Prokhorov ends Nets’ pursuit of Anthony

NEWARK, N.J. – In a stunning and surreal declaration during a live, televised news conference, Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov declared his New Jersey Nets had canceled a planned Thursday meeting with Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony(notes) and ended the Nets’ part in the long, acrimonious trade talks for the All-Star forward.

“It’s been too long and too expensive,” Prokhorov said.

New Jersey general manager Billy King sent text messages to Denver and Detroit officials to tell them that talks of a proposed three-team trade that would’ve brought Anthony to the Nets were done.

The Nets had hoped to package Derrick Favors in a deal for Carmelo Anthony. (Click photo for more images)
(NBAE/Getty Images)

When asked who had been driving the talks over the past several months, Prokhorov said, “It was purely on the basketball level.”

Nevertheless, sources insist the Nets’ ownership and marketing sides had been relentless proponents of bringing Anthony to New Jersey as a prelude to their planned move to a new arena in Brooklyn in 2012.

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It appears Prokhorov wanted to spare himself and the franchise of being rejected by Anthony after a meeting in Denver on Thursday, because it was clear that the Nets had come to believe Anthony would never agree to signing a three-year, $65 million extension with them.

Prokhorov and King both insisted the end of these talks were final, and that this wasn’t a negotiating ploy to lessen the Nuggets’ asking price. Clearly, Denver overplayed its hand with the Nets and now must do something it never wanted: Deal directly with the New York Knicks on a trade for Anthony and likely end up with a package inferior to what the Nets were willing to give.

The Nets and the Nuggets had spent the past two weeks discussing a three-team deal also involving the Detroit Pistons.

The key components of the deal would have sent Anthony, Chauncey Billups(notes) and Richard Hamilton(notes) to the Nets, and Devin Harris(notes), Derrick Favors(notes), Anthony Morrow(notes) and draft picks to Denver. The Nuggets were also trying to include Renaldo Balkman(notes) in the deal – and bring back rookie Damion James(notes) – but the Nets had resisted exchanging those players, sources said.

King said the Nets got permission from the Nuggets on Monday night to meet with Anthony. King, Prokhorov and the rest of the Nets’ traveling party were planning to fly to Denver on Thursday to pitch Anthony on a future in Brooklyn as the cornerstone of the Nets franchise.

With trade discussions with the Nets having broken off, the representatives for Carmelo Anthony(notes) are engaging the Chicago Bulls with hopes of pushing them into becoming a serious bidder for the Denver Nuggets star, a league source told Yahoo! Sports.

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Anthony has long been enthusiastic about a possible trade to the Bulls, but Denver and Chicago officials had been previously unable to come to terms on a deal. Bulls executives John Paxson and Gar Forman have investigated the possibility of acquiring Anthony, but thus far haven’t been willing to include the one player the Nuggets most covet: center Joakim Noah(notes).

Anthony’s agents are under pressure to make a deal happen for the All-Star forward, who sources said has become an increasingly unhappy client. The Nuggets need to agree on a package with a team in which Anthony’s willing to sign a contract extension. Talks with Anthony’s preferred choice, the New York Knicks, have dragged on since Anthony asked for a trade in August.

Nevertheless, William Wesley – Worldwide Wes – is expected to travel to Chicago for Bulls games on Thursday and Saturday against the Dallas Mavericks and Cleveland Cavaliers, a source said. Wesley unsuccessfully pushed LeBron James(notes) to sign with the Bulls as a free agent, and now has an interest in Anthony ending up there. Wesley represents Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau for CAA.

Despite that Leon Rose is certified as the agent of record for Anthony, everyone in the NBA knows Wesley is responsible for delivering the Nuggets star to CAA and is hands-on when trying to push teams into deals for the agency’s clients.

Chicago has wanted the Nuggets to take forward Luol Deng(notes) as a cornerstone to the deal, but Denver hasn’t been interested in absorbing the three years and $40 million left on his contract after this season. The Nuggets want an array of young players and picks the Bulls will have a difficult time providing. Still, Chicago badly needs another scoring option and Anthony is one of the NBA’s elite offensive players.

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Noah is recuperating from wrist surgery and is targeting a late February return. Thibodeau is an immense believer in Noah and values his defensive and rebounding presence in the middle. He’s also considered him an underrated offensive player. The Bulls signed Noah to a five-year, $60 million contract extension in the preseason.

The Knicks continue to talk with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Indiana Pacers about trading Anthony Randolph(notes) for a first-round pick to send to Denver as part of a package for Anthony. The Knicks have assurances they can get a pick for Randolph and have been canvassing the league to find another first-rounder that could be used in a deal for Anthony. There are teams willing to sell their picks for $3 million, especially in what’s considered to be an unspectacular draft class this year.

With picks, young players and an openness to make a trade without Anthony promising to sign an extension, the Houston Rockets also remain in the hunt.

Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Adrian a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011