Jimmy: Well, Jeremy, it’s finally over. The most notable Melodrama not to appear on Lifetime is at an end. I, for one, thought we’d never stop hearing about Carmelo Anthony’s future. Lately, I’ve wanted to close my eyes, plug my ears and chant “LALALALALALALALA” to avoid the end-to-end coverage.
But even that was no escape:
Anthony’s forced his way to the Knicks. Was his treatment of Denver better or worse than what LeBron James did to Cleveland this past summer?
Jeremy: We’ve been back at this blog for less than a week, and you’ve already pulled me into an NBA topic. Well played, Ryals.
I’m going to use an extended metaphor to answer your question. (You do know what a metaphor is, don’t you?)
LeBron and Cleveland were the high school couple who had been together as long as anyone could remember. All their friends thought they were destined to get married and live happily ever after. Sure, Cleveland wasn’t the hottest girl in the class, but she was always there for LeBron and loved him with all her heart. When the senior prom (free agency) arrived, everyone knew that LeBron was taking Cleveland. The two of them walked into the dance together and then …
Not only did LeBron dump Cleveland for the head cheerleader (Miami) in front of the entire senior class, he further publicly humiliated her by calling her fat and ugly. (See “The Decision,” which, by the way, was the most tone-deaf move that both LeBron and ESPN have ever made.)
Carmelo and Denver were more like a couple who had been dating only two or three months. They gave it a try for a little while, but Melo eventually decided that he wanted to look for someone else to take to the prom. Denver still kind of liked Melo but didn’t want to be stuck in a relationship with someone who wasn’t 100 percent committed. She figured it was better to just find another date.
Carmelo shouldn’t exactly be applauded for what he did. As SI.com’s Michael Rosenberg argued, this whole thing for Melo was more about money and going to New York than winning a championship. But at least Melo made it clear that he didn’t want to stay in Denver, giving the Nuggets the opportunity to get something in return.
So here’s another interesting question for you: Which team handled the situation with its pending free-agent superstar better, the Cavs or the Nuggets? Or to put it more bluntly, should the Cavs have considered trading LeBron when they had the chance?
Jimmy: I hate to deflate this debate before it begins, but I agree with you entirely. I’d liken the Carmelo-Denver relationship to two college partners deciding whether part ways after graduation, but that’s splitting hairs.
Your question — who handled their splitting superstar better — is a hard one to answer. I’d have to say Denver, which got some solid talent for a second-rate “superstar.” I really like Randolph and Gallinari. But they won’t be teaching a ‘Melo case study at the Harvard Business School any time soon. Cleveland, on the other hand, got nothing but an opportunity to showcase Dan Gilbert’s woeful taste in typeface.
It’s not an entirely fair comparison. For a year, and probably more, LeBron gave Cleveland every indication he would come back. They had no reason to think they needed to explore the trade market for him.
To me, the revelation in all this is that, despite having virtually no leverage, Carmelo got everything he wanted: a max contract under the current collective bargaining agreement AND a trade to New York.
Of course, just when I was ready to ask you whether the labor-management relationship in sports had changed irrevocably, the Utah Jazz went and shipped a legit superstar, Deron Williams, to New Jersey without even asking how he felt about it first. How do you feel about it, Jeremy?
Jeremy: We may finally have something to disagree about in this conversation.
I don’t think the Cavs could have handled the LeBron situation any other way. To me, the key difference between Cleveland at last year’s trade deadline and Denver at this year’s deadline was the expectations for the rest of the season. The Cavs had every reason to think they could win an NBA title last year. You don’t trade the best player in basketball if you have that opportunity, especially not in a city like Cleveland that has gone so long without celebrating a championship. I doubt anyone had the pre-trade Nuggets getting that deep in this year’s playoffs.
On the Deron Williams’ deal, I feel the NBA is starting to resemble Major League Baseball — only less competitive. Just like in MLB, small-market NBA teams are being forced to trade star players they’ve got no chance of resigning just so they can get something in return.
It seems kind of odd to me that it’s come to this. The Knicks are bound by the NBA’s salary cap and rules for max contracts for players, while the Yankees can spend freely as long as they’re willing to pay MLB’s luxury tax. Despite the difference in salary structures, there’s clearly more parity in baseball than there is basketball. The last 10 World Series have featured nine different winners, some huge surprises like the 2003 Marlins, 2006 Cardinals and 2010 Giants. In the NBA, you pretty much know who the four or five best teams are going into each season, and more and more, those teams are coming from the major markets (San Antonio being the notable exception).
With that rant over, let’s get back to LeBron vs. Melo. Who would you rather be right now, the Cavs or the Nuggets?
Jimmy: That’s a tough question. My gut says the Cavs, because the draft lottery makes it a little easier to go from truly awful to good than from mediocre to good. And the Cavs are truly awful.
But Denver does have some nice pieces. While my Wolfpack heart hates to admit it, I love Ty Lawson. Nene (not that NeNe) is a good player, and I could see J.R. Smith flourishing without Carmelo hogging shots.
Still, it’s better to be the Cavs in the long run. No matter how bad it feels right now.