that point on, the silliness reached a 6 month long crescendo that appears to be ending very soon. Oh, and let us not forget Leon Rose and "World Wide" Wes from Creative Artists Agency having their own agenda's to push ... giving Agents (such as myself) a bad name throughout the business.

The CBA and Stan's grand plan

Who knows why Melo wants to leave? I'm sure there's tons of factors that we don't even know about that play in to his decision to want out of Denver. With Melo gone, what does the future look like for the Nuggets? My fear is that Stan Kroenke will attempt to run the Nuggets in a similar fashion to that of the Colorado Avalanche, his hockey team. A team that hovers around the cap floor (and by that I mean RIGHT AT the cap floor) with $17 million in cap space that is not spent to improve the team. My fear is that the Nuggets will put their entire stock in the draft for "cheap" players. It also makes me wonder if Carmelo is worried about the same thing. With a total of 10 Nuggets players either on their option year, qualifying offer, or last year of their contract (pre-trade) it begs the question...will the Nuggets struggle to get up to the cap floor as well?

The hawk NBA owners, led by Stan Kroenke, are going for a 38% slash in salaries and pushing for a hard cap. This is the definition of whistling past the graveyard. Slashing player salaries won't prevent stars from wanting to go to big markets ... in my opinion it would only increase the likelihood of exits to the bright shiny lights because of the endorsement monies that can be earned in large markets to compensate for lower pay. The owners have needed to address their draconian revenue sharing issues that make it nearly impossible for a small to mid sized market to compete. THEN you go after player salaries. As the NHL can tell you, just because you slash down to the minimum of salaries, doesn't mean you don't lose money.

As Adrian Wojnarowski said, Stan Kroenke kept vetoing proposed trades (before they even got back to Melo) because the Nuggets simply didn't shed enough salary. Cost savings was the key word. To the point where the New Jersey Nets pulled out of the trade talks in late January because it was becoming too expensive for them. In the end what does it all accomplish? According to Melo the Nuggets haven't even spoken to him about their future plans since December and even then they have been vague. WHY? What purpose does that serve? Because of both this and Melo's reluctance to play in New Jersey we have what is in front of us ... two potential botched trades in one.

Quote from Melo Yesterday via Chris Dempsey

Anthony would neither confirm nor deny that, but he earlier spoke of the differences between the teams, making it clear he thinks the Nuggets are content to strip their payroll and go young.

"As far as building, what the Nuggets are trying to obviously do in their near future, they're trying to start all over and build up," he said.

Surprisingly, Anthony said the Nuggets haven't actively tried to convince him to stay in several weeks.

"I haven't had that conversation probably since November, December," Anthony said. "Does it surprise me? It doesn't surprise me, it tells me what they're trying to do. Obviously they are trying to get younger, they are trying to save money over there.

"At the end of the day, it's a business. I've got to look at it as my career and as a business."

Upon hearing this information, and based on the Nuggets not addressing any of the other players contracts my dad  said, "Well, if they (the Nuggets) have sold all the furniture, and everybody has moved it tells you they don't want to be with you anymore doesn't it?"

In the end, whatever happens with the Nuggets from here on out lies on the shoulders of E. Stanley Kroenke. With Melo gone there will be no scapegoat for slashing cost. With Melo gone there will be no one but himself to blame for the the Nuggets failures, and to praise for their successes. With Melo no longer on the Nuggets this has, indeed, become Stan Kroenke's team (even though he's supposed to not have any involvement with them) and if gambling with the draft succeeds or fails it's on his shoulders and not this inexperienced General Manager Masai Ujiri and 30 year old Team President Son Josh Kroenke. Silent Stan can't run away from this one.

I truly hope he knows what he's doing. There's more to running a team than suddenly slashing cost to the bare bones, low-balling potential and former executives (hello David Griffin and Mark Warkentien) and putting your son in charge. I'm hoping that Silent Stan has an ace up his sleeve so the Nuggets don't suffer a decade long morass as they did in the 90's. I'm hoping that letting Carmelo Anthony go will be the BEST thing the Nuggets ever did. I'm hoping that in two seasons we have an exciting team that everyone can root for with a new superstar on board. Hope that Stan's big statement is a positive one, not a cheap one.

All we have at this point is hope. It's your team again Stan. Don't mess it up.