Play Fantasy Use your Fantasy skills to win Cash Prizes. Join or start a league today. Play Now
 
Tag:Danilo Gallinari
Posted on: December 2, 2011 3:30 pm
 

Nuggets and the Nene dilemma

To Nene, or not to Nene. This is the potentially franchise-shaping question facing the Denver Nuggets.

This is becoming familiar territory for Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, who no sooner got the job last season when he was thrust into the Carmelo Anthony saga. That one ended well for Denver: Melo and his wandering eye got a max extension and a trade to the Knicks. The Nuggets got valuable assets and picks, including players like Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler -- who were already accomplished starters to a degree but also young and cheap enough to build and plan around.

But what about Nene? In a lackluster free-agent class, only Nene and Mavs center Tyson Chandler figure to command max money. Some NBA executives question whether either player is worth a contract starting at the max of $17.4-$17.8 million. If Nene wants to push for a sign-and-trade to a contender -- such as Dallas and Miami, two of the teams on his list -- he'd have to settle for a four-year deal with smaller raises than the Nuggets can offer.

If he wants a five-year deal, he'll stay in Denver. If he just wants a change of scenery, he could get a four-year deal from any number of teams that have cap space or could create it, such as the Nets, Warriors, Rockets or Pacers. In short, Nene has options. Not as many options as Anthony, who had the full extend-and-trade avenue and max sign-and-trade scenario going for him -- but options, nonetheless.

So, why aren't the Nuggets panicking? One, if Ujiri survived the Melodrama, the Nene-a-thon will be a piece of cake. And two, the Nuggets have options, too.

If Nene bolts, Denver is projected to have the most cap room in the league next season -- nearly $39 million, and more if they amnesty Al Harrington between now and then. They have their own first-round pick in 2012 and '13, and could wind up with more if Nene departed via the sign-and-trade route. As weak as this free-agent class is, this year's draft will be deep and exceptional. Not a bad time to undertake a one-year rebuilding/reloading plan if that's what the Nuggets are forced to do.

Also, the Nuggets brass need to find out what Gallinari is going to be in major minutes, not to mention Timofey Mozgov, another piece they got from the Knicks for Anthony. The sting of a rebuilding year also would be minimized by a shortened season. It'll be over fast, and if the Nuggets missed the playoffs, it wouldn't be long before they'd be preparing to pick a potential All-Star in the lottery.

While the Nuggets won't be in the running for a potential superstar free agent like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or Deron Williams, their copious cap space and assets obtained in the Melo trade would give them flexibility to be one of the biggest players next summer. So do the Nuggets want Nene back? Of course. Ujiri has told him that on many occasions, and as with Anthony, the Nuggets exec has taken the time to build a relationship with his star so there's mutual trust.

But if someone is willing to pay Nene the max in the next week or so, making a 14-point, seven-rebound center a $17 million player? There may be no way to avoid parting ways. And as in the case of Anthony, it could wind up working out for the best for both sides.
Posted on: March 8, 2011 5:10 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 5:55 pm
 

Karl, Nuggets agree to three-year extension

After successfully navigating one crisis by getting good value for superstar Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets averted another one Tuesday when they agreed with coach George Karl on a three-year contract extension that could last as long as six years.

The deal has team options for the fourth, fifth, and sixth years, said Karl's attorney, Bret Adams -- a huge commitment from the Nuggets at a time when coaches have so little job security.

"I think with this team, they just have great confidence that this is a team that's coachable and there's not a more experienced or better coach to do it than George," Adams said. "They stuck with him last year with the cancer, and to take it the next step with this long-term commitment, I don’t think George could be any happier with his future. He wanted to be there, they wanted him there, and with this team it's a whole new re-energized George after the trade."

Contract talks ground to a halt during the months-long process in which Nuggets executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were negotiating a trade that eventually sent Anthony to New York on Feb. 20. Once that complicated deal was complete, it didn't take long for contract talks with Karl -- the Nuggets' coach since 2004 -- to Heat up again.

"There was a whole lot of frustration with George having to coach a guy who didn’t want to be there," Adams said. "Only Masai and Josh knew how difficult it was to coach that team in those circumstances. It was difficult, and he kept them winning. To do that under those circumstances was pretty remarkable."

Karl, 59, has won at least 50 games for three straight years and led the Nuggets to the 2009 Western Conference finals against the Lakers. This season, he has dealt with his own personal battle against throat and neck cancer and kept the Nuggets alive in the playoff race despite months of speculation over Anthony's trade destination. The Nuggets are 5-2 since trading their franchise player to the Knicks along with Chauncey Billups for Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, and draft picks. Denver (37-27) currently is fifth in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I’ve always said Denver is the place I want to end my career,” Karl said. “This puts me one step closer to achieving that goal. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were very professional throughout these negotiations. The Kroenkes have been great throughout this entire process. They’ve been very supportive of me as a coach and during my battle with cancer. I’m excited for the remainder of the season and look forward to making another playoff run.”

Close friends say Karl is energized by the trade, both for the obvious reason of removing the daily distractions of trade speculation and because he's excited about coaching a new group of players. A coach's coach, Karl thrives on the teaching and team-building that comes with the job far more than he thrives on the accolades.

"Getting the Melo trade done and getting George's fairly complicated contract done because of the health issues is a testament to the future of the Nuggets," Adams said. "They've really given real confidence to the fans in Denver as to the direction of this team. They hit two home runs."

Karl, who underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that spanned from last season through the summer, received another clean bill of health from doctors Tuesday, Adams said. Karl's health issues "had to be addressed" in the contract, and Adams said the Nuggets addressed them "very fairly."

"Extending George’s contract has been one of our top priorities,” said Ujiri, the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operations. “He’s done a tremendous job since arriving in Denver, and particularly with the unique challenges of this season. With George on the bench, we have a bright future and everyone here is focused on finishing the season strong.”

For more on this story, check out our Eye on Basketball blog.
 
Posted on: February 21, 2011 9:57 pm
Edited on: February 23, 2011 9:35 am
 

Knicks, Nuggets agree to Melo trade

Seven months after the famous toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding, the second member of the Knicks' proposed Big Three is on his way to New York.

Just like he wanted all along.

And now that Anthony is finally a Knick, teaming with Amar'e Stoudemire to form one of the most lethal scoring duos in the NBA, the question of how it's going to work is as important as who's coming next.

The Knicks and Nuggets agreed Monday night on a massive, three-team, 13-player trade sending Anthony to New York, three league sources told CBSSports.com.

The deal, approved by league officials Tuesday night, is Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and New York's 2014 first-round pick going to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Renaldo Balkman and Anthony Carter. The Timberwolves agreed to take Eddy Curry's expiring contract along with Anthony Randolph from the Knicks and send Corey Brewer to New York -- not Denver, as was discussed in a previous version of the trade. The Wolves get $3 million from the Knicks, which will be used to buy Curry out of the few remaining pay checks on his $11.3 million contract.

The Nuggets also get Golden State's second-round picks in 2012 and '13 from New York -- an incredible haul for Denver general manager Masai Ujiri considering the superstar he was forced to trade in his first few months on the job only had one destination in mind. Denver also gets Greek center Kosta Koufos from Minnesota for a second-round pick, a wrinkle added during the trade call with league officials Tuesday. Mozgov and the second-round picks being added after the Knicks made what was described as their final offer Sunday further called into question whether Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan overruled his basketball staff to close the deal.

As they said on one of the news shows Monday night in New York, "If your name is not Amar'e Stoudemire ... you've been traded!"

"They gave up their team," one rival executive said of the assets New York surrendered for Anthony, the league's sixth-leading scorer and a four-time All-Star.

Despite the assets surrendered for Anthony, the deal was another bold step for Knicks president Donnie Walsh, who needed only two years to clean up a decade-old mess at the Garden and put two of the top 10-15 players in the NBA in Knicks jerseys in a span of seven months. Though the Knicks team that emerges from this trade will have flaws, it is the most relevant -- and most dangerous -- team that has inhabited the Garden in more than a decade. The key player the Knicks would have refused to give up in the deal was Landry Fields, a second-round pick who has emerged as one of the top rookies in the league.

Pending the passing of physicals, Anthony and Billups will make their Knicks debuts Wednesday night against Milwaukee at the Garden.

The question becomes whether Walsh will have enough flexibility to make the third member of the Anthony wedding trinity, Chris Paul, appear between 31st and 33rd Streets when he is a free agent in 2012. Deron Williams also will be a free agent that summer, and CBSSports.com reported last week that Williams began contemplating a union with Stoudemire last summer. It isn't clear whether Stoudemire and Anthony making a combined $40 million in 2012-13 will allow space for a third max player under a new collective bargaining agreement. But once the Lakers, Celtics and Heat set the precedent for superstars teaming up, it can't be good for them and not good for others.

The Nets, whose pursuit of Anthony ended Monday night in a crushing disappointment for Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, could expand the deal by taking two ex-Knicks from Denver but are not fully committed to the idea, according to a person briefed on the negotiations. The Nets' involvement depends on which two of the four ex-Knicks the Nuggets want to trade. Nuggets officials have been pushing for some degree of assurance that they can flip two of the Knicks players they are getting for draft picks, which they value more.

It was presumed earlier Monday that Denver would flip Gallinari and Mozgov to New Jersey for two first-round picks, providing the final incentive for Denver to part with its franchise player. But sources indicated Monday night that the Nets may actually want Felton in that scenario, and that New Jersey prefers Felton over acquiring Andre Miller from Portland in one of several separate potential trades they are discussing.

Either way, Anthony finally will get his wish Tuesday -- a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks, the team he has pushed to be dealt to since September. CBSSports.com reported in December and again in January that Anthony, if traded, wouldn't sign an extension anywhere but with the Knicks. His persistence was tested in recent days, when Anthony agreed to meet with Prokhorov, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and other Nets management figures during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles as a condition of getting permission to meet with the Knicks' Dolan. Anthony was careful not to give any commitment to Prokhorov, but he also didn't turn the Nets down. To ensure that the Nuggets could get a competitive offer from New York, Anthony needed to leverage the possibility of signing the extension with the Nets. So in a way, Anthony and Ujiri were working in tandem all along to get Anthony to his preferred destination in a way that satisfied both their agendas.

Anthony, 26, will join fellow All-Star Stoudemire, 28, to form one of the most potent offensive duos in the NBA -- and the highest-profile superstars in their prime that the team has had in the lives of most Knicks fans. But with the Knicks giving up three starters and Mozgov, a 24-year-old 7-footer, New York will have a thin bench and still won't have a defensive big man to take pressure off Stoudemire. In addition, Stoudemire and Anthony will be scheduled to make $40 million combined in 2012-13 -- perhaps hampering the Knicks' efforts to land a member of that summer's star-studded free-agent class including Paul, Williams, and Dwight Howard.

Meanwhile, Denver's new basketball brain trust of Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke passed an enormous test of their will, patience and negotiating chops with flying colors. Going all the way back to September, when they refused to pull the trigger on a four-team Melo trade involving Charlotte and Utah, Ujiri and Kroenke expertly played the Knicks and Nets against each other to the tune of a potentially massive package of assets for Anthony. The strategy resulted in an out-of-control groundswell of public support in New York for the Knicks to acquire Anthony, a player some significant members of the organization were determined not to give up major assets to acquire. And in an unimaginable twist given the obstacle that Anthony only wanted to re-sign with the Knicks, the Nuggets could wind up walking away with significant assets from both of the teams that pursued their star player.

It is common for general managers to print money in trades through contract-swapping. The Nuggets could essentially wind up printing draft picks by flipping two of the Knicks' players they didn't want for assets they value more. Even if the Nuggets wind up trading none of the ex-Knicks to New Jersey, it was an extremely impressive debut in the hot seat for Ujiri, a Nigerian-born former international scout who was part of the Toronto front office that got burned by free agent Chris Bosh last summer.

The Knicks get older, but arguably better at the point guard position with Billups, 34, taking over for Felton, 26 -- though Billups is not a classic pick-and-roll point guard and will have trouble playing the heavy minutes Felton endured. Williams, a disciplined, 6-9 reserve, will help bolster New York's undersized front court, and the addition of Brewer to the deal gives the Knicks a much needed wing defender.

In the end, this one's all about Melo -- a sidekick for Stoudemire who will cause problems for Boston, Miami and Chicago while serving as further magnetism for future free agents.  

They're still one shy of a Big Three.

For up to date news on the NBA trade deadline, follow Ken Berger on Twitter at @KBerg_CBS
For more on the Nuggets' trade of Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks: 
Ben Golliver breaks down the winners and losers from the trade
Did this trade make the Knicks contenders? Royce Young has his doubts
Carmelo Anthony: No one man should have all that power , thinks Matt Moore. 


Posted on: February 21, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 2:42 pm
 

Melo-to-Knicks deal expanding?

LOS ANGELES -- As the Knicks and Nuggets remained in advanced talks Monday on a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to New York, CBSSports.com confirmed that the deal could expand to include an unlikely facilitator -- the rival Nets.

A person familiar with the rapidly unfolding negotiations said New Jersey could be willing to send two first-round picks to Denver for Russian center Timofey Mozgov and another Knick -- perhaps Danilo Gallinari -- if those players were dealt to the Nuggets for Anthony.

ESPN The Magazine first reported the latest twist in the Anthony saga, which suggests that the Nets are willing to abandon their pursuit of Anthony but only if they can divert two key Knicks assets across the Hudson River in the process.

A second source with direct knowledge of the talks cautioned that it was premature to address the new angle involving the Nets as an indirect facilitator in what would be a separate transaction with the Nuggets because the Knicks and Nuggets have yet to agree to a deal.

As CBSSports.com reported Sunday, the Knicks sweetened their proposal for Anthony in what sources described as their "final offer," agreeing to send Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton and their 2014 first-round pick to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter. The Nuggets also would get Corey Brewer from Minnesota, which would receive Eddy Curry's expiring contract and forward Anthony Randolph from the Knicks.

The Nuggets, nearing the end of an arduous process that has been unfolding for five months, were pushing for the Knicks to include Mozgov in the deal -- a concession New York has been unwilling to make, especially considering the Nets' minimal chances of persuading Anthony to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with them. Such an agreement from Anthony has been the key obstacle to the Nets completing a trade agreed to with Denver during All-Star weekend -- with the package including Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and multiple first-round picks.

Nets officials, led by owner Mikhail Prokhorov and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, met with Anthony Saturday in Los Angeles but did not come away with a commitment from the four-time All-Star. Unwilling to abandon any leverage in his pursuit of the extension heading into the uncertainty of a new labor agreement, Anthony also did not close the door on the Nets in that meeting, a person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com.

Prokhorov covets Mozgov, a six-year pro in Russia before signing with the Knicks last summer. But he also hopes the prospect of two key Knicks players thriving across the river -- and in Brooklyn in 2012 -- could make the Knicks reluctant to complete the trade for Anthony. It's a tactical gamble that would be a win-win for Prokhorov, who would either swoop in to steal Anthony if the Knicks backed away or land two ex-Knicks to make their New York rival uncomfortable.

Either way, the Nets' willingness to allow Denver to flip two Knicks to them in exchange for draft picks could be the final piece that pushes the painstaking Anthony talks to their conclusion. The Nuggets' new management team of Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, having shown patience and negotiating muscle beyond anyone's expectations, would come away with every conceivable asset they were seeking in an Anthony trade: quality young players on reasonable contracts (Chandler and Felton), three first-round picks (one from New York and two from New Jersey), and upwards of $20 million in savings.

Hours before the Nuggets were scheduled to practice at 6 p.m. MT Monday in Denver, it remained an open question whether Anthony would be there -- perhaps for his final public appearance as a Nugget. The trade deadline is 3 p.m. ET Thursday.


"Obviously something has to happen, whether I stay in Denver or they trade me or whatever," Anthony said after the West's 148-143 victory in the All-Star Game. "The end is here." 









Posted on: February 20, 2011 3:41 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2011 1:08 am
 

Knicks make final offer for Melo

LOS ANGELES -- The Knicks have made what was described as their final trade proposal for Carmelo Anthony Sunday, pushing the months-long drama toward its merciful conclusion, CBSSports.com has learned.

The Knicks would send three starters -- Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Raymond Felton -- to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter, sources said Sunday. The Nuggets would get the Knicks' first-round pick in 2014, while Minnesota would get Eddy Curry's expiring contract and Anthony Randolph from New York. Curry would then be waived, and the Knicks would send as much as $3 million to Minnesota to pay his freight. 

The Wolves also would send Corey Brewer to Denver in the proposed deal. Carter must approve the trade and waive his Bird rights for the trade to be approved.

Confident that a Friday night meeting between Anthony, his representatives, and a Nets contingent led by Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and hip-hop mogul Jay-Z did not result in a commitment from Anthony to sign an extension with New Jersey, the Knicks are drawing the line. They are not offering rookie Landry Fields or Russian center Timofey Mozgov, two pieces Denver has asked for at various times in the negotiations, sources said.

"We shall see," Anthony said on his way out of Staples Center after the All-Star Game Sunday night, after being informed of the status of trade talks with the Knicks.

Earlier, Anthony revealed that he did not give, nor did the Nets ask for, a commitment from him on whether he would sign a contract extension that would trigger the completion of a trade that already has been agreed to between the Nuggets and New Jersey. He described the meeting with Prokhorov as "a good meeting" and "interesting," and said he was "just listening" to the Nets' presentation.

"I didn't give anybody a definitive answer," Anthony said.

Anthony said the Nuggets "have been knowing everything since day one" about where he would and wouldn't sign an extension. 

"They know everything," he said.

While Anthony privately has been entrenched for months in his position that he would only agree to an extension with the Knicks if the Nuggets traded him, a person familiar with the three-time All-Star's thinking told CBSSports.com Sunday night that he did not close the door on the Nets in their meeting. Doing so would have eliminated the Nets as a last resort to get the three-year, $65 million extension that would be off the table in a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Anthony drama now rests in the hands of Nuggets executives Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri, who must decide whether to accept the Knicks' offer, continue pushing for a trade to the Nets, or keep Anthony beyond Thursday's trade deadline. Sources say it is unlikely a deal would be agreed to Sunday.

"The deadline is Thursday," Anthony said. "So obviously something has to happen, whether they trade me or I stay in Denver or whatever," Anthony said. "The end is here. All this stuff will be over with. I'm excited for this stuff to be over with, and I'm pretty sure everybody else is excited for it to be over with."

Anthony said he would "not be upset at all" if he were still with the Nuggets after the deadline.

A person familiar with the trade negotiations told CBSSports.com Sunday that the Nuggets were still working through specifics with the Knicks and were pushing for New York to add Mozgov to the deal. Denver also hasn't shut the door on the Nets, with whom they have agreed to the framework of a trade, according to the source. But it appears that key figures in the organization have grown comfortable with the Knicks' offer, which was sweetened significantly after the Nets re-emerged in the discussions during All-Star weekend in Los Angeles.

As the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony reached a tipping point Sunday, the team released a joint statement from Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, president Donnie Walsh, and coach Mike D'Antoni saying all three were in agreement on the Anthony discussions. In a rare and obscure step, the statement also asserted that "no one from outside our organization" was involved in the Anthony process -- an obvious reference to former team president Isiah Thomas, whose input Dolan has received since Thomas was replaced by Walsh in 2008.

With so many agendas and obfuscation attempts at play, it was difficult to predict Sunday how Denver would respond. But Nuggets executives have signaled that they want a resolution to the Anthony matter by the end of All-Star weekend -- a timetable that Anthony publicly stated that he favored, as well. 

Just as the Knicks' negotiating strategy was sidetracked by Dolan's decision to get involved in the negotiations and meet with Anthony Thursday night in Los Angeles, so have the Nuggets' efforts been influenced by agendas affecting their still complicated hierarchy. Sources say Denver's reluctance to deal with New York throughout the process was prompted more by a feeling among some segments of the team's power structure that they should not give Anthony what he wants -- the extension with the team of his choice. But sources also assert it will be difficult for Denver to turn down what could be the best offer they will receive for Anthony -- one that gives them a quality point guard, Felton, on a better contract than the Nets' Devin Harris; a young, promising frontcourt player, Chandler, who is more polished than New Jersey's Derrick Favors; a hard-nosed, floor-spacing shooter, Gallinari, instead of multiple first-round picks from New Jersey whose ultimate value is undetermined; and $20 million in immediate savings.

The Nuggets' basketball staff is said to have preferred the Nets' long-standing offer centered around Favors and multiple picks, which would set the team up for a long-term rebuilding process -- whereas the Knicks' offer provides assets better suited to a quicker turnaround after Anthony's departure. But the Nets' competing offer ran its course with Friday night's obligatory meeting between Anthony and New Jersey officials, which CBSSports.com reported was allowed as a condition of Anthony receiving permission to meet with Dolan on Thursday.

Keeping Anthony beyond Thursday's trade deadline remains an option, though the likelihood of that has decreased dramatically, sources say. Denver is not seriously considering a nuclear option with Anthony, which would involve telling him the team will not trade him to new York and also won't give him the extension -- making New Jersey the only path to the money for Anthony. That option, sources say, would reflect poorly on the organization and could hinder its future dealings with players.



Posted on: January 2, 2011 4:53 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2011 5:05 pm
 

Gallinari: Knee sprain 'nothing to worry about'

NEW YORK -- The collective breath was knocked out of Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon when Danilo Gallinari crumpled to the floor holding his left knee. No, it wasn't Amar'e Stoudemire, but a serious injury to the guy they call Gallo would've dealt a major blow to the Knicks' playoff hopes -- not to mention any chance they might have of trading for Carmelo Anthony.

Gallinari quelled the concern on both fronts after the Knicks' 98-92 victory over the Pacers, saying team physicians told him the initial diagnosis was a Grade 1 sprain -- the least severe. 

"Nothing to worry about," said Gallinari, who added, "I think I will play" Tuesday night against the Spurs.

Gallinari went down with 6:14 left in the fourth quarter after the Pacers' Brandon Rush fell into the outside of his left knee on a drive to the basket. Coincidentally, Rush blew out his knee in a workout allegedly conducted illegally by Knicks scouting director Rodney Heard in 2007, as detailed in an investigative story by Yahoo! Sports. Gallinari was helped off the floor and was barely putting any weight on his left leg, but later said the pain subsided once he started walking to the locker room.


"I felt a stretch and I felt like a little click on the [inside] of my knee, and I felt a lot of pain right after the guy fell on my knee," said Gallinari, who went out with 19 points. "But when I started to walk, the pain started to go down. It went down to discomfort."


Coach Mike D'Antoni said, "Those strands in the ACL, they're made of spaghetti for Italians, so he'll be fine."

An MRI scheduled for Monday will determine the extent of the damage. The results will be monitored from coast to coast; not only do the Knicks need Gallinari's 3-point shooting to secure a playoff spot, but they'd presumably need to include him in any realistic trade proposal for Anthony.


The Nuggets are continuing to discuss scenarios with the Nets and other teams, and sources say they are not high on Gallinari -- or much of anything else the Knicks could offer, for that matter. But the Knicks have known from the beginning that they'd have trouble competing with the assets the Nets would be willing to offer with a guarantee that Anthony would sign an extension with them as part of the trade. If Anthony declines, Denver is back at square one and would have to entertain lesser offers from other teams or risk losing Anthony to the Knicks as a free agent after the lockout that is widely expected to occur after the season.



Posted on: December 8, 2010 7:51 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 11:03 pm
 

Post-Ups: Nuggets ready to move Melo

After weeks of speculation and despite a strong start by the Nuggets, Carmelo Anthony's last days in Denver may finally have arrived.

The Nuggets have all but decided to trade Anthony if he does not sign an extension with the team by the trade deadline, and Denver's management team believes Anthony is fully prepared to play out the season and become a free agent, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nuggets’ strong start, coupled with George Karl’s inspirational return from cancer treatment and positive discussions about a contract extension for the soon-to-be-1,000-win coach, have the organization feeling they've done everything possible to persuade Anthony to stay. But according to people with knowledge of the team’s strategy, if Anthony doesn’t agree to sign the three-year, $65 million extension by the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the wheels are all but certain to be put in motion to part ways with the three-time All-Star rather than lose him as a free agent and get nothing in return.

According to people in contact with the Nuggets’ management team, there is far more clarity today about what the team is seeking in a potential Anthony trade than there was in September, when new GM Masai Ujiri was thrust into the tempest in his initial days and weeks on the job. Executives believe the Nuggets have decided they would like to receive the best possible package of young players and are not interested in stopgap options that would hamper their flexibility. Acquiring a high-priced veteran player -- such as Andre Iguodala, whose talent the Nuggets value but not his contract -- would only hurt the team’s ability to build around youth while maintaining payroll flexibility into the uncertainty of a new collective bargaining agreement.

The Nets’ package of 2010 No. 3 pick Derrick Favors, guard Devin Harris, the expiring contract of Kris Humphries and two first-round picks remains the most attractive option to the Nuggets, sources say. Additional trade partners such as Charlotte and Utah are not eager to get involved in the discussions again, but wouldn’t necessarily be needed this time.

The wild card remains Anthony’s desire to sign an extension with the Nets, who obviously would not be willing to offer the same package without such a guarantee. While rival executives continue to doubt that Anthony would be willing to spend the next season-and-a-half in Newark, N.J., sources who have been in close contact with the power brokers in Anthony’s camp -- William Wesley and Leon Rose -- say the Nets remain an option for Anthony.

Anthony and the Nuggets will play Sunday at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks, which remain his top choice via a trade or free agency -- even though the latter option could cost him millions depending on how successful owners are at imposing salary reductions in the new collective bargaining agreement. Sources say Anthony is so fixated on winding up with the Knicks that Denver management has become convinced that he will tempt fate and the new CBA by playing out the entire season in Denver and signing with the Knicks as a free agent on July 1 – or after the lockout. The only way that scenario could be positive for Denver would be in a sign-and-trade deal. But such an arrangement – like the pennies-on-the-dollar deals that sent LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami – would not be nearly as beneficial as what the Nets are offering now.

The Knicks, playing their best basketball in years with free-agent acquisition Amar’e Stoudemire, have believed that their best chance of landing Melo was for the process to play out slowly – and they’ve gotten their wish so far. But the Nuggets, sources say, are not sold on the young players New York could offer such as Anthony Randolph, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Point guard Raymond Felton -- who has been on an offensive tear since gaining chemistry with Stoudemire and who becomes trade-eligible on Dec. 15 -- also does not interest the Nuggets, who view him as a halfcourt player who wouldn't fit their style.

Nuggets officials are said to be coming around to the idea that Harris could play in the backcourt with Chauncey Billups, who often played shooting guard this past summer with Team USA. But if Anthony is traded, sources say management also wants to show Billups -- who came to the Nuggets not just to come home, but to win -- the proper respect by engaging him in conversations about whether he'd prefer to be traded.

Other than hoping to persuade Anthony to sign the extension and stay in Denver, the biggest variable for the Nuggets is the sliding scale of quality on the Nets’ own first-round pick they’d convey in the trade. (They also would include Golden State’s protected 2012 first-rounder). The sooner the Nuggets trade Melo to New Jersey, the better the Nets get and the worse the pick gets. But that is a matter of timing and patience. As far as willingness to deal, it appears that the Nuggets are finally open for business.

And so are we in the rest of this week’s Post-Ups:

• With the Trail Blazers' obvious struggles and the health challenges (that's putting it mildly) of Greg Oden and Brandon Roy, two people with knowledge of the team's strategy told CBSSports.com that Portland management is contemplating trading older players and going young. The obvious targets for such a purge would be Marcus Camby (36), Andre Miller (34), and Joel Przybilla (31). Roy isn’t old, but his knees are -- though one of the sources said Portland would find no takers for the five years and $82.3 million remaining on Roy's contract, given the state of his meniscus-less knees. Przybilla ($7.4 million expiring contract) and Miller (whose $7.8 million salary in 2011-12 is fully non-guaranteed) are eminently moveable. Another candidate to be dealt, though not because of age or health, is Rudy Fernandez, who has wanted out of Portland for some time. Sources caution that the Blazers have engaged in only internal conversations about this strategy, and it is contingent upon the team (10-11) continuing to struggle. But the writing certainly is on the wall for major changes in Portland.

• Multiple NBA team executives told CBSSports.com this week they believe a significant number of college underclassmen will stay in school rather than risk losing a year of development (and pay) in a lockout. College coaches making the pitch to underclassman to stay in school will have more leverage than ever before. “They’ll have the hammer,” one exec said. “To lose a year of development at that stage of your career, that’s huge.” This could have a dramatic impact on a team like No. 4 Kansas, which in an ordinary year would have as many as three first-round picks: freshman Josh Selby (serving a nine-game NCAA suspension for accepting improper benefits); and juniors Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor. Sophomore Thomas Robinson also impressed NBA execs scouting the Jimmy V Classic Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden.

• Speaking of Madison Square Garden, rival execs agree that New York would be a logical landing spot for Andre Iguodala, and they believe the Sixers will be more than open to discussing trades for the dynamic but high-priced swingman as the Feb. 24 deadline approaches. The Knicks, one of the few teams in a position to absorb salary in the uncertain labor environment, also would be looking for an attractive piece to pair with Stoudemire in the event the Nuggets follow through with an Anthony trade prior to the deadline. Team president Donnie Walsh would have to decide if, short of Anthony, Iguodala is the best option that will be available to him between now and 2011 free agency -- if and when that happens. And also, if Iguodala is worth giving up the cap flexibility he's toiled three years to create. Pricetag notwithstanding -- the 26-year-old is due $56.5 million over the next four years -- Iguodala would be an excellent fit for Mike D'Antoni's high-octane offense and would instantly become the best defender on the roster by a mile.

• With details of the National Basketball Players Association's July proposal finally becoming fully public Wednesday, the question of how prepared the union is for a lockout is naturally going to come up. According to sources familiar with the union's financial documents, the NBPA currently has just shy of $100 million in liquid assets in its war chest in the event of a lockout. The funds have been accumulated largely through players agreeing to put aside licensing money they receive from the league -- something they are doing again this season to the tune of about $30 million. If you add non-liquid assets, such as property, the union will have about $175 million on hand. This is a lot of money to you and me, but not to 450 NBA players. Consider that the players' salaries (without benefits) last season totaled about $2.3 billion -- with a "b." Now consider that players are paid 12 times during the season -- twice a month for six months. That means the NBPA's total war chest is enough to cover the players' first paychecks during a lockout in the 2011-12 season.

• With trade discussions typically heating up around the 20-game mark -- and also around Dec. 15, when summer free agents become trade-eligible -- execs league-wide are curious to learn what sort of trade climate will exist in light of the labor uncertainty. Many predict that teams that have typically been willing to take on salary between December and the trade deadline (Feb. 24) will be less willing (or unwilling) to do so in this environment. Similarly, teams performing below management's internal expectations (Houston, the Clippers, the Blazers) have a tough decision to make. They could try to fix their problems now, but without knowing what the rules will be under the new agreement, they don't know what conditions they’re planning for. Of the aforementioned teams, the Blazers are in the best position to dump salary because of the attractiveness of the contracts they'd be moving. Plus, Miller's value is not only in his contract, but in his ability to push a contending team in need of a steadying point-guard presence over the top. Full disclosure: this is my idea, not anybody else's, but Orlando would be the perfect landing spot for Miller depending on what the Magic would be willing to send back.


Posted on: September 24, 2010 7:19 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2010 10:46 am
 

Preseason Primers: New York Knicks


The Knicks didn't get LeBron James. Or Dwyane Wade. Or Chris Bosh. Was the offseason a failure? Hardly. The Knicks are relevant again, with superstar Amar'e Stoudemire and supporting players Mike D'Antoni actually wants to coach. Playoffs? Let's not get carried away, but they have a shot. Which is more than the Knicks have been able to say for a long time. The buzz is back at Madison Square Garden. Now, all Donnie Walsh has to do is get Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul or Tony Parker. Maybe then he'd get some of the credit he's due. But even if Walsh never signs or trades for another player, he's already restored respectability and competitivenss to what was a lost franchise when he took over.

Training camp site: Greenburgh, N.Y.

Training camp starts: Sept. 25

Key additions: Amar’e Stoudemire (sign-and-trade), Raymond Felton (free agent), Anthony Randolph (trade), Kelenna Azubuike (trade), Ronny Turiaf (trade), Roger Mason Jr. (free agent), Landry Fields (draft).

Key subtractions: The stench of a decade of irrelevance. And David Lee (sign-and-trade)

Likely starting lineup: Felton, PG; Wilson Chandler, SG; Danilo Gallinari, SF; Stoudemire, PF; Ronny Turiaf, C.

Player to watch: Eddy Curry. Once again, all eyes are on the Knicks’ troubled center, who was on the verge of being an All-Star a few short years ago and now is hanging onto his career by a thread. Curry hasn’t made it through the first day of training camp for the past two years, so progress will be measured in baby steps. The best thing that could happen for all concerned is that Curry somehow stays healthy, keeps his weight in check, and shows enough in preseason to coax someone into taking on his $11.3 million expiring contract in a scenario that makes the Knicks better. For now, making it through a practice will do.

Chemistry check: Although the Knicks inexplicably flirted with past demons with the ill-fated attempt to bring Isiah Thomas back as a consultant, this is as clean as the slate has been at Madison Square Garden in years. With athletes like Stoudemire and Randolph, shooters like Gallinari and Mason, and a serviceable point guard in Felton, Mike D’Antoni finally will get to fully implement his offensive philosophy. Just as important, Stoudemire’s star power will bring the buzz back to the Garden.

Injury watch: Azubuike is still recovering from last season’s knee injury, and when he’s ready, he’ll be the starting shooting guard. That will give D’Antoni the flexibility to slide Chandler to the three or four, making him interchangeable with Gallinari and Randolph depending on matchups. Curry should be the starting center on paper, and the Knicks would like for him to be productive to increase his trade value. But if Curry falters – a good bet, given his track record – the Knicks are extremely high on Russian rookie Timofey Mozgov. D’Antoni is a huge fan of the 7-1 center, who figures to pass Curry on the depth chart by the start of the regular season.

Camp battles: Aside from Curry-Mozgov, D’Antoni has a pretty good idea of what the rotation will be. Mason, Bill Walker, Randolph and Turiaf give D’Antoni the most bench flexibility that he’s had since he came to New York. Fields, a sleeper in the draft who impressed with his length, athleticism and intelligent play during Summer League and in offseason workouts, figures to be a regular part of the rotation.

Biggest strength: The Knicks have been so bad, irrelevant and mismanaged for so long that the fact that team president Donnie Walsh has them under the cap with a superstar big man and young talent around him has gone overlooked. Such is the hangover from the pursuit of LeBron James. But remember: If Walsh hadn’t created cap space for two max players, James wasn’t coming to New York anyway. If Walsh hadn’t landed Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t want to come, either.

Glaring weakness: Aside from needing one more star to compete with the elite teams in the East, the Knicks need something D’Antoni isn’t known for: defense. They definitely have the athletes to defend better than their reputation under D’Antoni would suggest. Now they have to add the commitment and prioritize it, which will be one of the most important goals in training camp.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com