I'm a basketball junkie. I'm a fiend for the offseason hype and hoopla. But I don't want to see Denver's franchise player test the waters next season. As much fun as it has been tracking where all the stars will sign this offseason, I really don't think I could stand to play the waiting game with our hometown team and Carmelo Anthony.
By now you would have had to of spooned out your own eyes and/or hammered Q-Tips through your ear-drums not to know the Nuggets have laid a 3-year $65 million extension down in front of Melo. And as I all sit back and watch Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James go back-and-forth on where they are going to sign, I can't help but to worry that Melo will be deliberating these same choices next offseason. Fans like me who are enjoying the chaos now, are definitely paying attention to see if Melo takes the deal now (and the dumptruck full of money) or waits to see what greener pastures are on the horizon.
Our readers over at Denver Stiffs have been debating that if Melo doesn't see the personnel improvements, that the front office is aware he's demanding, that the star will indeed bolt whether it's by not signing the extension or asking for a trade after he has his fat new deal. The Nuggets front office, Mark Warkentien to be exact, has taken the step of bringing a familiar name into the mix by saying the team wants Melo to be the Nuggets' John Elway. I understand where the Nuggets are coming from, but they also have brought up an interesting point ... Elway didn't have much help for most of his career. There are not too many people outside of Denver that know Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, and Sammy Winder ... they were Elway's weapons when Dan Reeves was around. So, are the Nuggets saying that Melo is going to be on teams where he is the star and the one responsible for carrying the team as far as he can take them? Or will the Nuggets front office find Melo the Mike Shanahan era teams? Denver must find a way to bring Melo his Tom Nalen, Gary Zimmerman, Shannon Sharpe, Rod Smith, and Terrell Davis.
I understand that the Nuggets are a bit hamstrung by a deal the old regime made (Kenyon Martin) and Denver is dealing with some pretty high-priced pieces as well. The Nuggets haven't been a cheap organization in the Melo era and they have been trying different combinations of players, but it just hasn't been enough. The team might be forced to lay their plans down in front of Melo and then let the cards fall where they may. Either Melo is going to like what he hears and what he is shown is being done to build around him, or he's not.
The question that remains: Can the Nuggets survive if Melo leaves?
The last time the Nuggets had a face to a successful team was from 1991-1996. The Nuggets, as an eight-seed, famously defeated a one-seed Seattle Supersonics team that was favored to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The face of that Nuggets team was Dikembe Mutombo and he was tasked in a similar situation as Melo after the 1995-96 season. The team was in a slight decline and Mutombo had to either stick around or leave town. He chose to sign with the Atlanta Hawks and the Nuggets got nothing for him in return, unless you count quite a few losing seasons.
If Melo leaves it will most likely be through a trade, so the Nuggets would most likely get something in return. But will gutting the franchise of it's most recognizable face and most famous player kill basketball in the Mile-High City? As far as signing free agents goes, don't think for a minute that only money will talk. And if money is the only thing that is luring guys, they probably are not the guys a franchise needs.
And this franchise needs Melo. The kid from the East Coast has brought with him a lot of national attention and a lot of fans who now love the Nuggets because they choose to follow Anthony wherever he goes. I tend to waver on if I think Melo can lead the Nuggets to a title as Denver's best player, but I have no doubt that if put on the right team that Melo can and will raise the Larry O'Brien championship trophy.
So, instead of giving Melo the reasons he needs to leave and chase a ring somewhere else, the Nuggets need to convince Melo and show him that the wheels are in motion to re-build stronger around him. I don't want to see what happens if Melo isn't in the powder blue and gold and the Nuggets' owner should be even more worried that I am.
A lot of folks will feel at ease if Melo chooses to sign an extension and it will be a huge sign of good-faith, but remember with an NBA lockout looming the Nuggets star wants some financial security and it wont take much for him to ask for a trade.
So, as the Nuggets try to transform Melo into the Elway of the Nuggets ... keep in mind that we don't want the Dan Reeves era, we need the Mike Shanahan one.