I'm reminded this NBA off-season of the Google catchphrase: "Don't be evil."
That's what I'd encourage Carmelo Anthony to do as he plans his future with the Denver Nuggets. Obviously Anthony can leave Denver and go play for another team -- but if Anthony's learned anything at all from the way that his cohorts conducted themselves this off-season it's that how he leaves matters. Signs so far, however, lead me to believe that Anthony's taken a different message from the LeBron saga, recognizing the leverage and power that he now has as the biggest free agent and therefore automatic subject of media frenzy.
'Melo should tread carefully. LeBron's move to Miami could have been handled better, as many have pointed out, and 'Melo needs to consider how he plans to leave Denver, if that's his plan. But with the way that the story has begun so far -- with reports that 'Melo's unhappy there -- it seems we may have another LeBron on our hands. If Anthony believes that he's going to gain from expressing his interest in keeping his options open, we need to get the point across to him and the rest of the league that this can't be a distraction in the same way that LeBron and his new Miami Heat teammates commanded the discussion for so long. We won't stand for it.
The backlash against LeBron was not entirely focused on the man and his conduct. It was a larger statement about the proper role of free agency and off-season drama. The media would have been wise then to ignore these 'Melo reports and to let the Nuggets and rest of the teams go on planning for the next year and scouting summer talent. The fact that we're already even talking about Anthony's move this summer or next is showcasing the problem. If Anthony wasn't already considering his options, he probably is now. If not for his future team prospects, but more in how to remain in the spotlight as LeBron had for a year leading up to his anticlimactic decision. Anthony may choose to go down that road as well.
Here's why he shouldn't: What we saw this summer was a first, and that's why it struck us so hard. Anthony's not going to find the same landscape waiting for him, to honor and chase after him in the same way. Perhaps the New York Knicks will make a play for Anthony right now to avoid having to endure the confusion and rumors that are bound to circulate as we head into 2011. It would be a wise move for the Knicks to grab 'Melo now, giving them the assurance that they won't have to compete with other contenders down the line. It'll give the Knicks the franchise player they so desperately need. But most of all, it'll protect the NBA from seeing another star player hold the rest of the league an arm's distance away while they watch him pose and position himself. If I have to root for the Knicks to salvage a shred of dignity for the NBA, I guess I will.
This post originally ran on The Sports Nook blog.