Posted on: January 11, 2011 10:06 am
Executives haggling over the potential blockbuster trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey were underground Tuesday, creating a veil of secrecy that could create a more fertile environment for a deal, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.
After a contentious weekend of talks marked by fury among Denver officials over persistent leaks about the discussions, it became clear that Nuggets executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke had taken firm control of the negotiations.
While Nets GM Billy King, brought to New Jersey for his ability as a savvy deal-maker, has been the driving force behind the Melo-to-New Jersey talks since September, all parties with a stake in the matter are now taking their cues from Ujiri -- signaling a bold show of strength from the young executive who has been thrust into a franchise-shaping moment for the Nuggets.
“Underground,” is how one prominent agent with ties to the talks described the state of negotiations.
The secretive tone of the talks bolstered a belief among rival executives that the flurry of information that emanated from the discussions over the weekend was too detailed and public to represent the substance of a real, imminent deal. In fact, sources have told CBSSports.com that Denver officials were not only frustrated with the public nature of the talks, but also felt pushed into a scenario they were not yet ready to act upon.
Upon receiving word from New Jersey officials Sunday that Pistons president Joe Dumars had received upper management approval to join the potential blockbuster by sending Richard Hamilton to the Nets for Troy Murphy’s expiring contract and Johan Petro, the Nuggets did not view it as a defining moment in the completion of a deal. Instead, Ujiri and Kroenke informed the Nets that they were stiil deliberating several aspects of the situation, including whether a two-team or three-team deal was best for them. The Nuggets also wanted to explore whether they could achieve more savings in the deal by finding a taker for either Al Harrington or Renaldo Balkman, and obtain another young player -- perhaps by inviting a fourth team into the equation.
The conflicting agendas represented a repeat of the environment that saw a four-team deal involving Charlotte and Utah fall apart prior to training camp. But with the Pistons solidly committed, having negotiated a second-round pick from the Nets for taking Petro, the Nuggets and Nets are left to try to smooth out their differences in an attempt to finalize the complicated trade.
Ill will over the public nature of the weekend talks and external pressure Ujiri and Kroenke were getting will not be a deal breaker, one executive involved in the negotiations told CBSSports.com. And it became clear Tuesday that with Denver officials calling the shots and demanding discretion, it would give the discussions the best chance they’ve had to reach a conclusion.
Meanwhile, though, Nuggets officials remain committed to exploring every potential offer from other teams, including the Knicks, who are Anthony’s preferred destination. With a meeting looming among Anthony, Ujiri and Kroenke to discuss the status of talks and his feelings about signing a three-year extension with the Nets, clarity should come soon.
Posted on: January 10, 2011 11:00 am
Edited on: January 10, 2011 12:43 pm
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
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.