Tag:Chauncey Billups
Posted on: February 22, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 9:28 pm

Knicks tried to get Camby in Melo deal

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One of the notable holes in the Knicks' roster that will persist after the Carmelo Anthony trade is a capable, defensive-minded center. The Knicks tried to fill that hole with efforts to draw Portland into the deal as the fourth team and bring Marcus Camby back to New York, two people with knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com.

It wasn't clear what pieces the Knicks would've sent to the Trail Blazers in such a scenario, but both sources said Tuesday afternoon that New York's efforts to get Camby failed. The three-team, 13-player Anthony trade went through Tuesday night with only one minor addition -- Kosta Koufos going from Minnesota to Denver for a second-round pick.

The Blazers are actively shopping Camby, Joel Przybilla and Andre Miller and are very likely to make at least one deal before Thursday's trade deadline. Given the uncertain futures of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, Portland general manager Rich Cho is trying to flip the expiring contract of Przybilla and the essentially expiring deal of Miller (whose contract is fully non-guaranteed next season) for draft picks and younger players.

The Nets were weighing a Miller-for-Devin Harris swap Tuesday night but also proposed sending Harris back to Dallas for Caron Butler's expiring contract, Dominique Jones and a first-round pick. Sources said Dallas was trying to get that deal done with Butler alone. 

Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:15 pm
Edited on: February 22, 2011 2:46 pm

Amar'e welcomes Carmelo to New York

GREENBURGH, N.Y. – The guy who started it all, who put the cachet and challenges of playing in New York on his shoulders, embraced the idea of getting some help Tuesday. Amar’e Stoudemire has a co-star – and not a minute too soon, as far as he’s concerned. 

“I think that’s where it all started, when I signed here in New York,” Stoudemire said, recalling his decision to be the first star to come to the Knicks at a time when the NBA landscape is changing forever. “That pretty much opened the eyes of the rest of the basketball world that, ‘New York is a place that I’d go now.’” 

Stoudemire spoke by phone Tuesday morning with his new teammate, Carmelo Anthony, who was en route to the Knicks’ training facility after the blockbuster trade sending him from Denver to the Knicks was agreed to Monday night. The customary conference call with league officials to approve the trade was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re both really excited,” Stoudemire said. “Chauncey (Billups) is a great shooter off the screen-roll and Carmelo can space the floor from the 3-point line out. The court’s going to be open and it’s going to be hard to guard us.” 

Stoudemire said he found out that the trade had been agreed to Monday night from Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who took the lead on closing the massive, three-team, 12-player trade with Denver and Minnesota.

"Mr. Dolan called me and told me," Stoudemire said. "We commented back and forth. The one thing I talked about when I first signed was keeping the communication open because the goal was to win a championship team."

Stoudemire and Anthony first met in high school, playing in McDonald’s All-American games and the Jordan Classic. Now, they’ll have to figure out how to co-exist on the same team – in a city that is overwhelmed with expectations that the addition of Anthony puts the Knicks in the hunt with Miami, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Atlanta. The pressure will be stifling and the expectations unrealistic, but Stoudemire said it is precisely what Anthony was looking for since he began angling for a trade five months ago. 

“That’s what he wants,” Stoudemire said. “That’s what I wanted, coming to New York and playing on the big stage. We have that same swag. We’re going to do it together.” 

Stoudemire likened the addition of Anthony to Phoenix giving him Steve Nash in Phoenix, when current Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni was the coach there.

"We went to the Western Conference finals and won 60-odd games," Stoudemire said. "We built a championship caliber team. That's something that's been overlooked, what I did for that franchise."

Now, Stoudemire brings in Anthony, whose union was first discussed publicly at Anthony's wedding in July -- when Chris Paul raised a glass to forming "our own Big Three in New York." Two down, one to go -- though Stoudemire smiled when asked if he'd spoken with a certain New Orleans point guard since the trade went down.

"No, I haven't talked to him at all," Stoudemire said.

It took Stoudemire’s pals in Miami, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, a solid two months before they got used to playing with each other. With Amar’e and Melo, there will be bumps in the road. But Stoudemire said “there’s no doubt” they’re compatible. 

“Every team needs a 1 and a 1-A punch,” Stoudemire said. 

If nothing else, the Knicks have that. And Stoudemire believes the guys in Miami and Boston will take notice. 

“I think they know it’s starting to get harder and harder in the East,” Stoudemire said.
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: 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: February 8, 2011 2:18 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2011 4:11 pm

Sources: Melo-Bynum talks have some traction

The Lakers and Nuggets have achieved some traction with recent trade discussions involving Andrew Bynum and Carmelo Anthony, two people with knowledge of the talks told CBSSports.com Tuesday. 

Bynum-for-Anthony would be the obvious centerpiece in the proposed deal, but numerous other pieces that would have to be involved make it "very, very difficult to get this done," said one of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss team business. 

The Lakers' early success in piquing the Nuggets' interest in Bynum represents a subtle shift in Denver's trade strategy. One of the people familiar with the talks said Nuggets officials have recently expressed a renewed desire to bring back a "star player" along with multiple draft picks in a trade for Anthony. A scenario involving the Knicks, Anthony's No. 1 choice in a trade, would not yield a star but would save the Nuggets significant money and provide cap relief to rebuild. 

UPDATE: ESPN The Magazine first reported the preliminary discussions between the Lakers and Nuggets Tuesday. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak declined to comment on the level of the team's involvement with the Nuggets, and spokesman John Black said the team doesn't comment on "trade rumors."

A third person connected to the situation said he found it "suspicious" that the Bynum-Anthony scenario would become public so soon after it was publicly revealed that the Knicks have found a willing participant in the Timberwolves to contribute to a three-team scenario that would send Anthony to New York. That person said he received some signals early last week that the Lakers and Nuggets were at least considering entering into Bynum-Anthony discussions.

"Someone is trying to scare New York," the person said.
Although Anthony's representatives with Creative Artists Agency have recently stepped up their efforts to circulate Melo's long-held preference for a trade to New York, those close to the three-time All-Star believe there is no question he would sign a three-year, $65 million extension as part of a trade to the Lakers. Such a scenario would give Anthony everything he wants -- top-dollar in an extension, the big-market allure that comes with the Lakers' Hollywood surroundings, and the inside track to his first championship. 

But such a complicated trade is much bigger than Anthony's desires. Sources say the Nuggets would insist on the Lakers recruiting a third team that could provide attractive first-round picks. From the Lakers' perspective, they also would be looking for a backcourt upgrade in the deal -- and sources say Chauncey Billups could fit that bill as a short-term replacement for struggling Derek Fisher

Also, despite his denials, sources say Ron Artest has, in fact, privately discussed wanting to be traded -- and Lakers officials have been eager to take him up on it, with no realistic takers given the nearly $22 million he is owed over the next three seasons. Including Artest in the framework of a Bynum-Melo deal is highly unlikely, given that Denver would balk at taking on his contract and any third team willing to surrender valuable picks wouldn't want it, either. 

UPDATE: In addition, a league source told CBSSports.com Tuesday that he put little credence in reports that Artest could be headed to the Bobcats for either Gerald Wallace or Stephen Jackson. When Artest signed with the Lakers two summers ago, the notion of him going to Charlotte was posed to part-owner Michael Jordan and GM Rod Higgins, who indicated he wasn't the right "fit" for the organization. Also, sources say Artest has been advised of no serious talks that would lead to him being traded -- something the Lakers, who are aware of how Artest's play could be affected by trade rumors, would be sure to do if they were close to trading him.

For these reasons and plenty of others, a Lakers-Nuggets deal centered around Bynum and Anthony is "a long way from being made," one of the sources said. 

But if the discussions gained momentum, the Lakers would be giving up their most valuable advantage -- front-court size -- for a player whose scoring talents mirror those of Kobe Bryant. But of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic gold-medal team, Bryant and Anthony were the two who grew closest in Beijing. It's one thing to co-exist on the national team, and quite another on an NBA team with obvious championship ambitions. But at least Bryant and Anthony would have a solid relationship and mutual respect as their foundation. 

And look at it this way: Bryant is still playing at a high level, but he can't do this forever. The opportunity to cash in a valuable asset like Bynum for a player who could not only team up with Bryant and win a title now, but replace him in the future, is too good to pass up. 

But as has been the case in every Melo trade scenario, the wild card is Denver. Are Nuggets officials willing to send their superstar to a conference rival, only to watch him torture their souls for years? Is a potential star center with suspect knees the best they can do for Anthony? These are among the many questions this tantalizing scenario presents -- and as usual with Anthony, there are more questions than answers.
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.

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