The Trading Carmelo Anthony Debate Verdict

August 27, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Loyal Homer.

Deciding what to do about the future of Carmelo Anthony is a problem which must weigh heavily on the minds of the Denver Nuggets’ organization and fans. Any path the Nuggets take is sure to draw criticism. If he is traded for prospects the team will draw fire for giving up on competing for a championship. Denver will be forced to commit to one of the most heinous and unpopular acts a successful franchise can commit – rebuilding. But if Carmelo stays and Denver fails to win the NBA championship, the organization will be ridiculed for walking away with nothing. Cynics will point to this critical juncture – the decision not to trade Anthony – as the pivotal moment when Denver mortgaged the future of the team because of misguided, foolhardy optimism. While this may very well be a make or break moment for the franchise, it is a far easier decision for me to make.

Bleacher Fan made a passionate plea for making the conservative choice, dealing Anthony to ensure the Nuggets don’t end up empty handed. He drew scathing comparisons between Anthony and several other high profile athletes he deemed unscrupulous in pursuit of a change of scenery. He went as far as to call out Darrelle Revis, Chris Paul, and of course LeBron James, by name. This, however, seems like an unfair comparison because unlike Revis and Paul, Anthony is not demanding a trade before his contract expires. Admittedly, there are conflicting reports fueled by friends, family, and the media about Anthony’s stance on a potential trade. But he is not certainly forcing the Nuggets to deal him. It is rather Denver’s dilemma about what to do with him.

While I highly disagree with his diatribe of athletes seeking better deals in free agency, we did find common ground on the belief that Anthony holds a considerable amount of leverage if he should seek a deal with a new team. The deck is stacked in his favor because with free agency lurking around the corner, the potential of ‘Melo leaving the Mile High City without a championship – and getting nothing in return – could have Denver execs running scared. The fear of such a scenario playing out was enough to prompt Bleacher Fan to suggest the two sides part ways now.

Loyal Homer, on the other hand, was not so convinced. He believes in the talent surrounding Anthony in Denver. He stated that the only wisdom in keeping ‘Melo for another season is to be competitive now. Loyal Homer wrote that Anthony’s friend and teammate, Chauncey Billups, could be a difference maker in the upcoming season, not to mention the corps of players like Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Birdman Anderson. With a talented roster and the return of dynamic head coach George Karl, the Nuggets have to be considered legitimate playoff contenders. With that in mind, the urgency to move ‘Melo is substantially diminished.

Similarly, my gut tells me that the Nuggets aren’t likely to acquire anyone in a trade for Anthony that would fill his shoes. The void created by ‘Melo’s departure could not easily be filled, and the team’s ability to compete may be compromised for years. These conclusions led Loyal Homer to support the risky decision to hang onto Anthony for one more run.

I simply could not disagree with Loyal Homer’s logic. A championship could entice ‘Melo to stay and attract more stars to the Nuggets. Loyal Homer implied that keeping Carmelo Anthony for the 2010 season is a calculated risk, but one that could pay off in a big way, and for that reason I’m awarding the victory to Loyal Homer.

Many teams consider Carmelo Anthony the next best thing to LeBron James. So why would a team in pursuit of a championship give a player of that quality up before they had to? In the wake of LeBron’s decision drama it is easy to suggest the Nuggets should take whatever they can get for ‘Melo before it’s too late. But that would mean completely writing off the chances of a playoff-ready team solely on the basis of worst case scenarios.

While I understand that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, I simply cannot support any move that knowingly hurts a team’s immediate competitiveness. The last time I checked, the object of the game is to win. And the object of the season is to win the championship. Any move that hinders that pursuit is not true to the ultimate goal of the sport.

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The Trading Carmelo Anthony Debate… A Championship Run Could Change His Mind

August 26, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

It still baffles me that there is a very real possibility Carmelo Anthony is playing his last season in a Denver Nuggets’ uniform. He may not even make it through the season as Denver could decide to trade Anthony if he refuses to sign the offered contract extension. Even though the Nuggets risk losing him at the end of the season to free agency, I still believe it would be wise to let the season play out with Carmelo Anthony in the mile high city.

We’ve literally seen Carmelo Anthony grow up before our eyes. We saw him win a national championship as a freshman in college at Syracuse, making our many readers in that part of the country very happy back in 2003. We’ve seen him charged with marijuana possession back in 2004, though those charges were later dropped. We’ve also seen him score at least 20 points per game every season of his career while elevating the Nuggets into one of the top contenders in the Western Conference every season. My opinion of ‘Melo actually changed for the better with the leadership role he took on in the 2008 Summer Olympics as a member of the “Redeem Team.” He helped lead that team to the gold medal as arguably the team’s most consistent player.

Now talk that ‘Melo could leave Denver after the season, or at some point during the season, has merit. He hasn’t come out yet and demanded a trade. He’s actually been relatively quiet on the subject for the most part, which is a breath of fresh air from the circus with you know who. In fact, many of ‘Melo’s “friends” are doing much of the talking regarding this topic. His new bride continues to hype the Knicks as a possible future destination. Chris Paul and Amar’e Stoudemire playfully suggested at ‘Melo’s wedding that the three of them could join forces and rival the trio down in South Beach. Meanwhile, Chauncey Billups, his current teammate, says Anthony has no idea what he wants to do right now.

Carmelo Anthony’s decision is not made. A strong season by the Denver Nuggets could hold sway in his decision. The Nuggets have a team capable of putting together a strong season. In addition to Anthony and Billups, the Nuggets have a strong nucleus consisting of guys like Nene, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, and Chris “Birdman” Anderson. These guys can make a run, especially with the return of George Karl. The Nuggets weren’t the same team once their head coach took a leave of absence to deal with neck and throat cancer. Coach Karl is back though and you can bet the team will be energized.

It’s a risk let the season play out, but it’s a calculated risk that the Denver Nuggets have to take. This guy has been the face of the franchise for the past seven years. The team is going to bank on warm and fuzzy feelings from Denver fans to sway ‘Melo’s decision. You know he will receive a hero’s welcome every time he takes the court at The Pepsi Center. And a deep run in the playoffs by the Nuggets, which is entirely possible, may just be a deciding factor in what he does following this season.

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The Is LRMR Good For the NBA Debate… A Cautionary Tale for the NBA

August 3, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

If history repeats itself, NBA Commissioner David Stern, and the owners he represents around the league, better start brushing up on Boxing History 101.

The Decline of Boxing

The sport of boxing, which was once considered one of the premier sports in the United States, has been diminished almost to the point of irrelevance. While there are many factors that have contributed to the sport’s slip into obscurity, one of the key issues that has threatened the viability of boxing is the selfish “pay-day” mentality of its athletes.

The history of boxing has been always been defined by its great fights: Ali versus Frazier, Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling, Sugar Ray Leonard versus Marvelous Marvin Hagler, The Rumble in the Jungle. These were all fights slated to determine which fighter was the best, and the sport thrived as a result. Nowadays, fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather allow contract disputes over paychecks and other trivialities to get in the way of those potentially great battles, the types of battles that would benefit EVERYONE in the boxing world.

Boxing promoters such as Don King, Bob Arum, and Lou DiBella have helped to facilitate a shift in focus for the sport, and a greater emphasis has been placed on the fighter at the expense of the event. These “super fighters” have become more important than the “super fights” by usurping the authority of the boxing sport. Now, boxing is driven by the whims of its biggest stars, not the needs of the sport.

What is important to the sport has been superseded by what is important to the athlete.

Premier bouts were moved first from network to cable broadcasts, and then from cable to pay-per-view. Why? So the fighters and promoters could draw bigger paychecks. The problem is that the move to pay-per-view has restricted the accessibility of the sport, and the general public has lost interest because it cannot easily (or affordably) view the greatest matches.

Boxing condoned a system where the athletes and promoters were allowed to be self-serving and focus on their personal benefit, rather than the benefit of the game. Selfishness and greed have completely changed the sport of boxing, and it is all bad.

Boxing’s journey is the history lesson the NBA needs.

LRMR Marketing, the brain-child of LeBron James and his high school buddies, has essentially become a boxing promoter in the NBA. It has started to shift the focus of the sport away from the most important event – the game – and onto the athletes themselves.

Celebrity over Substance

LRMR has already orchestrated countless scenarios where pre-game and pre-season activities are becoming a bigger spectacle than the games. From choreographed pre-game introductions and LeBron’s puff of baby powder to “The Decision” and the fiasco that was the 2010 free agency season, LRMR has successfully placed their premier athlete on a pedestal above the league itself.

The result of these actions? The future of the NBA (at least for the next several seasons) has been scripted through back-room deals between selfish players rather than on the court, where it SHOULD be determined. LRMR, behind the free agency of LeBron James, has staged a coup where IT (and not the competition of the league) has set the course of events for the NBA. LRMR’s machinations have also cheapened the value of ESPN, an organization that claims to be a legitimate sports NEWS source. LRMR hijacked the network and turned it into yet another tool for self-promotion.

First, a full hour was reserved… dedicated prime-time coverage (with almost no notice) so that LeBron could make a 30-second statement. This statement was not that he would be running for Congress, or that he was retiring from the game, or any other sensational news story that would normally warrant this kind of attention. No, he was just announcing the team he intended to sign a basketball contract to play for. And he took a FULL HOUR!

Then, last week, an article was published on that highlighted the escapades of LeBron as he threw a lavish Las Vegas party. However, the article (which portrayed LeBron James in a less than favorable light) magically vanished from the website just minutes after it was published.

Those incidents have cheapened the value of ESPN as a viable organization by giving the appearance that it is nothing more than an extension of LRMR Marketing. Rather than risk the ire of a sports celebrity and get on his bad side by remaining UNBIASED in reporting, ESPN has sold its agenda to the latest pop-culture star.

The Snowball Effect

LeBron is not the lone stud in LRMR’s stable of celebrity talent. New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul (who happens to be another buddy of LeBron’s) has joined the three-ring circus at LRMR Marketing, and cast aside the seemingly sound (and successful) advice of his previous representation to get his moment in the sun.

Following the lead of the league’s newest prima donna, Paul feels he is OWED a championship, and with the help of LRMR has attempted to force a trade so he can join his own version of an All-Star roster.

Although no charges or allegations have been made regarding specific actions, warnings have been issued across the league against tampering.

The league does not usually issue a tampering warning when a player wants an early out from their current contract, so why issue one in this case? If you read between the lines, the implication behind that warning is very straightforward – LeBron and LRMR Marketing have already proven once that they are willing to negotiate the future of the NBA in closed-door, back-room deals, and it is assumed that they will do it again.

All of these actions by LRMR Marketing, and the two athletes whom it represents, have done nothing but cheapen the value of the NBA. They have chipped away at the competitiveness of the league in an attempt to take (rather than win) a championship via the path of least resistance. They have demonstrated that player collusion (whether permitted by the rules or not) to use to manufacture an ideal situation. They have shown that their motivation is self-service, even if it comes at the expense of everyone else in the league.

I am not advocating a system where a player should have no say in their future. However, a delicate balance must be maintained between the two. In the battle between teams and players, if either side assumes “control” over the other it is bad for the league.

The NBA is a league centered around TEAM competition. The interests of the league are best served when the overall competition of the league and its TEAMS (not players) are protected. When individual players begin to chip away at the level of competition in the league, all in the pursuit of self-service, it is bad for everyone involved.

The NBA should learn from the state of boxing as it exists today. The more control that individual players have over the game, the more the viability of the league is eroded away.

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The Is LRMR Good For the NBA Debate… LRMR Spells Collaborative Empowerment

August 3, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

This whole LRMR thing is getting out of hand.

The problem is people don’t know what LRMR is and what it is here to do. So please allow me to clarify. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an enemy of the state. It’s not a seedy crime syndicate. And it’s not an evil force out to destroy the world.

So now that we know what LRMR isn’t – the Taliban, the mafia, or Justin Beiber – let us try to establish what LRMR is.

It is a marketing agency, plain and simple. A marketing agency that is trying to strengthen the brand of those it represents through collaborative endorsement, not undermine basketball.

Think about the Michael Jordan brand. On his own MJ is one of the most marketable sports stars in history, but somewhere along the lines he discovered that his brand was stronger and more valuable when it was supported by a broad network of stars. Today, names like Derek Jeter, Jason Taylor, and Carmelo Anthony all represent the Jordan brand in different sports and cities, now the Jordan symbol is truly iconic and transcends basketball. That’s similar to the approach that LRMR is implementing, but it is not just limited to a player’s brand. Now players seek to establish control over their careers and where they will play by working together. This collaborative empowerment is not a threat to basketball, but is simply the next logical step in the progression of the game. LRMR is leading the way though the journey is not without its fair share of struggles.

At the very heart of the issue is the simple fact that LRMR is a marketing agency that is ironically experiencing a bit of bad publicity. The focal figure of the agency is the talented and controversial LeBron James. The company was built by, for, and around King James and his brand. That means as goes the public perception of James, so goes that of LRMR. Despite being nearly a month removed from “The Decision” there is still a significant backlash against James, and not surprisingly the negative feelings carry over to LRMR.

But what has the company actually done wrong? I say, “nothing!” LRMR has put its clients in the driver’s seat to their future. It has driven up value through collaboration with other stars. Nowhere is that more apparent than with James’ decision to join with stars and friend Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Clearly James and his agency believed that his worth as part of a super team was even greater than being the biggest fish in a small pond. The fact that it wasn’t just LeBron choosing, but James and Co. deciding where the best opportunities exist for everyone speaks volumes of this new collective player empowerment.

Some critics may attack this strategy and decry it as collusion, but that’s far from accurate. Collusion refers to a secretive agreement, which James decision to consult with other free agents certainly wasn’t. Near the end of the playoffs James seemed to be telling anyone that would listen that he felt that he and other free agent stars could reshape the NBA landscape by collaborating on where to go and how that could impact the NBA for the better.

This is somewhat of a paradigm shift for the NBA and sports in general. It demonstrates how owner’s control over players and the league is continually eroding as players demand more control. James’ decision was so shocking in part because it was one of the few times in sports where a player decided something besides money – owners’ biggest bargaining chip – was their biggest priority. Make no mistake, this was no fluke. It was a benchmark in the evolution of player empowerment.

It has been happening for a while. From free agency to no-trade clauses, players have slowly been assuming more control over their own careers. This is yet another milestone in that journey. Just as factory workers demanding more money, better conditions, and a shorter work day was once unfathomable it became a reality through cooperation and worker unity. So, too, is the case for modern athletes. By no means am I saying they are underpaid or ill-treated, but they have discovered that they are stronger together than they are apart.

My opponent for this debate, Bleacher Fan, will no doubt point to the actions of New Orleans guard Chris Paul. Despite two years remaining on his contract with the Hornets, he has attempted to force a trade since signing with LRMR. I will concede the point that it is neither ethical nor wise for players to try to void their legal commitments with a team in order to further their worth and brand. But Paul is an extreme case which really hasn’t worked out. If anything, his attempts at forcing a trade illustrate an isolated incident of the growing pains the league faces as players attempt to test the boundaries of their new found power.

Right now LRMR may not be liked. It is certainly not like by those who stand to lose the most when players gain power – the owners. But it is just part of inevitable progress. No one is asking the owners or media to like it… just accept it. I would be foolish to think I could persuade today’s judge, Sports Geek, into thinking LRMR is the greatest thing to hit basketball since the three point shot, but it is progress. It is an undeniable example of athletes taking ownership of their career, just as any worker would want to do in their respective field. Professional athletes are some of the most handsomely rewarded workers in the world, but they are workers nonetheless. We should not be surprised that they are following a historical path to progress. The LRMR is not the enemy. It is the future.

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The 2009 NBA Sleeper Debate – Mardi Gras Won’t Be the Only Excitement in New Orleans Next Spring!

October 19, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which NBA team has the best chances of making a surprising sleeper run to the Finals.

In 2007, the New Orleans Hornets surprised everyone. Thanks in large part to point guard Chris Paul’s impressive break-out season, the Hornets were able to improve upon a dreadful 2006 season (where the team won only 39 games) and finished with the second-best record in the Western Conference, only one game behind the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers. For his part, Paul led the league in steals and assists on the year, and finished second in voting for the league’s MVP award, ahead of the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett (who went on to lead his team to the NBA Championship) and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James (the NBA’s scoring champion). During the playoffs, however, the Hornets ran into the defending champions – a much more experienced San Antonio Spurs – losing in seven games during the Western Conference Semi-Final round.

Following that excitement the 2008 season proved to be a letdown for the Hornets. Despite another very impressive year behind Paul, who once again led the league in steals and assists, the Hornets finished the season 16 games behind the Conference leading Lakers. The Hornets record was just good enough to claim the seventh seed in the postseason, but their playoff time was short-lived as they lost in five games to the Denver Nuggets during the first round.

A big reason for the struggles of the Hornets last season was the absence of center Tyson Chandler. Chandler, who finished third in the league in rebounds during the Hornets’ impressive 2007 season, missed nearly half of 2008 with an ankle injury. Without Chandler at center, the Hornets were unable to account for the lack of defense at the center position with backup Hilton Armstrong. Shooting guard Morris Peterson was another disappointment for the Hornets last season. Peterson, who averaged as many as 16.8 points per game when he played with Toronto, managed only 4.4 points per game in 2008 for New Orleans after being relegated to a bench role.

Fortunately, things are looking up for the Hornets as we approach the 2009 season. In the offseason, the Hornets most impressive move was to trade Tyson Chandler away in return for center Emeka Okafor, a much more versatile player who will bring better scoring and rebounding to the Hornets than Chandler. Behind Okafor, Paul, and forward David West – who is no stranger to scoring himself after averaging more than 20 points per game over the past two seasons – New Orleans should be greatly improved from its 2008 season, where the team finished with as the 26th worst scoring team in the league.

Another key offseason move for New Orleans was trading shooting guard Rasual Butler. The deal, which was intended to free up salary-cap space for the Hornets, creates an opportunity for Morris Peterson to return to the starting lineup. Peterson, who has excellent catch-and-shoot ability, and can hit three-pointers with some success, should get more looks this season with the attention demanded by Okafor, West, and Paul. If Peterson can make the most of this opportunity and return to the level of performance that he played with in Toronto, he will add a very dangerous fourth scoring element to the offense.

As for the Hornets’ fifth starter, forward Peja Stojakovic, age is becoming a factor (although Stojakovic remains one of the most accurate shooters in the league). With the supporting cast of Paul, Peterson, Okafor, and West, the Hornets should be able to minimize Stojakovic’s decline in athleticism, enabling the team to capitalize on the accuracy that he still possesses.

In a season where most of the talk in the West will center on the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Hornets are positioned to make a deep run into the playoffs this year. Having upgraded on both sides of the ball, I would not be surprised at all to see New Orleans catch many teams by surprise in the upcoming season. Of course, I would say that about any team that boasted the league’s top point guard, one of the top-five centers in the league, and the shooting potential of David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Morris Peterson!

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