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."