Cake is the most edible and least offensive substance that Carmelo Anthony is full of these days.
In the mid-1500s, English writer John Heywood penned the phrase "wolde you bothe eate your cake, and have your cake?" in his book of proverbs entitled, A dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue. Clearly the English language has evolved since the 1500s (namely spelling), but this particular proverb still rings true.
Heywood alludes to one's inability to eat an entire cake and then still have a delicious cake leftover. Heywood makes a powerful statement about the human condition, specifically man's dark propensity for greed. We seem to want what we cannot have, and we generally desire more than we deserve.
Yes, greed is good. It spurs innovation by fostering competition. People work harder and often achieve more because they want to acquire luxury goods (money for themselves, clothes, cars, vacation time, money to give to others, etc.) The human penchant for more is especially prevalent in multi-million dollar entertainment industries, such as the NBA.
NBA players, like lawyers, financiers, and congressmen, are capitalists. As such, these large-framed, incredibly athletic businessmen hold the right to fulfill their respective maximum earning potentials. They are also entitled to work wherever they want once they fulfill the terms of a current contract and declare free agency. Repeat after me, "Once they fulfill the terms of a current contract." One more time, "Con-tract." Very good!
It is here that Carmelo loses his moral footing and becomes a bit of a LeBron (aka a villain, a McAsshole or, like Jay Cutler, a little bitch.) Carmelo becomes a LeBron because he wants to have his cake and eat it, too. He is gluttonous because he has (not so) quietly postured for a trade since last summer while claiming all he wants to do is play basketball and win an NBA championship. The only thing Carmelo is qualified to do is play basketball, so I'm sure that he does in fact want to play basketball. Since Carmelo is a professional competitor, I trust he also desires a championship. But this is not his end goal, and he lies every time he looks at a reporter and says it is.
His end goal is playing for the Knicks. This is fine, in theory. I'd certainly be sad to see him leave Denver. Yet, I'd be somewhat irrational if I resent Carmelo for the duration of his career had he put the contract talk on hold in September, kept Leon Rose at bay, played his heart out this season, and then ultimately signed with the Knicks in July. In other words, Carmelo could call me the crazy one if he had not acted like a Somali pirate on an Exxon tanker by holding the Nuggets organization and fan base hostage for the last seven months. Considering there has been a "Melo Watch" link on espn.com for nearly 200 days, it is now abundantly clear that Carmelo has indeed acted like a Somali pirate. He did not put his contract talk on hold or keep Leon Rose at bay; whether or not he has played his heart out for his team this season is debatable, even though few Nuggets fans can stomach watching this uncommitted, divided team play basketball.
Legacy aside, Carmelo deserves to make as much money as he is worth according to NBA league rules. If Carmelo wants to make as much money as possible, then he should have signed the Nuggets extension by now. The Nuggets own his "Bird Rights," allowing them to offer him more guaranteed cash than any other team in the Association. "Bird Rights" were established as a means of enticing NBA superstars to stay with their original teams, especially in smaller markets. However, if Carmelo desires superstardom in New York City, then he should absolutely sign with the Knicks once his Nuggets contract expires. Carmelo's desire to play for the Knicks is not morally reprehensible. I moved from Denver to New York City for a period of my life and loved every second of it. Furthermore, I shudder when I consider how much more awesome my life in NYC would have been if I was worth a cool $100 million, had a Jordan shoe deal, and everyone loved me. Either way (especially if he is leaning towards leaving Denver), Carmelo and his agents should shut up in the mean time.
Carmelo's mistake is his belief that NBA rules do not apply to him. His choice is actually quite simple: sign the extension with Denver for more money, which would still allow him to go via trade to the future Brooklyn Nets, or go to the Knicks via free agency for less money. In the real world, every decision carries a consequence. Carmelo does not want to deal with the consequences of his actions, namely earning less money for the luxury of choosing to sign outright with the Knicks. At least LeBron took care of business on the court night in and night out until his final appearance in a Cavs uniform. LeBron did not let his impending financial decision stop his team from compiling the best record in the NBA or from making a deadline deal for Antawn Jamison with the aim of winning a title. Perhaps the Cavaliers' front office should have seen LeBron's departure coming and traded him before last year's deadline, but it was the organization's decision to overlook this scenario; Cleveland, I feel for you, but it's Dan Gilbert's fault the Cavs are horrible right now. LeBron and his people did not mettle while the Cavs were trying to win basketball games. LeBron also understood and quietly accepted the financial consequences of leaving Cleveland, taking a pay cut to join Wade. For this, I believe LeBron acted more competitively and nobly up until the moment he announced his departure than Carmelo has this season.
Carmelo's appetite is excessive because he has rendered the last fifty-seven Nuggets games meaningless, and he isn't even man enough to step up and explain himself. He merely repeats the same rehearsed lie about his desire to win, not being young anymore (um, he's 26!), and working hard in the face of adversity. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. I'd respect him more if he came out and said, "Hell yes, trade me...please! I want to get paid to call Madison Square Garden my home!" Instead Carmelo coyly spoke of how good it felt to finally be wanted after spending time in Manhattan during December when the Nuggets played the Knicks.
A week ago, Carmelo hit a new low when he had the audacity to pat himself on the back. When asked for the 47,000th time about being traded, Carmelo said, "I think it takes a strong-willed person, a strong-minded person, to deal with the stuff that I deal with and still go out there and go to work every day and perform on a nightly basis. I take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff that's going on and still be able to go out there and play at the high level that I can play at. I really don't think an average person can walk in my shoes. I don't think that.''
So, Carmelo takes his hat off to himself? What the hell? Does Carmelo think we are all stupid? I mean, I hope he does because that would begin to convince me that he's not a moronic megalomaniac. Carmelo, you and the mega agency that represents you created all the "stuff" you're dealing with! Sure, the media has played a large role in proliferating discussion of clandestine trade talks, but public awareness has only increased Carmelo's leverage. Anyone who has ever worked in PR knows that agencies, like CAA, constantly "pitch" stories to reporters with the aim of gaining press/notoriety for their clients. As the saying goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity. Talk spurs action, which leads to results.
I understand the business of basketball. Hell, I love the business of basketball. I live and breathe offseason hoops. Player operations fascinate me. I breakdown and invent trades when I lie in bed at night (or while I sit at my desk hating my day job.) Unfortunately, my firstborn will not bear the initials MLE because my last name starts with a "D." Even so, the Carmelo saga disgusts me. At first, I was merely upset. As a Nuggets fan, I did not want to see our franchise traded away. However, I took a step back, examined the situation as an NBA enthusiast, and promptly wretched at the situation I observed. Carmelo Anthony illuminates just how dangerously powerful NBA players have grown in the past decade.
Many deserve blame for the gross exaggeration of Carmelo's contract situation. Though Carmelo ultimately merits criticism for his actions and inaction, the Nuggets' front office should also fall under considerable scrutiny. Perhaps Carmelo would not be thinking about the Knicks if Wark and Co. had acquired a legitimate big man to put beside Nene before last season, putting the Nuggets in a better position to advance past the first round of the 2010 playoffs. The Nuggets made it to the 2009 Western Conference Finals because they were talented, but they were also extremely lucky when it came to injuries. Though George Karl's unfortunate leave of absence in 2010 was unavoidable and unforeseen, refusing to acquire a talented big man after advancing to the WCF was detrimental to the team's continued success. The Nuggets front office also should have thought about the organization's fans before playing chicken against Carmelo and CAA until the eleventh hour. Memo to Josh Kroenke: it is impossible to get excited about a team that is doomed to die, especially when any and all media coverage surrounding said team speculates on its non-committal star and bleak fate. Lest to say, that NBA Broadband subscription is $100 I'll never see again...
To be fair, fans must remember that Carmelo has done a great deal for basketball in Denver. His arrival signaled a new beginning for the Nuggets organization. His talent immediately made the Nuggets a playoff team, reviving NBA basketball in the Rocky Mountain region. I am forever grateful that the Nuggets drafted Carmelo (well, I suppose I'm actually thankful that Joe Dumars drafted Darko because I'm certain that Kiki would have passed on Carmelo for the "next Nowitzki.") I do consider myself lucky to have witnessed his growth as an NBA player, but most of all I'm just happy that 45-win seasons became normal and the Nuggets consistently remained relevant into the summer months. Carmelo's enormous impact on Denver is what makes this split so bittersweet.
In the coming week, we will all wake up and read headlines detailing where Carmelo will continue his career. I wish Carmelo handled this situation more gracefully and honestly. I wish the Nuggets solved this problem more expediently, but big-business negotiations are rarely swift, harmonious endeavors. I wish the front office tried one last time to provide Carmelo with one more piece for a final championship run, but the Cavs organization is a portrait of why "mortgaging the ranch" in the NBA is never a good idea. I hope Chauncey will still be in Denver. I hope Michael Jordan thinks Carmelo is a soft punk who knows nothing of sacrifice, and he decides to drop Melo from the Jordan brand.
Most of all, I hope that the Nuggets get quality, somewhat proven pieces in return for Carmelo. Furthermore, I hope the Nuggets use and manage talented pieces more wisely in the future. For John Heywood also wrote, "Rome wasn't built in a day."