If you think the Nuggets simply have to resolve the Carmelo Anthony saga and move on, think again. Denver has another issue brewing, one that has been largely ignored with all the attention on Melo. It's the impending free agency of another player we're on a one-name basis with: Nene.
Like Anthony, Nene has an early-termination option he can exercise after the season, and sources say he is upset with all the attention focused on Anthony's situation while his isn't being resolved. Nene, arguably Denver's second-best player, has made a list of three teams he's interested in signing with or being traded to -- and not surprisingly, one of them is Miami, where his fierce interior presence would be the missing piece for the Heat.
|Nene is racking up 15.2 ppg this season, three more than the eight-year veteran's career average. (Getty Images)|
Nene is averaging 15.2 points and shooting .644 from the field, both career highs, and it could be argued that the 6-11 Brazilian would be just as coveted as Anthony if he were put on the trading block. Nene hasn't voiced any desire to be dealt yet, but sources say recently he has been among the most outspoken Nuggets in his anger about the distractions Anthony's situation has caused.
"The whole team is sick of the Carmelo thing," one source said. "They're sick of the distraction."
Me, too. So let's move on to the rest of this week's Post-Ups.
• The Bobcats are 8-5 since Paul Silas replaced Larry Brown and arrived at the halfway point in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, quieting speculation that owner Michael Jordan could be moving toward fire-sale mode with veterans Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace. Jackson, in fact, wants to stay in Charlotte and is not asking for a trade -- despite apparent interest from Dallas. A trade to the Mavs presumably would give Jackson a chance to be the missing piece on a championship-contending team in the West, but sources say it's more complicated than that. The Mavs first have to find out if they're still an elite team with a healthy Dirk Nowitzki and with Peja Stojakovic replacing Caron Butler, who may or may not return for the playoffs. If they're not, adding Jackson and the $19.3 million he is owed over the next two seasons wouldn't make sense for either party. "He's happy there," a confidant said of Jackson. "He loves the city of Charlotte, and he loves to play for one of the greatest players to play the game, Michael Jordan."
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• Anthony's reluctance to sign an extension with New Jersey wasn't the only factor that seriously compromised the three-team trade that fell apart this week. The insistence of Anthony's agents to include Richard Hamilton in the deal also slowed the discussions, sources said. While the addition of Hamilton and the Pistons to the mix was initially interpreted as a way to placate Anthony, that's not so, according to a person involved in the construction of the trade. The bid to extricate Hamilton from a miserable situation in Detroit and save the Pistons $17 million in the process did nothing to help the primary stakeholders -- New Jersey, Denver and Anthony. "Why was New Jersey taking on that money for a guy Melo didn't know that well or care much about playing with?" the person said. "Denver wanted that value." If the Nets were willing to take on a contract that might've hurt their chances of luring Chris Paul as a free agent in 2012, then the Nuggets wanted them to take the money from them -- for example, in the form of Al Harrington's contract -- or give them equal value in return. In the end, all parties probably would've agreed to stop arguing and do the deal, but the addition of Hamilton slowed the momentum more than was previously thought.
• Speaking of Hamilton, who hasn't played for the Pistons since Jan. 10 while the trade talks swirled, a buyout might be his best chance of getting out of Detroit. As of Wednesday night, when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov backed out of the Anthony trade, Pistons president Joe Dumars had not yet engaged other potential suitors for Hamilton. Heading into what some executives are beginning to fear will be a hard-cap system, few -- if any -- teams will be willing to take on $21.5 million in guaranteed money over the next two seasons for a player who will turn 33 next month. The problem for Dumars is that a buyout will have to be an ownership decision, and the Pistons are in the midst of an ownership change. Going from saving $17 million in the deal that would've sent Hamilton to New Jersey to eating close to that amount in a buyout will be tough for any prospective owner to swallow.
• While we're on the Pistons: Of all the teams struggling and/or underachieving at roughly the halfway point of the season, industry sources say Detroit is the most likely to make an in-season coaching change. John Kuester clearly is at odds with Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, the holdovers from the Pistons' glory years, and there's an experienced former head coach, Brian Hill, on the bench. Detroit wouldn't make a move solely for this reason, but a coaching change might be a way to work Hamilton back into the rotation if the Pistons can't trade him or negotiate a buyout. But as with Hamilton's buyout, "Nothing happens until a new owner is in place," a source said.
• Another team in wait-and-see mode with its coach is Golden State, according to a source who corroborated chatter at the recent D-League scouting expedition in South Padre Island, Texas, that new Warriors owner Joe Lacob could be planning major organizational changes. GM Larry Riley is believed to be safe, but the jury is out on Keith Smart, who took over for Don Nelson in September. Lacob went on a bit of a media tour this week and took some shots at Smart's substitution patterns in the San Jose Mercury-News. "There are times that I do not understand it," Lacob said of Smart's playing rotation. "He's a very cerebral guy. There's a method to his madness to this point, I think. There are times I don't quite get it, and I think he's still trying to work the kinks out, trying to understand what he has."