Sam: Is New Jersey really the right place for Melo?


Sam: Is New Jersey really the right place for Melo?

Monday, Jan. 10, 2011
5:45 PM

By Aggrey Sam

With the NBA world currently consumed by the impending potential blockbuster trade of Denver Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Bulls' opponent Monday evening, the Detroit Pistons, are in the middle of the storm. While the Pistons won't get the high-scoring small forward in the proposed deal, as the third team involved to facilitate matters for the Nuggets and the New Jersey Nets, they are key to the months-long rumored swap finally going through.

In case you spent your weekend under a rock, here are the particulars: Denver reportedly will send Anthony, point guard Chauncey Billups, veteran backup point guard Anthony Carter and big man Shelden Williams to New Jersey, the Nets will ship point guard Devin Harris, rookie Derrick Favors, sharpshooter Anthony Morrow, swingman Stephen Graham, undrafted rookie Ben Uzoh and two first-round picks to the Nuggets, and lastly veteran shooting guard Rip Hamilton and a second-round pick goes from Detroit to New Jersey in exchange for Troy Murphy and Johan Petro. Complicated enough?

Of course, there are still obstacles. Denver reportedly wants New Jersey to take on the four-year, 28-million contract of reserve forward Al Harrington (one of multiple players involved in the deal signed to an offseason free-agent contract or in the expiring year of a current deal), ironically, a Jersey native. And then there's the big question: Will Anthony sign a three-year, 65-million contract extension--the deal the Nuggets have had on the table for him since the summer--with the Nets?

The current deal in place--now featuring the Pistons and the disgruntled Hamilton (one of the final pieces remaining from Detroit's last championship team), reportedly engineered by Leon Rose, the shared agent of Anthony and Hamilton--is considered to be likely more amenable to Anthony, as the reunited former Motown backcourt of veterans Billups and Anthony, along with the presence of second-year center Brook Lopez, would seem to be an East playoff contender, even as soon as this season, despite the Nets' present woeful record.

The franchise's plan to move in Brooklyn in two years (fitting the Baltimore-bred superstar's supposed preference to relocate to the Big Apple, let alone that of his wife, a native New Yorker and ex-MTV personality), the allure of Russian owner Mikhail Prokorhov's big pockets and bigger influence, the involvement of rapper Jay-Z and his weariness after constant speculation since the summer--those things would all seem to appease him, especially when scuttlebutt has his All-Star and Olympic buddy, Hornets point guard Chris Paul, poised to join him in two years (or sooner), when his own contract is up.

But what about "Melo," the basketball player? This is somebody accustomed to only winning, from his days at local Charm City high school power Towson Catholic to his one-year stint at national juggernaut Oak Hill Academy, and from his storybook national-championship season as a Syracuse freshman to his tenure in the Rockies, where his Nuggets made the postseason as a rookie and in every campaign since.

Granted, Denver is an aging, flawed squad--Billups and especially ornery power forward Kenyon Martin are on the downsides of their careers, while it's almost a certainty that sixth-man J.R. Smith is in a new uniform next season, if not before, as his erratic play and constant struggles with Nuggets head coach George Karl, back on the sidelines after battling cancer, appear to be reaching a head--but it's still a likely playoff team, even in the competitive West, despite the team's recent struggles, perhaps somewhat due to the Anthony rumors taking a toll on the team's general state of mind.

Unlike some of the other teams reportedly inquiring about Anthony (the Clippers, Rockets and Mavericks, among others), New Jersey is clearly disinterested in merely acquiring arguably the league's premier scoring threat for the remainder of this season, only to see him hop across the Hudson River to play for the Knicks, widely regarded as his destination of choice. As important as a change of scenery is to him, is enduring a level of losing he's never before dealt with (at least initially) worth it in the long run?

Sure, having Billups by his side--despite reports that the Denver native will seek a buyout after the season; he has a team option for the final year of his expiring deal--will help, as will Hamilton, Lopez and even rugged rebounder Kris Humphries, but the Nets are far from a contender in the Eastern Conference. By forcing the hand of Denver's young brass (GM Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke are both in the first year of leading the Nuggets' regime), Anthony could go from a team that gave the eventual champion Lakers all they handle in the Western Conference Finals two years ago to a team about which much is uncertain (including the youngster Lopez, who some observers feel has regressed after an outstanding rookie campaign).

They say the grass isn't always greener on the other side. Well, money (by signing the aforementioned deal with the Nets, Anthony will avoid any potential salary reduction from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement) certainly is green, but not even New Jersey residents would likely describe either downtown Newark or the Nets' future in definitively glowing terms.

But hey, New York is just across the river and Brooklyn is supposedly two years away. Still, one has to wonder if, in hindsight, Anthony will be satisfied with his decision (assuming it actually occurs in the next day or so, as many believe) when that day finally comes--if it finally comes; remember, this is the NBA, where something imminent today can vanish tomorrow.

Aggrey Sam is's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Gar Forman defends Jimmy Butler trade


Bulls Talk Podcast: Gar Forman defends Jimmy Butler trade

On the latest Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Vincent Goodwill recap the Bulls' busy NBA Draft and the decision to trade Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. 

Bulls general manager Gar Forman joins the panel for an exclusive interview. He breaks down why the organization decided to move the three-time All-Star. 

Click here to Bulls Talk Podcast.

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

Nikola Mirotic and why the Bulls traded their second-round pick

The Bulls entered rebuild mode on Thursday night after they dealt Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They acquired a pair of guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, and the No. 7 pick which they used to select Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen.

But the Bulls opted not to continue adding youth to their roster when they sold their second-round pick, No. 38 overall, to the Golden State Warriors. That pick was Oregon power forward Jordan Bell, who many considered a late first-round prospect.

The move was perplexing for a team that hours earlier had traded away its franchise player to start a youth movement. But VP John Paxson said after the draft that the decision to move the pick was based on team depth, hinting at a significant move the Bulls will make in free agency.

"We had some wings on our board that we had targeted that were the only way we were going to keep that (No. 38) pick, and they went before us. And drafting Lauri (Markkanen), and the fact that we have, Niko’s a restricted free agent we intend to bring back, Bobby Portis, we didn’t want to add another big and that’s really all that was left on our board."

Both Paxson and general manager Gar Forman have said since the season ended that Mirotic, who will become a restricted free agent on July 1, is part of their future plans. The Bulls will be able to match any contract that another team offers Mirotic, and they intend to keep the 26-year-old in Chicago. After Butler's departure, Mirotic is now the longest tenured member of the Bulls. He's been with the team for three seasons.

The wings Paxson may have been referring to include Miami's Devon Reed (32nd overall to Phoenix), Kansas State's Wesley Iwundu (33rd overall to Orlando) or SMU's Semi Ojeleye (Boston, 37th overall). Point guards Juwan Evans (Oklahoma State) and Sterling Brown (SMU) were still on the board and potential options, but the Bulls were set on looking for wing help after receiving point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Zach LaVine in the Butler trade.

The Bulls frontcourt depth looks filled, as Cristiano Felicio is expected to return behind Brook Lopez. Mirotic, Portis, Markkanen and Joffrey Lauvergne should make up the power forward depth chart. Opting against using the 38th pick, which Golden State bought for a whopping $3.5 million, also leaves the Bulls with room to add a 13th player in the fall.

"It keeps us at 12 roster spots and gives us real flexibility for our roster," Paxson said. "So we didn’t just want to use up a roster spot on a player that we probably wouldn’t have kept."