Carmelo Anthony Admits Opting Out Next Summer Is 'Big Risk'
If the Denver star forward opts out of his contract next summer, he stands to lose tens of millions of dollars if a new NBA collective bargaining agreement severely curtails minimum salaries.
"It's scary,'' Anthony said after the Nuggets' first practice of the season on Tuesday about the uncertainty of a new CBA. "Of course, it's scary. There's a lot of anxiety to see what's going to happen.''
With that in mind, Anthony admitted it would be risky to opt out of his contract next summer. But then he said it's not all about money.
"It's a big thing. It's a big risk,'' Anthony said. "But at the end of the day, it's about basketball. Money is money. Money's going to be there. It's about basketball.''
Anthony has a three-year, $64.47 million Nuggets contract extension offer on the table that he has not yet wanted to sign. Worried about possibly losing Anthony for nothing, the Nuggets are looking into the possibility of trading their star, although they could wait until close to the February trade deadline to see if Anthony can be convinced to sign the extension.
Last July, when it appeared Anthony might be willing to eventually sign the extension, FanHouse broke down some of the numbers on how much money he could lose if he doesn't sign it and opts out next summer. This takes into account that Anthony would make $18.52 million next season if he doesn't opt out of his deal, and his extension would begin in 2012-13 and take him through 2014-15
While all this is speculation, if Anthony were to opt out of his contract and a new CBA caps maximum contracts at $12 million, that would be a loss of $35 million over four seasons. If maximum deals were to be capped at $14 million, it would be a loss of $27 million during that period.
That's why the Nuggets are in a much better position than, say, Toronto was last season with Chris Bosh, who eventually bolted as a free agent to Miami. Bosh always knew what the salary rules would be while Anthony doesn't.
"Hopefully, we as players and the owners can come to an agreement that suits both, players and the owners,'' Anthony said of a lockout possibly looming as there is talk about a new CBA curtailing maximum salaries. "We shall see. It is a little scary.''
Rumors have swirled recently about the Nuggets possibly trading Anthony before the start of the season. But a proposed four-team trade, first reported last Friday by ESPN.com, was officially ruled dead Tuesday. The trade, which also would have included Charlotte and Utah, was reported as having the Nuggets receive Nets forward Derrick Favors, Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko and a first-round draft choice for Anthony.
With all rumors going around, Anthony said the basketball court is a place to get away.
"This is my safe haven right here,'' Anthony said. "When I come here, I ain't got to deal with all the other stuff.''
Nuggets coach George Karl was pleased with Anthony's first day of practice. He said there was no evidence of all the speculation weighing on him.
"I give Melo an A for the practice,'' Karl said. "He had some leadership in practice. I thought he was very professional, very mature.'
Karl is trying to convince Anthony to want to stay long term with the Nuggets. With it becoming evident Anthony isn't likely to be traded imminently as Nuggets officials work to keep him, Karl is expected to speak with Anthony later in the week.
Karl will tell Anthony the Nuggets, with several expiring contracts, have a chance to have salary cap room next summer. Karl believes they could then lure some top free agents.
"The perfect storm probably in my mind is to keep Melo, convince him that this is the best place for him, that this is where he's going to win more games, that this is the place where he has to win a championship,'' Karl said. "And be a destination spot for those guys who are going to become free agents in the next year or two. Our salary structure gets under control next year.
"We probably aren't a top two or three team destination in the league. But why can't (we) be in the next tier of destinations for some superstars, some studs?... I know that when I was a free agent (as a coach), I didn't want to go to a bad team. I didn't want that challenge.''
Anthony talked last June about wanting to see how the Nuggets are looking and what kind of moves they are making before committing long term. He admitted Tuesday he wished the Nuggets could have done more during the summer.
"I mean, of course,'' Anthony said. "Everybody wants to get better in anything you do, any profession in life, you want to get better. Us signing Al (Harrington) was a good addition to the team. Are we looking for something else? That's something the front office has got to sit down and think about.''
So is Anthony waiting to see what transpires before making his ultimate decision on whether he will sign an extension with the Nuggets?
"My thing is I just want to keep my options open,'' Anthony said. "If they feel like they can do something to better the team, then do it. As far as me, I'm just keeping all that stuff open.''
Will it help the chances of Anthony staying if the Nuggets do improve the team?
"I don't know, man,'' Anthony said. "That time hasn't come yet.''
Anthony is willing to meet with Karl.
"He said he wanted to get together one day this week,'' Anthony said. "I don't know exactly when. Like I told him, I want to focus on basketball right now. If he wants to sit and talk to me about what to do tomorrow at practice or the next day, then we can sit down and talk about that.''
For now, Anthony bristled when a reporter asked him if there was any chance that he wouldn't be giving 100 percent with all of this uncertainty occurring.
"Hell no,'' Anthony said. "I love the game too much to disrespect the game like that. Anytime I step on the court, I'm going to give it my all, regardless of what's going on, what's the situation. I've been through so much in my short career so far, earlier in my career, and still was able to perform on the court.
"Going through bad stuff, facing adversity. This is not adversity. This is basketball. People want me, trade talks and rumors and all that stuff. This is basketball. I focus on basketball, It's something I know how to do and I love to do. As far as my effort on the court, nobody can question that.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson