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Melo asserts himself in NBA labor talks

Carmelo Anthony had obvious agenda behind his push for a trade during the season, rather than simply wait for this offseason, when he could have become a free agent. There was legitimate concern that under a new collective bargaining system, with the NBA insisting on a hard cap and a decrease share of revenue used for player salaries, he would be leaving money on the table if he opted out of his deal, which had one more year at $18.5M, and his opportunities could be severely limited.

Though it would have been better for the Knicks, who wouldn't have had to give up young talent such as Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Timofey Mozgov, to get him, there was a very real risk that, under a new system, they might not have been able to sign him. At least not to a full maximum contract.

"That's just something that I really didn't want to have to deal with, not knowing what the CBA will be like," Anthony said in April.

But Melo isn't totally in the clear. The NBA is still pushing for a hard cap and part of the deal would involve rollbacks on all CURRENT contracts so they would fit under the cap. That would mean Melo's $65M extension would be dramatically reduced.

It's more likely that instead of an abrupt change, the NBA could agree to transition from the current soft cap system into a hard cap over time, to allow teams to ease into it. But still, players are going to lose money. There's no getting around it.

And that's why you see star players like Carmelo in attendance at collective bargaining sessions such as Friday's in Manhattan.

Chris Paul, the heralded toastmaster from Melo's wedding last summer, was also in attendance. If you're just joining us, Paul can opt out of his contract in 2012 and he is very, very much on the radar as the third star piece to the Knicks championship puzzle. But that plan -- this Superfriends formula that the Celtics employed to win a title in '08 and the Miami Heat used to reach the NBA Finals this year -- may no longer be possible under a new CBA system.

So you can understand why Melo and Paul would be so interested in the proceedings. The two also attended meetings at the all-star game in L.A., along with many of the game's stars. The system the NBA is trying to put in place isn't just going to impact the middle-class players and limit the amount of "bad" contracts (see: Curry, Eddy and James, Jerome) that can handcuff a franchise for years. With less money to go around in free agency, it could also limit the freedom of a player to move and the opportunity for teams to put star players together.

"It was a must that I come to this meeting . . . The position I'm in, the status I have, just to show them that we're not just fighting for us, we're fighting for the whole NBA," Carmelo said. "We're fighting for the players, not just right now, but the players that are going to come into the league."

A breaking point in the NBA's labor situation is quickly approaching and what has been long speculated to be the inevitable result -- a lockout -- is on the horizon. There is serious effort on both sides to at least show good faith in negotiations before the current CBA expires on June 30, but after Friday's meeting the rhetoric suggests a divide between the league and the union is still too wide to close in time.

 "Are we on the same page? No," Melo said. "But there's a lot of good dialogue going back and forth right now."


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