It's looking increasingly likely that the expected star of the NBA's 2011 free-agent class won't even make it to next summer's open market.
The Denver Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony are making significant progress on a contract extension that would result in Anthony landing a new contract this offseason along with fellow 2003 draftees LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, according to sources with knowledge of the discussions.
Although holding off to exercise an opt-out clause after the 2010-11 season would make him next summer's face of free agency -- like James is now -- sources told ESPN.com this week that Anthony is increasingly eager to secure his future more immediately. Anthony's last contract did not have an opt-out clause after three years like free agents-to-be James, Wade and Bosh possess, but Anthony is eligible for an extension with the Nuggets at any time up to June 30, 2011.
A three-year max extension worth more than $60 million could be announced within days of Thursday's draft, sources said. Another source estimated the timetable at "a couple of weeks."
While attending Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Los Angeles, Anthony acknowledged the possibility of striking a three-year extension with the Nuggets as opposed to becoming a free agent in 2011, saying: "We'll see what happens. I think my agent [Leon Rose] is going to talk to them in a week or so and see what's happening, and if there's something on the table then we'll go to the table and see what's the best situation for me."
Sources said that Rose and Nuggets general manager Mark Warkentien were indeed seen negotiating during a recent three-day workout of draft prospects in New Jersey.
Passing on an extension this summer would keep pressure on the Nuggets to pursue the roster renovations that Anthony has acknowledged Denver needs after it followed up a trip to the Western Conference finals in 2009 with a first-round exit this season. With coach George Karl battling throat cancer after the All-Star break and missing the playoffs and defensive anchor Kenyon Martin plagued by knee trouble, Denver couldn't sustain its 42-21 start and lost to Utah in the opening round.
Although sources say there remains some sentiment in Anthony's camp to wait, he does have great incentive to come to terms on an extension without testing free agency, thereby ensuring that he continues to be paid based on the league's current labor agreement as opposed to exposing himself to the uncertainty of the next labor agreement, at a time when owners leaguewide are determined to hold out for a reduction in contract lengths and maximum salaries when the current collective bargaining agreement expires.
Anthony has a busy summer planned irrespective of his contract status. He's scheduled to get married July 10 and told the Denver Post that he is already down to 234 pounds and plans to spend much of the summer working out in Los Angeles with Idan Ravin, one of the NBA's foremost personal trainers.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.