Thursday, January 20, 2011

Prokhorov's Carmelo policy a lesson to egotists everywhere

After seemingly aeons of banter between the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Carmelo Anthony, the Nets Russian owner Mikael Prokhorov has told Nets officialdom to break off negotiations with all parties. The Nets, apparently, are no longer interested in the 6'8 Baltimore-by-way-of-Syracuse product.

The Nuggets' wantaway forward has made no secret of his desire to depart Denver when his contract ends on June 30th and has been equally vociferous about his desire to return to his birthplace of New York and his "dream" of playing for the Knicks. The New Jersey Nets - in two years to be the Brooklyn Nets when the franchise moves - were the frontrunners acquire Melo before he becomes a free agent at season's end due to their ability to send Denver the most desirable trade package in return: point guard Devin Harris, rookie Derrick Favors, shooter Anthony Morrow and two high draft picks, one probably in the draft's top seven picks.

After weeks of being the top story every basketball site, Prokhorov walked away from any deal yesterday citing his frustration at the lack of progress and the public nature of the talks. Of course there are major mitigating factors - Anthony's preference to wear the Knicks' Blue and Orange, having to give away last year's AND this year's lottery pick - and last and most, Anthony's apparent disinclination to sign a contract extension in Jersey. It may be another gambit in the ongoing deal and talks may re-open but the inclination is to trust Prokhorov on this. All indications are he simply tired of Denver's mind games and Anthony's failure to "piss or get off the pot". As Brian Windhorst of ESPN's put it, The Russian simply followed the first rule of negotiation - not being afraid to walk away.

And it feels really good to see it. Franchises and their fans have been held hostage to the whims of players and their agents for too long, so for "Mutant Russian Mark Cuban" to refuse any further entreaties from Colorado is a potential home-run for owners, one that'll be followed by another body blow to agents/players with the impending lockout. The lockout, which will follow the failure of Players and Owners to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, looks likely to cost Melo serious coin NBA salaries are sure to decrease.

Hopefully, but unrealistically, Prokhorov's posture will encourage other owners to demand professionalism from other alleged professional. In a game where awfully shrewd businessmen lose their business sense after purchasing a team, it seems he has kept his.

The second result of this stand is the Nets could improve markedly without Anthony. The promising Favors, who's played his entire pro career under trade clouds, is maturing and the team has salary cap flexibility to further add to their roster and Small Forward, Anthony's position, is where they're most interested in an upgrade.

It's debatable how much success Anthony would have brought to Jersey/Brooklyn because as a player, he is hard to mark. He's almost unequalled as a scorer and would turn a Nets weak spot into a strength. Since Julius Erving was sold to Philly in 1976 - yes, that long - the best Net SFs have been Albert King and Kendall Gill, a fact that as a casual fan (who loves Kendall Gill) makes me dry-retch. But Anthony's habitual defensive laxity and his problematic scoring efficiency - he makes a lot of shots by taking and missing a lot - makes his status top player in the league debatable and depending on the judge, he could rank as the 10th-best player to to the 40th-best.

Hopefully there will be no repeat of Cleveland and Toronto's 2010 offseason where LeBron James and Chris Bosh flaunted their free-agency like painted jezebels. They undoubtedly enjoyed the power they'd earned, but in doing so slapped their devoted organisations and fans in the face. Hard. By doing likewise in a situation where those paying him have learned from others' misfortunes, Anthony may have robbed himself of an estimated $20 -40 million dollars over the life of his new deal. If that's a sacrifice he's prepared to make, then bully for him. If not - as most think - then all his self-aggrandising posturing has been a publicity exercise that he oughtta hope is worth an extra $20 million. For so long hoping to both have and eat baked sweet goods, Carmelo Anthony may now be forced to choose. And Joe Public should feel wonderful.

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