‘Melo’s future dominates preseason intrigue

The Denver Nuggets have a young, inexperienced and unsure front office now, and they’ll likely make an immense mistake by trading Carmelo Anthony(notes) before the start of the season.

What’s the rush to make yourself a garbage team? Why cave to agents Worldwide Wes and Leon Rose so quickly?

Carmelo Anthony is trying to force the Nuggets into trading him soon.
(NBAE/Getty Images)

“If they do, it’s a self-imposed panic,” one rival executive said. “Right now, I don’t know if there’s anyone strong enough there to stand up.”

Said an NBA executive whose team has talked with the Nuggets about a deal for Anthony: “I don’t know if they really know what they want yet.”

Too much can change before the February trade deadline, and what’s the benefit for Denver to do a deal now? Avoid ‘Melo becoming a distraction? Here’s a bigger distraction: a lousy team that Chauncey Billups(notes), Kenyon Martin(notes) and J.R. Smith(notes) don’t want to play on. That’s worse.

As NBA teams return to training camp next week, there are questions hovering everywhere. There are several pressing and intriguing ones, but maybe none with as much hinging on a franchise’s future as how the Nuggets handle Anthony’s exit.

Anthony promises he won’t re-sign and, well, what else is he going to say to get the trade now? Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri has been working the phones on three-way trade scenarios which would land Anthony with one of the two preferred destinations – New York or Chicago – as reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears on Sept. 8. No one has benefited more from the Nuggets’ inexperience and perceived impatience than the Knicks, who are the most desperate to acquire Anthony.

The New Jersey Nets want Anthony, but they aren’t desperate for him. Nets head coach Avery Johnson wasn’t the most sold member of the organization on Derrick Favors(notes) on draft night, but he’s grown increasingly fond of the rookie forward in preseason workouts and believes Favors is going to be terrific someday. The Nets have time to rebuild now, whereas the Knicks are under incredible pressure to cash in all their salary space for a superstar. No one wants to hear about the Knicks landing Deron Williams(notes) and Chris Paul(notes) in the class of 2012.

Nevertheless, Anthony’s reps are trying to manipulate two young, inexperienced executives in Ujiri and 30-year-old owner Josh Kroenke. This is the most important decision this management team will ever make, and mishandling the matter could set the franchise back for years. Stars such as Anthony don’t come along often, and the Nuggets need to get together on a plan that spares the franchise what undoubtedly will be a painful process of trying to rebuild without him.

Here are three other major questions looming at the start of the NBA’s preseason:

Is there enough room in Miami for both King James and D-Wade?

For as much as everyone wonders how these Miami Heat will mesh on the floor this season – Phil Jackson just raised the comparison to the ringless Chamberlain-West-Baylor Lakers of the early 1970s – so much of the franchise’s success will come down to how LeBron James(notes) incorporates himself into the organization.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade aim to prove that there's room for both of them in Miami – on the court and off.
(Getty Images)

The Heat have never had a high-maintenance star with a big crew – Alonzo Mourning(notes) was the standard for so long under Pat Riley – but that changes with the arrival of James and his security guards, buddies and business associates.

James travels with an enormous crew now – “bigger than ever when he showed up in Vegas this summer,” one league source said – and it’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out in American Airlines Arena. Remember: Dwyane Wade(notes) still considers this his team, his town. Wade and James will share the basketball, but how about the space off the floor?

Nevertheless, the two stars have been running around everywhere this summer, and clearly they love to spend time together. Perhaps it won’t get too cramped in Miami, but the pressure on this team promises to percolate – and nerve endings in September are different than those in February and March.

How does Tom Thibodeau make the transition from narrowly focused hard-driving assistant to big-picture head coach?

Thibodeau has been assertive with Chicago Bulls management on his coaching staff and roster, and he pushed hard to get veteran assistant and management favorite Pete Myers off his bench and back into the front office. Thibodeau has created clear boundaries between the front office and coaching staff – something former Bulls head coach Vinny Del Negro probably wished he would’ve been allowed to do.

Thibodeau has promised a grueling training camp, and he’ll undoubtedly be an emotional, demanding coach. It’s no surprise he’s pushed for as many of his guys to fill out the roster, including Brian Scalabrine(notes) and John Lucas(notes) III. Thibodeau has had significant say in every Bulls personnel move, and the pressure will be on him to deliver this season. The Bulls have given him wide latitude to operate within the organization.

Thibodeau’s ability to cultivate relationships with his star players, especially his young cornerstones – Derrick Rose(notes) and Joakim Noah(notes) – will be paramount for his success. One thing to watch: Noah and the Bulls are still far apart on a contract extension, sources said, and there are no assurances they’ll have a resolution before the start of the season.

How does Gilbert Arenas(notes) integrate into the changed world of the Wizards?

Gilbert Arenas was suspended for the final 50 games of last season after bringing guns into the Wizards' locker room.
(NBAE/Getty Images)

After serving a 50-game suspension and a month in a halfway house for bringing guns into the Washington Wizards’ locker room, Gilbert Arenas returns to find an altered universe. The roster has been gutted and rebuilt with young players, and the franchise has turned to the No. 1 pick in the draft, John Wall(notes), as its fresh face.

How has Arenas coexisted with Wall at the team’s practice facility leading into the start of training camp?

“It’s actually gone very well with them together,” said a league source with ties to both players.

Said another: “Gilbert has been tremendous.”

Arenas had a productive summer working with trainer Tim Grover in Chicago – which was critical for him. He’s played just 47 games over the past three seasons, and that’s the biggest issue for teams which will consider trading for him and the four years and $80 million left on his contract. The Wizards and Arenas would love to part ways sooner than later, but Arenas knows that’s contingent on him restoring his form and showing he can be a gracious teammate to Wall.

Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Adrian a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010