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Will Nuggets learn from Cavaliers nightmare?

Carmelo Anthony during the World Basketball Festival at

Carmelo Anthony during the World Basketball Festival at Rucker Park in New York. (Aug. 13, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

 Over a month after we dropped the information to you about Carmelo Anthony's strong consideration into passing on signing that extension with the Denver Nuggets, the Worldwide Leader is reporting that "all signs continue to point toward the eventual divorce" between the Nuggets and their star.

ESPN Radio's Brandon Tierney said in July that he was told by a source that Carmelo Anthony would be a Knick before the start of the season. While that would still take a seriously dramatic turn of events, it does seem that the Knicks may still have a chance to lock up a second superstar for 2010-11.

We were here a few weeks ago saying the same things about Chris Paul, of course. Then came the realization that Paul didn't have much leverage to force a trade, which was his primary intention, because his contract had another two years left on it. To some surprise, the Hornets then traded their insurance on Paul -- talented young guard Darren Collison -- for a nice role player (but certainly not a legit star-quality wingman) in Trevor Ariza.

Carmelo, however, does have a little more juice here because he will be a free agent next summer, so the Nuggets can either opt to go through the season with a very uncomfortable situation on their hands -- recall the defiant denials that came out of Cleveland throughout the 2009-10 season -- or they can be proactive and find the best deal possible so they can move forward and avoid the annoying distraction.

Of course that's putting the power into the hands of the player, which sets a bad precedent.

Ironically, the possibility of a lockout actually works in favor of the Nuggets. That is the one element of this situation that has to concern Carmelo. With so much uncertainty about the system the NBA will employ in the new CBA (a hard cap?) it could be a risk to go into free agency and leave $65M on the table. And Carmelo would have to wait until a lockout is over to sign a new contract as a free agent.

But if he can work out an extend-and-trade, he'd get his money and his way. The only reason why the Nuggets should do this is if they get a great offer. Considering that the Knicks already have Amar'e Stoudemire at the four spot, you'd have to believe that any conversation with the Nuggets would have to include Danilo Gallinari.

Here's where it gets tricky for the Knicks and where, I'm told, there is some debate going on within the Knicks' hierarchy. Is it worth paying a king's ransom for Carmelo now, when it is possible you can sign him as a free agent next summer (or after a lockout)? Is it smart to give up a very affordable young talent in Gallinari, who has the potential to be a second or third star player, and remove any chance of making a run at Paul or Deron Williams in 2012?

If you pass on Melo, you're banking on Gallo, and his back, to emerge as a star. If you go for it, you're banking on Raymond Felton proving he can handle the job of running a team and feeding Gallinari, Carmelo and Amar'e (who would have to move to the five in this scenario).

And if not Felton, perhaps you're still hoping with all of these wing players you can somehow finally pry Ricky Rubio from the Timberwolves.

Throughout the early stages of the free agency season, we were getting consistent information from several NBA sources about the Melo situation. One well-connected former NBA player, as far back as late June, told me, "He's not signing that extension" and said he really wants to come to New York for a plethora of reasons:

1. His wife, Lala Vazquez, is a television personality (former MTV veejay) whose career would benefit from being located here rather than Denver. She, like Carmelo, was born in Brooklyn and considers New York her home. Carmelo lived in Brooklyn until he was eight, when his family moved to Baltimore.

2. Though he came into the league with almost as much hype as LeBron James, Carmelo has never been able to match the starpower of James or another fellow 2003 draft classmate, Dwyane Wade. He is an all-star and was a key member of the Redeem Team, but Melo's popularity isn't anywhere near the heights James and Wade have reached. A move to New York would boost his Q Score, for sure. 

3. George Karl's health, Chauncey Billups' age and the direction of the Nuggets franchise (the team just dumped executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman) play a major factor in Carmelo's interest in locking in for another three years.

James, Wade and Bosh proved that money doesn't have to be the deciding factor when it comes to getting what you want. Let's see if Carmelo follows that lead.

And let's see if the Nuggets learn from the Cavaliers.

New York Sports