The final significant hurdle for a blockbuster four-team trade that would send Carmelo Anthony(notes) to the New Jersey Nets hinges on the NBA All-Star forward's willingness to agree to a contract extension with the Nets – and Anthony was progressing toward acceptance of that scenario, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
League sources told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday there’s some disagreement in the Nuggets organization about whether to take the present package for Anthony, or wait and try to get something better. Sources say the Nuggets were hoping the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls would re-emerge with offers over the weekend that included Blake Griffin and Joakim Noah, respectively, but Clippers and Bulls sources insist that those players remain off limits in talks.
As of Saturday afternoon Anthony planned to return to Denver on Sunday from his home in Los Angeles, a league source said.
Meanwhile, the Nets are determined to get back a point guard to replace Devin Harris, who would go to the Charlotte Bobcats as the four-team deal is currently constructed. Charlotte doesn’t want to give up point guard D.J. Augustin to the Nets, so New Jersey has begun exploring how to expand the trade to include more teams and more players in hopes of landing themselves a point guard to replace Harris.
Agents William Wesley and Leon Rose, who represent Anthony for CAA, have been advocates for Anthony to agree to sign a $65 million contract extension with the Nets. Denver, New Jersey Charlotte and Utah have worked out many of the details of an elaborate multiplayer trade, but ultimately nothing can happen without Anthony’s willingness to commit long-term to the Nets.
An immense part of Worldwide Wes' selling job on Anthony includes the scenario of the Nets signing New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul in his free agency summer of 2012, sources told Yahoo! Sports. In July, Anthony and Paul were toasting at the Nuggets star’s wedding about joining Amar’e Stoudemire with the New York Knicks, but that could change should Anthony accept a deal to the Nets.
In part, Paul joined Worldwide Wes and Rose at CAA for the chance to be packaged with their clientele of stars. After putting together Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh in Miami, Anthony and Paul could conceivably partner with Brook Lopez to make the Nets a formidable franchise. Paul was willing to accept a trade to the Nets over the summer, and like Anthony, wants a chance to play in a major metropolitan market.
Still, the Nets wouldn’t have the assets to make a deal for Paul in 2011, if New Orleans, like Denver, wanted to trade him a year before his free agency to try and get maximum value for him. New Jersey would have to give up too much in this proposed ’Melo deal to cobble together another package of young players and draft picks a year from now. The Nets would likely have to wait until Paul’s free agency in 2012.
Anthony still has to agree to come to the fledgling Nets who would still struggle to make the playoffs this season in the Eastern Conference. He could still hold back on accepting this deal, and force the Nuggets to deal with the Knicks, who aren’t able to put together as compelling of a package for him.
Under the trade proposal, the Nuggets would receive rookie power forward Derrick Favors, the third pick in the 2010 draft, Utah’s Andrei Kirilenko, who has an expiring contract, and two future first-round picks from the Nets. The picks include New Jersey’s 2011 first-rounder and the 2012 pick the Nets own from the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors’ pick would include some kind of a lottery protection.
The Nets would also send Harris to the Bobcats, who would move forward Boris Diaw to the Jazz. Nets guard Quinton Ross also would be sent to the Nuggets.
Once Anthony made clear he will become a free agent in the summer of 2011 and the Nuggets needed to find a trade for him, the organization decided it wanted an array of draft picks, a talented young player and expiring contracts in return. While Denver officials have considered waiting for Anthony to report to training camp, Anthony and his reps have told the Nuggets for most of the past two months he won’t re-sign and wants a trade to New York or Chicago. As it turns out, New Jersey could well turn out to the compromise choice.
One more potential hindrance to the trade is the Nets want Augustin from the Bobcats to help offset the loss of Harris, league sources said. So far, Charlotte has shown a reluctance to part with the young point guard in this trade. Still, sources say this won’t be a deal-breaker, particularly if the Nets can find another point guard elsewhere.
New Jersey desperately wants Anthony, 26, to become the face of its franchise as it prepares to make a move to a new Brooklyn arena in 2013. The Nets have reshaped the franchise under new Russian billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. They have resources unmatched in the NBA and will move out of the decrepit Meadowlands arena and into the state-of-the-state Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., this season. The Nets are likely to spend two years in Newark before moving to New York.
New Jersey is trying to sell Anthony on the promise of Lopez and the track record of new coach Avery Johnson. Still, the Nets are coming off a franchise-worst 12-70 season. For Anthony, a Baltimore-native, the prospects of returning to his East Coast roots are appealing.
Anthony still has his heart set on the New York Knicks, but he could discover the Nets are a compromise he'll have to accept to get his $65 million extension and get into the metropolitan N.Y. market. League sources said the Knicks haven't given up trying to land Anthony, but their inability to provide first-round draft picks in their offer will make it difficult to get a deal done.
Anthony also prefers a trade to the Chicago Bulls, but Denver refuses to do a deal with the Bulls that doesn’t include Noah and so far Bulls officials have refused to put him into any trade.
Anthony has refused to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets and has made it clear to team officials he’s not comfortable with the franchise’s stability. There’s unrest within the organization, where George Karl’s top assistant, Tim Grgurich, has left, league sources said. Grgurich has told friends he’s angry about the franchise’s refusal to retain former GM Mark Warkentien. Karl is now without his two most trusted confidants in the organization, Warkentien and Grgurich.
Forward Kenyon Martin(notes) and guards J.R. Smith(notes) and Arron Afflalo(notes) will be free agents after this season and center Nene could join them if he opts out of the final year of his contract. Point guard Chauncey Billups(notes) also could hit the market because the Nuggets are obligated to pay only $3.7 million of his $14.2 million salary for 2011-12 if he’s waived at the end of the season.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the Nuggets, Anthony would like to be traded before the season starts.
Yahoo! Sports' NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this story.