Tag:Knicks
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 31, 2011 11:37 pm
 

Melo: I'm not afraid to become a free agent

NEWARK, N.J. – On his way in and out of the Prudential Center Monday night, Carmelo Anthony walked past a series of strategically placed renderings of the Nets’ future home in Brooklyn. The imagery only fueled speculation that the Nets aren’t finished pursuing the Nuggets’ three-time All-Star. 

Who knows? Maybe those posters were part of the presentation the Nets never had a chance to make to Anthony, who made his only trip – as a visiting player – to the temporary home that could’ve been his. 

"That was interesting,” Anthony said with a smile after the Nets beat the Nuggets 115-99. “I mean, that was interesting.” 

Anthony’s reaction to the Nets’ Brooklyn mind tricks was about as far as he pushed the story forward when it comes to where he will be finding a long-term home. The closest Anthony came to making news was when he was asked to clarify whether he’s afraid of risking millions by playing out the season in Denver and becoming a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement. 

“The CBA is in the back of my mind,” Anthony said. “But as far as being afraid to play this out, I’m not. If that’s what it’s going to take, then so be it. I’m with that. I know in the back of my mind what the CBA is up for, what we’re up for dealing with the lockout, things like that. So as long as I know that, my decision will be my decision.” 

Asked if he’d be willing to take the risk of passing on the extension and facing the unknown of post-lockout free agency, Anthony said, “Yeah, I mean whether it’s playing this year out and then going back to the drawing table, sitting down with Denver and trying to figure it out, or whether it’s to move on, I’m with that.” 

So is Nuggets coach George Karl, who said before the game that he continues to believe – as he did in training camp – that the best outcome for all involved is for Anthony to remain in Denver. 

“My job and my thought is that he’s going to be with us,” Karl said. “It is my desire and that would be probably the best thing for us as a basketball team.” 

That outcome, however, is largely in the hands of Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, who were with the team but kept a low profile amid a throng of media here to chronicle Anthony’s visit. Both of them are banking on the qualifier that came next from Anthony, about whether there is a limit to how much money he’s willing to sacrifice to get to the team of his choice. 

“If I sit here and tell you I’m willing to lose $15 or $20 million, then I’d be lying to you,” Anthony said. “But at the same time, this has never been about the money. In my career so far, I think I’ve made enough money. Now I can focus on just trying to win a championship. That’s the only thing that’s on my plate and on my mind right now.” 

Anthony reflected on the news conference held Jan. 19 in which Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov put a very public end to the Nets’ pursuit of Anthony. He reiterated that he would’ve accepted a meeting with the Nets’ brass if Prokhorov hadn’t canceled it, but wouldn’t reveal whether he would’ve agreed to an extension as part of a trade. 

“As far as the extension, if that trade were to go through, who knows what would’ve happened?” Anthony said. “I can’t answer that because it didn’t go through.” 

Nothing has changed for Anthony, who all along has only considered signing a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks or Nuggets – though a person familiar with the strategy being employed by his agents at Creative Artists Agency recently told CBSSports.com that CAA has been consistent since the summer in advising the Nuggets that he won’t re-sign with them. As for Anthony himself, he refuted a previously published report that Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire had recently texted him urging him to join forces in New York. 

“I read that, that he supposedly texted me or something like that,” Anthony said. “I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that text.” 

Aside from stating his willingness to play this game of chicken with the Nuggets past the Feb. 24 deadline, perhaps Anthony’s most revealing comment was one that won’t get many headlines. The Nuggets’ executives, particularly Ujiri, who were in constant contact with Anthony throughout the protracted trade talks with the Nets, have been quiet lately. 

“I haven’t really talked to those two guys about anything as of late,” Anthony said. “Prokhorov put an end to it. That’s all I can say about it. When something starts going on, I’m pretty sure Masai and Josh will come to me and let me know what’s going on.” 

All that was going on Monday night, as Anthony walked past those Brooklyn posters one more time with his with his manager, Robert “Bay” Frazier, was that he was heading back to Denver with the Nuggets. Whether he’ll be there three more weeks or three more months is the next plot twist. 

“I have to look at it as a business and we just go from there,” Anthony said. “If we make a business decision together, and that’s for me to stay in Denver, or they say the business decision is to trade you somewhere else, then you’ve got to deal with that.”
Posted on: January 30, 2011 10:51 pm
 

Warkentien could bolster Knicks' Melo chances

Revenge, as they say, is sweet. 

Back in August, Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien thought he was going to continue negotiating the two most important contract extensions in the organization's history -- those of Carmelo Anthony and coach George Karl. The fact that Warkentien had been ostracized in the very organization he'd positioned for a run to the Western Conference finals a little more than a year earlier, though, amounted to the writing on the wall. 

Warkentien, the 2009 NBA executive of the year, was let go along with fellow front-office type Rex Chapman in a complete purge of the Nuggets' management team. This was after Warkentien had been insulted with an offer to take a roughly 50 percent pay cut -- with some of the difference possibly to be made up through incentive clauses. (And maybe some Wal-Mart coupons.) 

Within weeks of owner Stan Kroenke's decision to turn the organization over to his son, Josh, and former Raptors executive Masai Ujiri, Anthony's camp began informing the team that he would not be signing a three-year, $65 million extension and wanted a trade. Nuggets advisor Brett Bearup subsequently was let go, and the Nuggets believed they had made a fresh start in their efforts to make the best of the Anthony situation. 

Only one problem: Warkentien, who knows where all the bodies are buried in Denver and has a strong relationship with Anthony, is about to be employed by the enemy. A person close to Warkentien confirmed a report Sunday night by Yahoo! Sports that the Knicks intend to hire Warkentien as a high-level consultant. The move, which has yet to be finalized, represents the first step in Knicks president Donnie Walsh's long-time efforts to hire a right-hand man. In the past, he had considered Warkentien, former Warriors executive Chris Mullin, and former Trail Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard, while coach Mike D'Antoni had some other candidates in mind. 

After Garden chairman James Dolan's clumsy attempt at hiring former coach and president Isiah Thomas was thoroughly repudiated by Walsh, the decision to go with Warkentien is the strongest sign yet that Walsh -- whose fingerprints are all over the Knicks' revival -- will chart the course for the long-term future of the franchise, too. 

Walsh's contract has a team option that must be picked up by April 1. While the addition of Warkentien as a consultant is viewed by those close to the situation as a prelude to an expanded and more permanent role, sources also say that not only is Walsh's option expected to be picked up, but his contract may be extended as well. Though Walsh has made no noise about wanting the extension, he has expressed to confidants a strong desire to see the Knicks' rebuilding through after overcoming a series of health issues in recent months. After returning to Madison Square Garden recently after undergoing hip replacement surgery, Walsh has been described by friends as especially enthusiastic and strong-willed about completing the massive restoration project. 

So while the addition of Warkentien, a shrewd negotiator with a reputation as a relentless scout, bodes well for a Walsh-driven front-office structure going forward, the natural question is as follows: What does this mean for the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony? On one hand, teaming Warkentien with Walsh on the Denver trade negotiations would make it a decidedly unfair fight -- combining Walsh's experience with Warkentien's direct knowledge of the Denver power structure and Stan Kroenke's tendencies and psychology when it comes to deal-making. Sources say that Warkentien long ago zeroed in on Kroenke's negotiating weakness in any Anthony trade: his obsessive pursuit of cost-cutting. As Warkentien learned in a negotiating class he recently took at Harvard, the best way to win a negotiation is to know what the opponent wants and where his weaknesses are. 

But it is difficult to predict how Kroenke, who is still ultimately calling the shots behind the curtain while his son and Ujiri handle the day-to-day business, will respond to the Knicks' hiring of Warkentien. It is possible, according to one source who understands Denver's still complicated organization dynamics, that Kroenke would stubbornly recoil from any talks with the Knicks and refuse to give Anthony his wish -- or give Warkentien the satisfaction. Also possible, the source noted, is that Kroenke would redouble efforts to once again engage the Nets in trade talks as a far more palatable option than dealing with Warkentien. Another person with direct knowledge of the Nuggets' trade discussions has told CBSSports.com on multiple occasions recently that the Anthony talks have not evolved since the Nets dropped out last week. One reason may have been the Knicks' impending hiring of Warkentien, which sources say leaked to some members of Denver's basketball operations. 

One way or another, it would appear that Warkentien will play a prominent role in the Knicks' pursuit of Anthony -- via a trade or as a free agent. Warkentien is believed to be on board with the notion that Anthony wouldn't lose nearly as much money as some pundits think if he were to play out the season and become a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement. Estimates showing that Anthony would lose $40 million in such a scenario are nothing short of irresponsible. 

Imagine the irony, though, if Warkentien ultimately winds up signing Anthony to a contract with the Knicks -- a contract he thought he'd be finalizing with the Nuggets last August. The plot, as they say, thickens.
Posted on: January 26, 2011 11:24 am
Edited on: January 26, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Source: Denver OK dealing with Knicks

The Carmelo Anthony trade talks have gone underground since Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov pulled the plug on his team's pursuit of the three-time All-Star last week. But that doesn't mean they've stopped completely.

While Nuggets officials continue to weigh their options, a person familiar with the team's strategy told CBSSports.com Wednesday that there are indications Denver could be warming to the idea of trading Melo to the Knicks. One component of such a trade, the source said, would be Anthony Randolph, with Denver officials apparently coming around in their opinion about the 21-year-old big man.

Earlier in the process, Nuggets executives were not high on Randolph, viewing him as mistake-prone and too much of a project. But that was when the Nets had 2010 No. 3 pick Derrick Favors on the table as the centerpiece of a package that far exceeded what the Knicks could offer. With New Jersey out of the mix, at least for now, the Nuggets have begun to internally re-examine the Knicks' young players.

Randolph was thought to be heading to Minnesota in exchange for a first-round pick the Knicks would then be able to use to sweeten their bid for Anthony. However, those talks have stalled -- and among the reasons is the Nuggets' renewed interest in considering Randolph as at least a peripheral piece of a trade with New York. No final decisions have been made, and it appears more likely than ever that the Anthony talks will continue to evolve all the way to the Feb. 24 deadline.



Denver's dilemma is that they much preferred dealing with the Nets as opposed to the Knicks due to their affinity for Favors and New Jersey's ability to deliver the other two commodities the Nuggets want -- cost savings and lottery picks. But once Anthony balked at making a firm commitment to a meeting with Prokhorov and Nets management last week, the Knicks became the only team in the hunt for Melo that could give Denver young players in addition to cap relief. Teams like Houston (yes) and Dallas (maybe) that are positioned to acquire Anthony in a rental deal -- i.e. without a contract extension -- would only be willing to offer cap relief in such a scenario.

The Nuggets, according to sources, continue to believe that the Nets will come back to the table despite Prokhorov unequivocally ending his team's pursuit last week. This would be in the best interests of the Nuggets, who still want what New Jersey has to offer. It would be in the best interests of the Nets, who need a star to open their new Brooklyn arena in 2012, and also would aid Anthony's representatives at Creative Artists Agency, who would benefit from an expanded market for their client. Whether it would be in Anthony's best interests is an open question. Sources have long indicated Anthony's insistence on signing a contract extension via a trade only if he were sent to the Knicks, but he has repeatedly sent mixed messages both privately and publicly. Speaking with the Denver Post Tuesday, Anthony again expressed concern about the risk of losing out on the three-year, $65 million extension that has been on the table for months.

“There are a lot of things that come into play when you look at this situation," Anthony said. "The fact that they can send you wherever they want to. The fact that, wherever they send me, would I sign the extension there? It’s a lot of stuff I think about through all of this.”

Posted on: January 22, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: January 22, 2011 9:34 pm
 

Kidd: Melo had reason to doubt Brooklyn

NEWARK, N.J. – Few players in the NBA have a better perspective on Carmelo Anthony’s erstwhile flirtation with becoming a New Jersey Net than Jason Kidd

Kidd, the player who revived the Nets franchise with back-to-back Finals appearances, was making his first appearance as an opposing player in his former team’s temporary home at the Prudential Center Saturday night. Kidd, who was traded to Dallas at the February 2008 trade deadline under somewhat similar circumstances facing Anthony, said he hasn’t spoken with Melo about the situation. But Kidd didn’t have to; he painted a pretty thorough picture to reporters of the dilemma that Anthony was wrestling with before the proposed trade to New Jersey blew up this past week. 

As to Issue No. 1, the Nets’ future home in Brooklyn, Kidd provided the grim perspective that only a player could have. 

“Unless it’s built, you can’t believe it,” Kidd said. “That’s the nature of the beast. You look at (Madison Square) Garden, they’re redoing the Garden. So until it’s built, guys can’t believe it. The weather and they’re saying it takes two years … well, I heard the same thing when I was here. So I don’t know how long I’ve been gone, but you can see how long it takes things to get built. If it’s not built, they’re gonna be playing here.” 

Kidd’s point is well taken, and it was a perspective that no doubt bothered Anthony as he dealt with four months of attempts by the Nuggets, the Nets and his representatives at Creative Artists Agency to steer him to New Jersey on the hopes of a future in his native Brooklyn. The announcement that the Nets were moving to a new arena in Brooklyn was first made in 2006, yet ground wasn’t broken on the Barclays Center until last spring. Concrete was poured in June, and the steel started going up in November. As of Jan. 10, construction had reached the suite/concourse level (see photo). It is scheduled to open in time for the 2012-13 season.





But players are realists, and believe in things they can see (like an arena) or touch (like a giant stack of money or All-Star teammates.) 

“I was very fortunate,” Kidd said. “When I was here, I had great teammates and a president (Rod Thorn) who knew what he was doing. So that makes your job a whole lot easier.” 

Kidd was asked if there’s a New Jersey stigma among potential trade targets and free agents around the league. If the question were a basketball, Kidd would have dribbled it out of bounds. 

“Um, I, you know, it’s a, it’s a great state,” Kidd said. “One, Jersey’s great. It’s close to the city, great restaurants, great people, great fans. Unfortunately, you have the Turnpike from the airport and that’s pretty much all people get to see. Well, if you’re a golfer, you’ve got great golf courses here.” 

Kidd, whose Mavs are expected to at least inquire about what it would take to get Anthony on a rental deal now that the Nets are out of the picture, offered an interesting piece of advice he’d give Anthony if he were advising him. With so much talent concentrated in the Eastern Conference, why wouldn’t Anthony want to stay in the West? 

“If I was his advisor, I wouldn’t want him to go East,” Kidd said. “But if he wants to go back home to New York or if as close as he can get is Jersey, then you wish him the best. But you look at the Eastern Conference, there’s some talent over on this side. Then you look at Jersey, New York or whoever gets him, because somebody’s going to get him in the summer time.” 

That’s where Kidd wound up going back to the original point, which is how similar his situation was when he got traded by the Nets three years ago. For Kidd, the resolution went all the way down to the trade deadline, and he believes Anthony’s will, too. 

“Whenever the trade deadline comes about and goes, that’s the only way it can be solved,” Kidd said. “At the end of the day, he’s going to be there or he’s not.”
Posted on: January 11, 2011 10:06 am
 

Melo update: Underground talks could lead to deal

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
 

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