If Carmelo Anthony wants a trade, new Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri wants to hear the All-Star forward say it himself.
Anthony has declined to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension offer from the Nuggets and sources close to him said he wants to be sent to another team. Ujiri, however, said Tuesday he is having regular conversations with Anthony’s agent Leon Rose and hopes to set up a meeting with Anthony soon. Ujiri also said he would prefer not to trade Anthony and said Nuggets ownership supports his position.
New Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri worked as a scout for the team from 2003-07.
“I want ‘Melo to be a Nugget. The whole city wants ‘Melo to be a Nugget. Ownership wants ‘Melo to be a Nugget,” Ujiri said. “We want to get a good feel from him and let us know how he’s feeling. With this situation, it’s ‘Melo and his life. We have to give the kid the benefit of the doubt. There are some times where he feels down with things, and that doesn’t go our way.
“I’m sure he’s up and down in his mind. That’s obvious. But there is a little bit of patience. Let him come and tell us how he feels.”
Ujiri, however, declined to speculate whether ‘Melo would be in uniform for the start of this season. Nor would he answer in detail whether he was refusing to trade Anthony, saying only, “I don’t know. … I want him to be a Nugget and the city wants ‘Melo to be a Nugget.”
Prior to hiring Ujiri last week, one league source said the Nuggets were “asking for the world” in trade talks for Anthony. If Anthony doesn’t sign the extension, he could opt out of the final year of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season.
Ujiri, who had been working as assistant general manager for the Toronto Raptors, served as a scout for the Nuggets from 2003-07. He hopes his past relationship with Anthony can help persuade Anthony to stay in Denver.
“Everywhere I’ve seen ‘Melo he’s been very good to me, like when he would come to play in Toronto or when I would see him on the road,” Ujiri said. “I grew up in the league with ‘Melo his first four years and saw him grow. He’s a good kid – a great kid I would even say. I’m going to continue to try and build that relationship with him.”
Anthony has questioned the direction of the franchise. A selling point for Ujiri is that the Nuggets will have coach George Karl back on the sideline after he missed the end of last season, including the playoffs, while battling throat cancer. Ujiri is confident Karl will be “full of energy” and able to coach the entire season, but he declined comment on the coach’s contract, which ends after the season.
Ujiri is uncertain when forward Kenyon Martin(notes), who missed last postseason with a knee injury, will return. Ujiri said he doesn’t feel pressure to make a big trade to persuade Anthony to stay because he thinks the Nuggets are good enough to return to the level that saw them advance to the Western Conference finals two seasons ago. They lost to the Utah Jazz in the first round last season.
“If George doesn’t get sick, it’s a different ballgame,” Ujiri said.