There was renewed hope Sunday that a four-team trade sending Carmelo Anthony to the Nets was still alive, with the framework of the deal possibly expanding to include additional players and possibly another team, CBSSports.com has learned.
But a weekend of inertia continued to frustrate the three teams Denver hastily recruited to accelerate Anthony’s departure, with executives standing firm in their belief that the longer the delay, the stronger the chance that the precarious structure of the trade could fall apart.
Among New Jersey, Utah and Charlotte, sources say least concerned were the Nets, who understandably have “no deadline” to pull off the blockbuster, franchise-shaping deal. The problem is with the pieces volunteered by the Jazz and Bobcats, who’d benefit the least from the arrangement and want to avoid unnecessary distractions heading into training camp this week. Charlotte’s role in the existing deal would be to send Boris Diaw to Utah and receive Devin Harris from the Nets, while Utah would send Andre Kirilenko to the Nuggets, who’d get No. 3 pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks from New Jersey. Quinton Ross also would go from New Jersey to Utah.
“No one wants to go to camp with drama,” said one executive not involved in the pursuit of Anthony, who ignited the sweepstakes by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension while his high-powered agents, Leon Rose and William Wesley, pushed hard all summer for a trade.
Sources say the Nuggets have been taking full advantage of the holding pattern in talks to listen to offers from other teams – though executives with knowledge of the situation do not believe a better offer has presented itself. The Bulls and Clippers, two teams with attractive assets and a realistic chance of persuading Anthony to sign an extension with them, have not progressed beyond the packages they initially brought to Denver’s attention. Some signs Sunday pointed to the revival of talks between Denver and Philadelphia with Andre Iguodala going to the Nuggets, but there was no signal from Anthony’s camp that he’d softened in his opposition to bringing his talents to South Philly.
Another player the Nuggets have targeted as a viable asset to recover in an Anthony trade, Anderson Varejao, remains a long shot for the same reason; Anthony isn’t going to Cleveland, the city that superstar LeBron James fled in July as though the Cuyahoga River were on fire.
So on the second front, the Nuggets are trying to determine whether another player within the current framework of the deal or even a fifth team would be able to further sweeten the reward for parting with the organization’s best player in two decades. The Nets are said to have “exhausted” the options available to the Nuggets in the current structure of the trade, with one possibility having Harris going to Denver instead of Charlotte. What Nuggets officials are weighing there, according to an executive with knowledge of the talks, is whether Harris might have more value as a trade chip than Kirilenko – an indication that Denver would view itself as being in full-blown cost-cutting and rebuilding mode without Anthony in the fold. Kirilenko, with a $17.8 million expiring contract, would seem to have more value than Harris, who is owed $27 million over the next three years. The Nuggets have not asked the Bobcats for Gerald Wallace, according to one executive familiar with the negotiations.
With nothing happening to push the discussions any closer to completion or extinction, Anthony could very well still be a Nugget during media day Monday at the Pepsi Center, which brings the saga to its next critical turning point. Anthony’s presence around the team will give GM Masai Ujiri his first chance to sit down face-to-face with the superstar and hear directly from him on his level of comfort with the best offer the team has received to move him.
Coach George Karl, whose ability to influence Anthony’s position should not be underestimated, also will have a chance to be in the room. This way, Nuggets officials will be able to hear first-hand from Anthony where he stands on the direction of the organization and his comfort level with joining a New Jersey team that would still be one major piece away from championship contention after adding Anthony. To this point, the vast majority of communication with Denver officials has come from Anthony’s advisers with Creative Artists Agency – most notable Rose and Wesley, who staunchly favor a trade to pastures they argue are greener than in Denver.
What the Nuggets are hoping, at the risk of jeopardizing the best offer they may get, is that Anthony’s angst will subside once he’s back with the only team he’s known during his seven-year career. He may conclude that he wouldn’t be much better off somewhere else.