The Lakers have answered yesterday’s question of whether their reported talks with the Nuggets were anything the Knicks (and their fans) should worry about. That answer? Nope. Lakers officials say that they’re not interested in a Carmelo Anthony–for–Andrew Bynum swap, and according to the Times, “Although the Lakers will eventually need a star to replace [Kobe] Bryant, the sentiment within the organization is that this is not the time to acquire one.” With a smile, Phil Jackson offered up a trade he’d be willing to sign off on: seldom-used Derrick Caracter, straight up, for Anthony. But back in reality, it looks like the Lakers aren’t pursuing the Nuggets forward.
So where does this leave us? Anthony said yesterday that he’d consider signing an extension with Denver if he wasn’t traded, so for a moment, let’s assume that signing an extension now (and not entering free agency under the terms of a new collective-bargaining agreement) is important to Carmelo but not the only factor that will guide him. It raises two questions: Would the Nuggets force Anthony to make that decision by hanging onto him — or at least demanding a better package in return — thinking that he might really sign an extension with Denver and avoid signing his next deal under a new CBA? And if Denver demands more from the Knicks by saying that they’re willing to let the deadline pass without a trade, do the Knicks call their bluff, knowing that all indications to this point have been that Anthony wants out of Denver?
Since the Nets dropped out, the Knicks had been in near-perfect negotiating position: Denver, it appeared, had no other trading partners and no chance of retaining Anthony beyond this season. Now that the Lakers have said they’re not pursuing Anthony, it appears the Knicks are once again the only team in the mix.
Except now, just like when Anthony may have been forced to consider signing an extension with the Nets, this could come down to how badly he wants the bigger money of an extension, even if it doesn’t land him in what we assume is his preferred destination. Or perhaps more accurately, it could come down to how badly Denver thinks he wants that contract now. If they don’t truly believe he’ll stay in Denver, then we’re right back to where we were two days ago — which is good news for the Knicks.