After an appropriate cooling-off period surrounding Carmelo Anthony trade talks after the tragic death of his sister, teams are beginning to get a renewed sense of where the Nuggets are strategy-wise. And once again, multiple sources tell CBSSports.com that Denver officials are sending mixed signals and still appear undecided as to whether they're seeking veteran players who can help them now or some combination of cap relief, draft picks and young players.
As a result of what one rival executive referred to as the Nuggets having "overplayed their hand" in negotiations with the Nets, frustrated New Jersey officials are in the process of "substantively" re-evaluating their pursuit of Anthony, a three-time All-Star who has refused to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets.
No one is fully aware of Anthony's mindset after he's missed five games grieving the loss of his sister, Michelle, who died tragically at 38 last week. But with trade demands that another executive described as "too high and unrealistic," the Nuggets run the risk of alienating the team that from the beginning had the most assets to offer -- starting with Derrick Favors, multiple first-round picks and the expiring contract of Troy Murphy.
The Nuggets' outward appearance of indecision could very well be a negotiating tactic, as a person with direct knowledge of Denver's strategy has told CBSSports.com that the team has decided it wants to get young and accumulate draft picks if and when they decide to trade Anthony -- not attempt to tread water with sub-par veteran replacements whose contracts would hinder the team's future flexibility. The other wild card, of course, is Anthony's reluctance to sign an extension with the Nets, which has been confirmed by a person with direct knowledge of his thinking.
In view of their frustration, the Nets have not yet gotten to the point where they're ready to pull all their chips off the table. But it's clear that the Nets are "sick of the whole charade," according to one source and have "backed away," according to another. And with that, we move along to the rest of the final 2010 edition of Post-Ups:
* Exploratory trade talks the Trail Blazers are involved in on multiple fronts hinge on what decision is made with regard to Brandon Roy's short- and long-term health. Team officials already have engaged in internal discussions about trading older players such as Marcus Camby, Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla. Such an avenue would seem to be more likely if it's decided that Roy will miss significantly more than the six games he just sat out due to a bone-on-bone condition in both knees. One scenario involved Miller going to the Bobcats, but those talks took place prior to Charlotte's recent coaching change. The Bobcats now are entering a new evaluation period under coach Paul Silas and have no current interest in straight salary-dump trades. "That's the furthest thing from the truth," one source said. "We want to do basketball deals if we can."
* A person with knowledge of Camby's thinking confirmed a report that the 14-year veteran would indeed contemplate retirement if traded to a rebuilding team. Camby's overwhelming preference is to stay in Portland, and there is "no close second," the person said. But if a trade to a contending team in a city his family would be willing to relocate to were presented, Camby would be open to the idea. The Knicks, who from time to time have expressed interest in bringing Camby back to New York, are one team that would meet the 36-year-old's approval.
* The Rockets have been engaged in trade discussions regarding Yao Ming and his expiring $17.7 million contract, but have been met with underwhelming offers thus far. One rival GM said that's because any team contemplating acquiring Yao would have to do so only for cap relief. "You have to do that with the assumption that he'll never play again," the executive said. The balance of Yao's contract for this season is insured due to his latest foot injury, and thus would provide current savings as well as future cap relief.
* According to Kings GM Geoff Petrie, Tyreke Evans' injury prognosis may not be as bad as it seems. Petrie told CBSSports.com Wednesday that specialists have informed the team that if Evans elects to undergo a laser procedure to resolve plantar fasciitis in his left foot, he could be back as fast as 3-4 weeks -- not the 3-4 months that Evans told reporters after a one-point loss to the Clippers Monday night. In that game, Evans scored 32 points in 40 minutes. On Wednesday night, he hit a 50-foot game-winner to give the Kings a 100-98 victory over Memphis. "He seems to be managing it fairly well right at the moment," Petrie said.
* The December holidays brought an intermission to labor talks, with no substantive negotiation expected until after the New Year. But in recent weeks, at least 10 teams have signed petitions approving decertification -- a tactic that would put the owners' right to lock out the players in legal question. National Basketball Players Association officials plan to continue meeting with teams in January and get further decertification petitions signed. If and when the owners notify players of a lockout at or near the expiration date of the current CBA on July 1, union officials will have the paperwork they need to dissolve the union and challenge the lockout as a violation of antitrust laws. But there are divergent views in the labor-law world on whether decertification is a legitimate tactic. In his most recent public appearance in Memphis earlier this month, commissioner David Stern described it as "a nuclear option. But I'm not sure whether it isn't the nuclear option that falls on the party that launches it."