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Tag:Devin Harris
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:06 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 5:49 pm
 

Deron Williams to Nets

The Nets have acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams from the Jazz for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks, and cash, the teams announced Wednesday.

In a swift and astonishing comeback from their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, New Jersey also will get Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright from Golden State for Troy Murphy, who will be bought out, sources said. Murphy is considering signing with Boston, Miami or Orlando once his buyout is complete. That separate transaction, with Golden State also getting a 2012 second-round pick from the Nets, is expected to be completed later Wednesday.

The deal, first reported by the Bergen (N.J.) Record and Yahoo! Sports, represents a major coup for Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who lost out to cross-river rival New York in his pursuit of Anthony but arguably gets an even better prize for some of the pieces that were bound for Denver in a deal that was agreed to last week for Anthony. The Knicks acquired Anthony Tuesday for four players and three draft picks in a masssive, three-team, 13-player blockbuster. The Williams-to-New Jersey deal was agreed to Wednesday, hours before Anthony was set to make his debut for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Williams, arguably the best point guard in the game, had grown disenchanted in Utah, where friction between he and coach Jerry Sloan resulted in the Hall of Fame coach resigning Feb. 11. CBSSports.com reported during All-Star weekend that Williams began planning his exit from Utah last summer, telling associates that if Amar'e Stoudemire wound up signing with the Knicks, Williams wanted to follow him there as a free agent in 2012.

In a chaotic environment that has changed the landscape of the NBA, the Jazz boldly got out in front of the looming soap opera with their superstar, opting to trade him for assets a year before his free agency would become a major issue. By doing so, general manager Kevin O'Connor has taken one of the marquee 2012 free agents off the market and spared his organization the kind of drama and distraction that besieged the Nuggets until Anthony finally was dealt to the Knicks.

As one rival executive noted, the Nets turned the "guts of the Melo deal" into a far superior talent and didn't have to give up as much as Denver was asking for Anthony -- or even as much as the Knicks gave up for him. But in the end, the players and draft picks surrendered on both sides of the Hudson River will be all but forgotten once Williams, Stoudemire and Anthony embark on what will be without question the most heated rivalry the New York area teams have ever had.

And with early indications that Williams is not happy with the trade, the Nets took a calculated risk -- but one that could pay enormous dividends. The Knicks got a player who wanted to join them while Williams will have to be sold. But he'll have the rest of this season and next -- barring a lockout -- to evaluate whether he'll have enough talent with him by the time the team moves to Brooklyn in 2012.

The deal saves the Jazz about $3.6 million in salary and luxury-tax payments, but does not push them under the $70.3 million tax threshold. Given the obvious decision to go in a rebuilding direction, the Jazz could be poised for other deals to clear the remaining $4.9 million they're over the tax. The Jazz get New Jersey's 2011 first-round pick and Golden State's 2012 first-rounder, which also comes from the Nets after being acquired in a previous trade.

The Jazz play in Dallas Wednesday night in the first game of the post-Williams era. New Jersey's next game is Friday night in San Antonio, where it is expected that Williams will make his Nets debut.

With star players aggressively angling for better markets and fellow stars to team up with, following the blueprint set forth first by the Celtics and Lakers and then by Miami's Big Three last summer, the Jazz snuffed out what could've been another long, painful march to free agency for Williams.

During All-Star weekend, Williams danced around the report by CBSSports.com that he hatched an escape plan to New York last summer and proclaimed that he would not be addressing his impending free agency until he made a decision. On Wednesday, about 28 hours before the trade deadline, the decision was made for him. Williams has two years left on his contract after this one, including a player option in 2012-13 -- when the Nets are scheduled to move into their new home in Brooklyn and truly ignite their rivalry with the Knicks.

In so many ways, that rivalry has been smoldering for months as the Knicks and Nets pursued Anthony. It was elevated to five-alarm status Wednesday, with Prokhorov trumping Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan's acquisition of Anthony on the very day the Knicks' new superstar makes his home debut against the Bucks.

Williams isn't eligible for an extension until July 1 -- or whichever comes first, July 1 or the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement. By trading him a year before he had the leverage of being able to force his way to the team of his choice -- like Anthony did with the Knicks -- the Jazz not only avoid the drama, but they also get a better deal than one they would've gotten under such duress.

The deal not only represents a short-term victory for the Nets in their battle with the Knicks over superstar talent -- it was 2-0 New York until Wednesday, with Stoudemire and Anthony on board at the Garden -- it also has wide-ranging implications in the chase for 2012 free agents. Will Williams stay in New Jersey, buy into the Brooklyn mystique, and try to topple the Knicks' star tandem of Stoudemire and Anthony by serving as a magnet for future free agents? Will he decline to sign an extension and try to force his way to the Knicks? Does his presence on the Nets virtually assure that fellow star point guard Chris Paul will make his summer wedding toast come true by joining Stoudemire and Anthony in New York in 2012? Whom does Dwight Howard team up with when his free-agent clock starts ticking? The Lakers, Knicks, or Nets?

Only this is for sure: The floodgates pushed ajar by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer have blown wide open.


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 18, 2011 3:58 am
 

Welcome to the Melo free-agent summit

LOS ANGELES -- Amid revived discussions between the Nuggets and Nets on a blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey, the tipping point remains as it has always been: Will Anthony take the ultimate deciding step and meet with Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov to indicate his willingness to sign a contract extension as part of a trade?

A possible three-team deal in which the Nets would give up a staggering haul of four first-round picks to lure the three-time All Star away from his preferred choice, the Knicks, cannot move forward without the Nets' owner finally getting his chance to sell Anthony on being the centerpiece of the franchise's move to Brooklyn. However, CBSSports.com has learned that Anthony personally has not agreed to such a meeting during All-Star weekend, despite reports that his representatives have already arranged it.

The New York Daily News reported Friday that Anthony is scheduled not only to meet with Prokhorov, but also Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan -- setting up dueling free-agent summits reminiscent of the teams' courtship of LeBron James in July.

A firm answer won't come until Friday afternoon, when Anthony will address the media as part of the scheduled All-Star interview sessions. The opportunity to meet with Prokhorov -- if, in fact, the Russian has changed his mind about ending his team's pursuit of Anthony -- represents the final step in determining whether the Nets' months-long pursuit of the All-Star can continue or not. After it became known that the Nets and Nuggets had re-engaged in talks after Prokhorov ordered GM Billy King to walk away from the negotiating table Jan. 19, Prokhorov's spokesperson, Ellen Pinchuk, told the Associated Press, "Mikhail has not changed his mind."

The latest incarnation of the New Jersey deal has the Nets sending Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and Ben Uzoh to the Nuggets along with four first-round picks for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, and Renaldo Balkman. In addition, Yahoo! Sports reported that Troy Murphy and his $12 million expiring contract would be sent to a third team, which would receive compensation in the form of one or two of the first-round picks from New Jersey.

The Nuggets, who privately have expected to someday revive the New Jersey talks since Prokhorov ended them last month, prefer this deal to anything the Knicks have been willing to offer. One person connected to the talks described the New Jersey deal as a leverage play that would force the Knicks to come to the table with their best offer for Anthony, who has long been determined to agree to a three-year, $65 million extension only with the Knicks if traded before the Feb. 24 deadline.

"It's good pressure for the Knicks," the person connected to the talks said.

The Knicks have balked at Denver's demands for Anthony, believing their best chance to build a championship team around the All-Star tandem of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire would be to sign Anthony as a free agent after he opts out of his $18.5 million contract for next season. Knicks president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni have remained steadfast in their belief that they cannot afford to gut the team to get Anthony and leave themselves without payroll flexibility to build around him -- flexibility Walsh spent the past 2 1-2 years creating after years of mismanagement at Madison Square Garden.

Indeed, Prokhorov won't be the only billionaire roaming the hotel hallways in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles Friday. Dolan's presence for league meetings and a collective bargaining session has further stoked speculation that he will overrule his basketball people and authorize a lopsided trade in the face of the Nuggets' renewed leverage with the Nets.

Anthony has delivered consistently mixed signals about his willingness to meet with Prokhorov, a necessary step in completing the trade to New Jersey. When stories broke prematurely last month that the Nuggets had given the Nets permission to speak with Anthony directly, Anthony reacted dismissively after a game in San Antonio and said, "I let the front office handle that type of stuff. ... That's not my job to do."

Days later, after Prokhorov pulled the plug, Anthony conceded, "I would've taken that meeting."

This weekend in L.A., it will be hard for this sought-after millionaire to hide from the billionaires courting him.





Posted on: January 10, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: January 10, 2011 12:43 pm
 

Melo blow-by-blow: Denver driving hard bargain

The framework of a blockbuster, three-team trade that could send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey began coming together Thursday and Friday, but there were miles to go -- not inches -- before the complicated scenario could come together.

After a whirlwind 72 hours marked by acrimony, destabilizing attempts from multiple stakeholders and even a funeral that one executive involved had to attend, the best thing that can be said Monday about the proposed deal is that the Nets and Nuggets are still communicating.

Judging from the hurt feelings and frustration that has built up among some of the participants, that is an accomplishment almost as remarkable as the ambitious framework of the deal itself. And the fact that both sides are willing to put aside grudges means that Denver and New Jersey are sufficiently motivated to complete the trade.

When? Not until the Nuggets have explored every option and tried to extract the highest possible price for Anthony, a three-time All-Star and franchise cornerstone who may already be playing beyond his expiration date in Denver.

Based on first-hand accounts from league sources, here is the latest holdup in the arrangement that would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton to New Jersey, Troy Murphy and Johan Petro to Detroit and Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and multiple first-round picks to Denver: The Nuggets, negotiating from a position of strength because they own the most coveted asset in the trade, are trying to extract one more quality young player and more cost savings from the current framework of the deal -- and if they can't do that, expand it or explore other scenarios to ensure they are getting the most assets possible for parting with their superstar.

UPDATE: One issue was quickly resolved Monday, with the Nets and Pistons essentially agreeing that Detroit would get a second-round pick from New Jersey for taking on Petro's contract, sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.

But Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri would prefer to parlay Harris into Nicolas Batum (pictured) by involving Portland in the deal, a scenario they thoroughly explored before the Pistons' involvement as a third team over the weekend, sources said. The Pistons' portion of the deal -- sending Hamilton to New Jersey so Anthony wouldn't have to go it alone in a risky reclamation project -- is solidified as far as Detroit and New Jersey are concerned. But the Nuggets have yet to decide if that is the best option for them.

From the standpoint of easing Anthony's concerns about signing a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nets, it represents a major breakthrough for the Nuggets. But executives in contact with Denver officials say Ujiri hasn't given up on recruiting the Blazers to contribute Batum and wants more time to shop the current offer and make sure it is the best deal he can get. In addition to getting another young player -- and Denver isn't sold on Harris, given the $17.8 million price tag over the next two seasons and the progress of Ty Lawson -- the Nuggets are continuing to explore getting off one of their long-term contracts as part of an Anthony trade. Sources say they are working feverishly to find a taker for either Al Harrington or Renaldo Balkman, a requirement that complicates matters even more.

Among the teams the Nuggets have spoken with previously is Minnesota, which asked for one of the Nets' better first-round picks in exchange for taking Murphy. With that, the conversation died. Sources also told CBSSports.com Monday that the Nuggets have engaged with the Knicks "a little bit here and there" about what it would take to get Anthony to his preferred destination, Madison Square Garden. Executives in contact with the Nuggets said Denver plans to give the Knicks an opportunity to construct a trade proposal that they will compare to what the Nets are offering -- a prospect that seems unlikely to be fruitful for New York, given that the Nuggets have always been more interested in the Nets' assets than the Knicks'.

Privately, members of the Nuggets organization believe they have taken Anthony's wishes into account by trying to construct a deal that does not land him in a bad situation. In addition, they believe the inclusion of Hamilton -- who shares Anthony's agent, Leon Rose -- is tantamount to approval from Melo that he will go against his desire to play for the Knicks and agree to the New Jersey extension. A team executive previously involved in Anthony trade talks but currently on the sideline agreed Monday.

"Melo originally wouldn't sign there," the executive said. "But it seems now, with the addition of Rip if that happens, he could have a change of heart."

Said an executive with a stake in Melo signing off on the deal with New Jersey, "There is going to have to be a sell. But at the end of the day, does Melo say, 'No?' I strongly doubt it."

It is one of many twists and turns in a combustible negotiation that at one point over the weekend seemed destined to blow up because the Nuggets, once again, were facing external pressure to rush into a deal. But it should be abundantly clear by now that Ujiri, a soft-spoken, Nigerian born former scout now in the hottest executive seat in the NBA, "won't back down," according to one executive who described him as "a bulldog."

Ujiri "may seem quiet and soft," the executive said, but is "not stupid."

Based on first-hand accounts, talks between Denver and New Jersey took a back seat to Detroit's involvement over the weekend, with executives waiting to hear back from Pistons president Joe Dumars, who was attending a funeral Saturday. After the Pistons' angle leaked Friday in a report by The Record of Hackensack, N.J., sensitivities were running high in Denver because of the mutual respect between Billups and the organization -- and the fan base's understanding that if Billups were dealt, that would signal the waving of a white flag on this season.

While Ujiri and executive Josh Kroenke internally weighed the pros and cons of involving the Pistons, everyone with a stake in the deal was waiting to hear back from Dumars, who needed to meet Sunday with ownership to find out if he could get the money-saving Hamilton deal approved. Dumars, in the midst of an ownership change, has been hamstrung in trade negotiations but was able to get approval to dump Hamilton and save the organization more than $17 million.

But when word came from Dumars Sunday afternoon that the Pistons were in, the Nuggets didn't view it as moving the larger deal to the cusp of the goal line. As was the case with the four-team deal with Utah and Charlotte that fell apart in the days before training camp, it appeared to those outside the organization that the Nuggets were once again feeling rushed into hastily completing the trade.

If leaks that the trade including fan favorite Billups was all but agreed to were aimed at destabilizing the already frail locker-room psyche in Denver, it appeared to be working. Anthony, Billups and other peripheral players being discussed in the trade played Sunday night, when a disengaged Anthony scored only eight points in a 96-87 loss to the Hornets. Billups, confronted with questions about being traded, was 2-for-12 from the field and scored 13 points.

When asked after the game if this was his final game with the Nuggets, Anthony responded to reporters by saying, "Not at all" five times. The Nuggets host the Suns Tuesday night, and the Nets are at Phoenix Wednesday -- a deadline of sorts since both teams would need their full complement of new players in time for those games.

Conversations between the Nets and Nuggets continued into the early morning hours Monday, which should be read as encouraging given all the twists and turns. One executive stressed, "It hasn't broken down," evidence of the strong commitment on the Nets' and Nuggets' parts to complete the deal.

I guess they can all shake hands and make up when it's over.

Posted on: January 9, 2011 7:14 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2011 2:18 am
 

Nets, Nuggets, Pistons close in on Melo deal

UPDATED 2:18 a.m. ET

Carmelo Anthony "does not need to be convinced" to sign a contact extension as part of a blockbuster, three-team trade that would send the three-time All-Star to New Jersey, league sources told CBSSports.com Sunday night.

One executive involved in the trade talks called Anthony's stance on an extension with the Nets "a non-factor," because the teams involved "already know it won't hold up the deal." The tipping point in moving Melo toward giving up his preference to wind up with the Knicks was the involvement of the Pistons, who would send Richard Hamilton to the Nets to help Anthony with his reclamation project in Newark, N.J., for the next year-and-a-half.

That key component was close to agreement Sunday night, with the Pistons poised to send Hamilton to New Jersey in exchange for Troy Murphy's expiring contract and Johan Petro -- who may go to the Pistons or somewhere else, sources said. Hamilton, who has two years and $25 million left on his deal, was the key cog in a broader plan to entice Anthony to give up his resistance to extending with the Nets instead of insisting on a deal to his preferred destination.

The other part of that equation involves Chauncey Billups joining Anthony and reuniting with Hamilton in New Jersey, sources said. The principle pieces New Jersey has offered to the Nuggets all along -- Derrick Favors and multiple first-round picks -- would still go to Denver in this three-team scenario. The involvement of Billups, who has stated that he wants to retire with the Nuggets, necessitates the Nets sending Devin Harris to the Nuggets. 

Though Billups would prefer to stay in Denver, a person with direct knowledge of his thinking rejected the notion of the Nets buying him out this season if he is sent to New Jersey in this trade. "Highly unlikely," the person said.

Numerous other players -- for a total of as many as 15 in the eventual deal -- are being discussed as the Nuggets finally have begun to push forward amid pressure from Anthony's representatives, Leon Rose and William Wesley of Creative Artists Agency, to put an end to the uncertainty over Anthony's future. 

The deal is so complicated, with so many agendas to satisfy -- from the three teams involved to the cadre of high-profile agents roped into the talks -- that plenty could go wrong. One executive involved in the talks told CBSSports.com Sunday night that the deal was not imminent, while others said discussions were continuing and players were being added and subtracted from the deal. According to rival executives who've negotiated with the Nuggets on other Anthony scenarios, Denver should heed of the dangers of killing another good deal after a four-team trade involving New Jersey, Utah and Charlotte fell apart amid indecision and overshooting by the Nuggets.

"Eventually, they're going to have to say, 'This is the best deal we're going to get,'" one of the rival execs said. "Last-second ramming guys in and out is not going to fly."

One last-minute change he Nuggets were believed to be seeking was having New Jersey take more salary off their hands. If that sounds familiar, that is exactly how the Utah-Charlotte deal fell apart. But in this case, the third team, Detroit, believes it has its part of the deal solidly in place and is more motivated to gain the savings from moving Hamilton than Utah and Charlotte were to participate last time.

One person with knowledge of the talks said Al Harrington, whose name has been included in previous incarnations of a straight-up Denver-New Jersey deal, had not yet been brought into this three-team version -- but the names were still changing overnight, sources said.

The Nets have been proceeding for months with the understanding that Anthony would sign off on a three-year, $65 million extension without which the above talks would die an immediate death. Their optimism is understandable, considering Anthony's agents have been the driving force behind several trade proposals that would send the three-time All-Star to Newark for a season-and-a-half before the team finally moves to Brooklyn -- Anthony's birthplace -- in 2012. 

"He wants the money and he wants to be from New York," one rival executive said in explaining Anthony's apparent rationale. "He gets the city he wants for the money he wants."

With the Hamilton component essentially agreed to, according to one of the executives involved, Anthony is as close as he's ever been to the moment of truth. Despite repeated assurances from Anthony's camp, the Nets did not yet have approval from Anthony's mouth as of Sunday night, according to one person familiar with the situation. 

Last month, a person directly involved in Anthony's decision told CBSSports.com that the only team he'd agree to an extension with via a trade was the Knicks. There have been no indications from Anthony himself that he has changed his stance. However, given the perceived risk of leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table with a punitive new collective bargaining agreement looming -- and with the addition of Hamilton and Billups meaning Anthony wouldn't have to go it alone in Newark -- the Nets and Nuggets are convinced the contractual issue won't blow up the deal. 

In the sort of delicious irony that often is the hallmark of major NBA trades, one of the key sticking points was which team would take Petro, who has two years and $6.75 million left on his contract. As the Record of Hackensack, N.J., first reported, the Nets initially tried to get the Pistons to absorb Petro's contract and fork over their 2011 first-round pick in the process. Pistons president Joe Dumars flatly rejected the invitation, but sources said the enormous savings from dumping Hamilton -- approximately $17 million -- was enough to entice the Pistons to absorb Petro as long as they don't have to surrender any picks in the process. Still, the Pistons would prefer if a fourth team could be found to take Petro, an option the Nets were aggressively exploring.
Posted on: December 23, 2010 10:21 pm
Edited on: December 24, 2010 12:20 am
 

LeBron: Contraction would be 'great' for NBA

PHOENIX -- During a candid pregame discussion about whether the formation of Miami’s free-agent trio was good for the NBA, LeBron James said the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard him say. 

Contraction would be great for the NBA. 

Well, he didn’t us the word “contraction,” but James said he hopes that some day the NBA will be able to figure out how to bring the game back to the greatness that was experienced in the 1980s, when “ten teams had probably two or three All-Stars on one team, at least.” 

When someone correctly pointed out that there were only 24 teams then, as opposed to the 30 that exist now, James said, “That’s why it was great. That’s my point.” 

The conversation began when LeBron was asked if the nationwide anticipation of the Heat-Lakers game on Christmas Day was validation of Dwyane Wade’s plan to join forces with James and Chris Bosh in Miami. Oh, and before we’ve even gotten to the showcase game on Saturday, the league’s TV ratings are up 30 percent this season. Something must be working. 

But as owners of high- and low-revenue teams continue to debate how to enhance the league’s revenue-sharing system in conjunction with negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, the greatness James remembers from the NBA of the ‘80s is only being experienced in a few cities. The Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs, Celtics, Heat and Magic – plus maybe Utah and Chicago – have a legitimate chance at winning the championship. The rest of the teams can only wallow in their own pity – and tens of millions in losses, according to commissioner David Stern. 

“Hopefully the league can figure out one day how it can go back to the situation like it was in the ‘80s,” James said. “… The league was great. It wasn’t as watered down as it is. You had more [star] players on a team, which made almost every game anticipated -- not just a Christmas Day game, not just a Halloween game. I don’t ever think it’s bad for the league when guys decide that they want to do some greatness for the better of what we call a team sport. 

“I’m a player," James said, "but that’s why the league was so great. You can just imagine if you could take Kevin Love off Minnesota and add him to another team and you shrink the guys … I’m just looking at some of the teams that are not that great. You take Brook Lopez or you take Devin Harris off teams that are not that good right now and add them to a team that could be really good. I’m not saying let’s take New Jersey, let’s take Minnesota out of the league. But hey, you guys are not stupid. I’m not stupid, but I know what would be great for the league.” 

He’s right. So you see, there was genius in LeBron’s decision to go to Miami. Because that was only part of the plan. 

I wish he’d announced on “The Decision” that after signing with the Heat, he was also eliminating six teams from the NBA. He wouldn’t have been nearly the villain he’s become.
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 27, 2010 12:36 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 10:39 pm
 

Nuggets' indecision 'a huge puzzle' (UPDATE)

Talks of a blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to the Nets gained momentum Monday before getting bogged down again in the Nuggets' indecision, two people familiar with the negotiations told CBSSports.com.

One person briefed on the complicated, four-team talks described them as "moving along" after a weekend of inertia fueled by Denver's inability to make a final decision on trading its franchise player -- and Anthony's desire to make sure he was doing the right thing by signing off on a deal to New Jersey.

"Talking and waiting," was how another person with knowledge of the negotiations described them.

On Sunday, a person connected to the talks told CBSSports.com that there was a "more than 50 percent chance" Anthony is traded in the next 24-48 hours. The momentum gained Monday bolstered that prediction, with most of the focus on the original framework of the deal also involving the Bobcats and Jazz.

But as the discussions dragged on, frustration with the Nuggets' handling of the negotiations was building among the other executives involved in the deal. One person who has been briefed on the talks described the Denver team of GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke and adviser Bret Bearup -- consummating their first trade together -- as "a huge puzzle." A second person familiar with the discussions expressed frustration with "a lot of contingencies" the Nuggets were trying to place on the deal, and a third described the Nuggets as indecisive and hesitant.

Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor, speaking at Utah's media day , said, "If you're going to make that trade, it would've been done Friday."

The Nuggets have done this slow dance before, under different leadership, but the meandering pace of these trade talks has some execs marveling at how some things in Denver haven't changed.

As part of the scenario being discussed for weeks and tabled over the weekend while Denver executives strategized privately and sought other offers, the Nets would send No. 3 pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks to Denver for Anthony. The Bobcats would get Devin Harris from New Jersey and send Boris Diaw to Utah, which could send Andrei Kirilenko and his $17.8 million expiring contract to Denver. Quinton Ross would go from New Jersey to Utah.

That basic structure "hasn't changed" since Friday, said one person who has been briefed on the talks.

As discussions progressed, however, sources confirmed reports that Utah was trying to get a second-round pick in the deal, and Charlotte was asking for cash or a pick for its involvement. Those issues were "being discussed" Monday, one of the sources said. At the same time, frustration was growing for Utah and Charlotte, although one executive with a hand in the negotiations pointed out that both teams would have something significant to lose if the deal fell apart: Charlotte needs a starting point guard, and Utah needs luxury-tax relief.

The Nuggets, who accelerated trade talks in response to ominous predictions of problems that would result from Anthony staying in Denver, convened for media day Monday -- and Anthony was there. Though that hurdle was far from a drop-dead deadline, it was nonetheless ideal from the Nuggets' standpoint to make considerable progress before being saddled with controversy and drama.

There was no hiding how torn Denver officials were Monday between trying to find a better deal and hoping that Anthony's camp could be persuaded to tamp down its trade rhetoric. After spending the weekend trying to determine if a better deal would emerge -- or if better assets could be acquired from the three other teams currently involved -- the Nuggets reached a tipping point in the most difficult decision a franchise ever has to make. That is one reason Denver tried to explore every angle and wanted to meet in person with Anthony before agreeing to trade him.

One avenue Denver pursued recently in the trade discussions was getting Gerald Wallace from Charlotte in the deal, a person involved in the talks told CBSSports.com Monday. But the Bobcats have insisted throughout that they'd only trade Wallace if it meant getting Anthony in the deal, and that's not happening based on Anthony's lack of interest in playing in Charlotte. For the same reason, Denver's interest in the Sixers' Andre Iguodala is a non-starter.

A package featuring No. 2 pick Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, the expiring contract of Jason Kapono and draft picks -- explored previously here -- also fails to pass the Melo test.

As the Nets' discussions continued to develop Monday, sources say one team that is more involved than commonly thought is the Knicks. After New York fell short in its pursuit of LeBron James and/or Dwyane Wade, it would be devastating for the Knicks to watch Anthony go to their cross-river rival -- especially since that rival is moving into the city limits to Brooklyn in two years. While Knicks president Donnie Walsh has been in far from panic mode, he has been "working every angle" in an effort to get back in the game with Anthony, according to a rival executive familiar with Walsh's approach.

"He's the master," the executive said. "I'll put it this way: If there's any way to get something done that he feels good about, he'll get it done. He'll leave no stone unturned."






 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com