The Denver Nuggets might have lost what little leverage they thought they had in getting Carmelo Anthony to accept that three-year, $65 million contract extension. All along, the Nuggets have felt confident that Carmelo and his camp would feel pressured to sign a deal now, under the current collective bargaining agreement, because the next CBA is sure to be much more restrictive and, as a result, will mean less money for him to make.
But we talked about here in September, it might not matter when he signs because either way everybody in the NBA is going to be forced to give back money if the owners have their way. According to the union, the league's latest proposal, delivered Thursday, included a hard cap system and required a 40 percent rollback in player salaries. That means current contracts.
If it sounds radical to you, keep in mind this is exactly what the NHL did in 2004-05, when they went to a hard cap system.
The NHL went with a 24 percent rollback and it's more likely the NBA, which has far bigger contracts than the NHL did, will have to reduce their demand a bit (perhaps 20-25 percent). But make no mistake about it, if the NBA wants a hard cap, they have to rollback current contracts in order to get everyone to fit.
Just to provide an easy example of the extreme, a 40 percent rollback means Amar'e Stoudemire suddenly goes from four years and $83.2 million left on his contract to $49.9 million.
More direct to the point, it means Carmelo's $65 million extension, should he sign it this season, turns into $39 million. What remains to be seen is if, in the new system, he can get that much as a free agent. The league is looking to reduce the maximum of term and raise limits on contracts and $13 million per, which is what his extension rollback number equates to on average, might be in the ballpark.
Denver can either try to move him this season (until the Feb. 24 trade deadline) and attempt to get maximum value, or they can deal his Bird Rights (if such a thing exists in the new CBA) in a sign-and-trade during the free agency period the way the Cavaliers, Raptors and Knicks did with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and David Lee, respectively.
We've been telling you since the beginning of this process that the Knicks would prefer to sign Melo has a free agent next summer (or after a new CBA is finalized) mainly so they don't have to give up anything off their roster to get him. Obviously there is anxiousness to work out a trade now for two reasons: 1. because the Nets want him, and 2. because the Knicks roster as currently constructed might not be good enough to make the playoffs.
Meanwhile, David Stern seemed to have no problem with the Melo Drama. Stern pointed to past players who have made trade demands -- he specifically named Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who asked out of Milwaukee in 1975 and Patrick Ewing, who wanted to leave the Knicks in 2000 -- and said Anthony is "a player who's keeping his options open. That's his right under the collective bargaining agreement and I don't think it's fair to hold him to a higher standard."
Anthony, of course, has never actually asked for a trade, nor has his agent. The league only fines you if there is a public demand made, as we saw with Nate Robinson last season and Rudy Fernandez (twice) this year.