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Can the Pelicans Really Nab Carmelo?

Stranger things have happened, but it’s a long shot

Boogie Cousins hugging Carmelo Anthony Getty Images

Picture Dell Demps on the Amalfi Coast, limoncello in hand and Ballers on screen. Even offseasons need offseasons, and the Pelicans GM spent the summer working New Orleans’s roster up to just less than a million shy of its luxury tax spending limit. The front office kept busy, first re-signing Jrue Holiday, then reinforcing the backcourt with two, well, NBA champions in Rajon Rondo and Ian Clark. Take a break, Dell — remember that it’s always five o’clock somewhere.

Unless you’re dealing with DeMarcus Cousins, a true son of his college don, John Calipari. Then the motto is Never Stop Recruiting. “I’ve reached out to everybody,” Boogie told Will Guillory of The Times-Picayune last week. “I mean, I don’t want to throw names out there, but some of the biggest names that are on the block right now I’ve reached out to.”

So, Kyrie Irving, right? The point guard is an unlikely fit for the Pelicans after they committed $126 million and the Smoothie King’s first-born to Holiday. The next-biggest name is one Carmelo Anthony, Olympic gold medalist, New York’s Finest and Quietest, Cousins’s childhood hero. New Orleans somehow acquiring him seems unexpected, unthinkable, and even, rosterwise, unsound … and totally plausible, given this offseason. Sam Presti and the Thunder just came out of the pits of iso-ball to acquire Paul George. Now Carmelo’s up — could New Orleans pull off an OKC?

First, Melo would have to be interested. The 33-year-old’s infamous no-trade clause keeps him in the control room of his own reality show. Currently, he has reportedly agreed to waive it to be sent to only the Rockets, where Chris Paul, James Harden, and a season of usage rate debates await. He hasn’t bit on pitches from Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to join Portland, and has redacted Cleveland from his list. But his standstill with New York brass — the two camps haven’t met in over a month, since Steve Mills halted trade talks last month to convince Melo to return — could make him more desperate to leave.

Boogie is fawning over the idea, as evidenced by five letters:

And one emoji:

But that the pitch is coming from Cousins should temper expectations. With one year left on his contract, Boogie could leave Melo, now in the tail end of his prime, on an injury-prone team in the highly competitive Western Conference for 2018-19.

Even if Melo did agree to a deal, the Pelicans’ cap space is locked tight (reports indicate that this guy just swallowed the key), and their assets are limited. New Orleans is the only organization in the league without any outgoing or incoming picks, and a pick-laden trade appeals to a Porzingis-focused New York team. But finding a package of contracts to match Melo’s $26 million salary is messier. Even ones that come close monetarily —

— do not provide worthwhile returns for the Knicks, especially when the franchise is choosing being ghosted by Melo over trading him.

For New Orleans, adding Carmelo would also mean paying his 15 percent trade kicker. That’s another $8 million to find, unless he forfeits it to … join a team that finished 10th in the West. Boogie probably can’t tweet this one into fruition, but the limoncello waits, anyway.