Chauncey Billups Will Join Carmelo Anthony Recruitment After Worlds
Win a gold medal in the World Championship.
Win back Carmelo Anthony, if that is needed.
While recently-hired Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said his top priority now is to convince Anthony to sign a three-year, $64.7 million extension offer that is on the table, Billups said he also plans to join in the recruiting of Anthony when he returns to Denver following the conclusion of the Worlds on Sept. 12.
"Everybody knows that I want Melo to be a Nugget, and I would love for me to be a Nugget for the rest of my career and finish with him,'' the Team USA captain said in an interview Saturday with FanHouse. "When I get back (from Turkey), I'm going to try to get back into the situation and hopefully keep Melo back in Denver.''
Billups said he mostly has been out of the loop with Anthony in the three weeks he has been overseas, including the past 1-1/2 weeks in Istanbul. Anthony, who has gotten into movie production in recent years, spent part of that time in China working on a film.
Billups last spoke with Anthony about a month ago. After that conversation, Billups told FanHouse that Anthony was "doing good'' and Billups was "optimistic'' about Anthony signing the extension, which would eliminate Anthony's ability to opt out next summer and become a free agent and take him through the 2014-15 season.
Since then, there have been reports of Anthony wanting out of Denver. But Billups said he doesn't know if that is true.
"I don't know (since) I haven't talked to him for a while whether things may have changed or may haven't changed,'' Billups said. "But I'm still hopeful that he does (sign the extension). But at the same time, it's his life and his situation. He's going to do what's best for him and his family.
"In the NBA, I've seen stranger things, man. Just me being a Nugget right now is strange. Everybody thought I was going to end up being a Piston the rest of my career (before being traded in November 2008 from Detroit to Denver). It's crazy how things work out.''
might wait until after the season starts or perhaps until close to the June 30, 2011, deadline before deciding whether to sign it.
"I'm not going to rush into anything," Anthony, who will make $17.15 million this season and would earn $18.52 million in 2011-12 if he doesn't opt out, said at the time. "That's always an option. ... I definitely don't have to do it this summer."
No doubt the Nuggets would like to have an answer by the February trade deadline so as not to risk losing Anthony next summer as a free agent for nothing. Then again, with the threat of a new collective bargaining agreement put in place next summer that drastically could reduce maximum salaries, the Nuggets might believe in the end that Anthony would not risk possibly leaving so much money on the table.
If Anthony, who said in June he wants to see how the Nuggets are looking before possibly signing, remains unsigned when the season starts, Billups said the best solution would be getting off to a good start.
"I think so,'' Billups said. "I think winning solves everything.''
Jim Boeheim, a Team USA assistant and Anthony's coach at Syracuse, agrees with Billups. Boeheim, who expects to see Anthony on the Syracuse campus shortly before the start of Denver's training camp, could see it as prudent for Anthony to evaluate how the Nuggets look this season.
"He's had a great experience in Denver,'' Boeheim, who last spoke with Anthony at his July 10 wedding in New York, said in an interview with FanHouse. "I know he wants to win and he wants to get where he can win. Denver's got a good core of players. If they can add a guy, even one guy, not necessarily a whole lot of guys, they have a chance to be very good. The NBA is so crazy now. He wants to win just like everybody. And, if Denver can win, I'm sure that he can stay there.
"He's comfortable (in Denver). I think Melo's thing is to stay where he feels comfortable. He's got to see what Denver does and how the contracts go. ... He should play and have a great year and try to let that work out.''
While it would aid the Nuggets' cause to get off to a great start next season, it won't help that starting forward Kenyon Martin is likely to be out indefinitely at the beginning recovering from offseason knee surgery. Forward Chris Andersen also had knee surgery during the offseason but indications are that, while Andersen will be limited in training camp, he could be ready for the Oct. 27 regular-season opener.
But it might be the long-term future in Denver that most worries Anthony. Nuggets coach George Karl, returning after missing the final 1-1/2 months of last season due to a form of throat cancer, is entering the final season of his contract and might not be back for 2011-12.
It's also uncertain if Billups, who then will be 35, will be back in 2011-12. The Nuggets must decide by June 20, 2011, whether to pick up the $14.2 million he's due that season or buy him out for $3.7 million.
Billups told FanHouse last month it could help Denver's chances to retain Anthony if they offer assurances Billups will be back in 2011-12. For now, Billups said the most important thing for the Nuggets, who advanced to the Western Conference finals in 2008-09 before being upset in the first round last spring by Utah when Karl was out, is to win now.
"I've got to be more concerned with the present time,'' Billups said. "My future is kind of uncertain as well. I'm part of it (Denver's future uncertainty). So all I can really worry about is the present, is to try to come together and be that special team this year.''
Billups never has met Ujiri, who was with the Nuggets as a scout from 2003-07 before departing a little bit more than a year before Billups arrived in Denver. But Billups said he's heard great things about Ujiri, Toronto's assistant general manager before being hired last month by the Nuggets, shortly after they let go of executives Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman.
"What I heard, it's an excellent signing,'' Billups said. "Just talking to (Toronto coach) Jay Triano and Bryan Colangelo (the Raptors general manager who has been at the Worlds), they were devastated to see him leave. Devastated. So that speaks volumes.''
Triano, a Team USA assistant, confirmed what Billups said.
"It's a tough loss for our organization,'' Triano said of Ujiri's departure. "He's such a good guy. He and Bryan talked all the time. He had a great relationship with the players. He's extremely personable and extremely knowledgeable. It's a win for Denver.''
The Raptors recently went through star forward Chris Bosh opting out of his contract and bolting to Miami as a free agent. The difference was Bosh didn't have to worry about possible drastic changes in the collective bargaining agreement.
Still, Traino believes Ujiri's experience going through the Bosh situation and of previously being in Denver will help the chances of the Nuggets retraining their star forward.
"It think (it will),'' Triano said. "And (Ujiri's) got a relationship with (Anthony) from before.''
Ujiri is doing the recruiting now of Anthony. In a bit more than a week, Billups will join him.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson