Trust me, as tedious as this has gotten, it’s as compelling as anything on TV these days, and as much as I am loathe to talk about it it’s worth breaking down the many subplots at work here.

With a mere 6 days left until the NBA trade deadline passes what it’s all boiling down to can be summed up in one word: leverage. As in, Denver has it, and are trying to use it to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the fact that they know Carmelo doesn’t want to leave his 65 million dollar contract extension on the table with the lock-out looming. Got to hand it to the Nuggets, they certainly haven’t been bashful with their demands, as evidenced by what they were rumored to have asked the Knicks for. Why they didn’t also demand Amar’e and the Knicks two championship trophies is anybody’s guess.

Of course, the worst the Knicks could do was say no, and since New York is still likely haunted by a nightmare scenario in which ‘Melo is traded to New Jersey (or worse, Dallas, or LA) and likes it so much he (or his wife) decides to stay, it isn’t totally out of the question that the Knicks would panic and give Denver the farm.

When the dust settles, it’s going to end up being about whether or not Anthony has the guts to leave his money on the table in hopes that the labor dispute will be settled, a prospect that is looking less likely by the minute. If he is, he’ll be free and clear to sign with the Knicks during the summer and everyone will live happily ever after.

If he doesn’t? Well, it’s a good bet that all hell will break lose, putting every wacky scenario into play (and anything Chris Broussard can dream up) including trades to New Jersey, Dallas, LA, Houston or the Hitachi SunRockers of the Japanese Basketball league. Of course, the closer we get to D-day, the less Denver gets in return, but something is always better than nothing.

In short, here is where everyone who matters stands.

CARMELO ANTHONY: He wants his money. Only way this happens is by signing and extension with the Nuggets, who would then trade him elsewhere. Or he stays in Denver. That’s not happening. For the record, those who claim to be in the know insist he wants to go to the Knicks and the Knicks only.

DENVER NUGGETS: Well, they are holding most of the cards here. They know he doesn’t want to leave without his money, and thus any team that would want him is likely to oblige him by doing a sign-and-trade in which Anthony gets the salary only the Nuggets can pay him as a result of holding his Bird rights, which allow a team to sign their own free agent for more money than any other team can offer.

Trouble is, the Nuggets are running the risk overplaying their hand, namely by asking for too much. The closer we get the deadline, the more they risk losing him for less than they would have gotten weeks ago, or even worse, nothing.

NEW YORK KNICKS: In a tough spot. What they have going for them is the confidence that comes with knowing Anthony wants to be there. Bad news is, they have to decide if they’d rather give up some of their assets for him in a trade now or wait it out and hope he signs in the summer. Complicating matters is the prospect that Knicks owner James Dolan may decide he has to have Anthony at all costs, forcing management to give up more than is wise.

NEW JERSEY NETS: Everything to gain and nothing to lose here. I mean, what is Anthony worth to a moribund franchise, devoid of star power and about two years away from moving to Brooklyn, which just happens to be Carmelo’s hometown?

Name your price.

When you do the math, nothing the Nets give up in a trade for Anthony could possibly be too much, as the Nets’ dogged efforts to make a deal would attest. Mikhail Prokhorov could pull off quite the coup, if only he can convince Carmelo himself.

Of course, there are still rumblings about quite a few other teams, but they don’t amount to much. In the end, there are really only a few viable scenarios. Thankfully for us, it will all be over in a week or less.

Then we can get back to talking about inconsequential stuff like the Playoffs or whatever.

John Hathwell can be reached at Sonsofsambowie@yahoo.com or by saying his name into a mirror three times.

Enough of this tomfoolery already, let’s watch a white guy break another white guys’ ankles. Truly among the rarest of feats, and if I didn’t see it I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Living in the internet age is truly a blessing.


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