Nets resume talks for Anthony

Less than a month after the New Jersey Nets pulled out of trade talks, the Denver Nuggets have re-engaged the Nets in discussions on a blockbuster deal for Carmelo Anthony(notes), league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

One source described talks as “progressing” and said they have been ongoing between Denver and New Jersey officials for more than a week. While the precise package being discussed was unclear, sources said talks have centered on a scaled-down package that still includes rookie forward Derrick Favors(notes) and draft picks.

What also is unknown is whether Anthony has agreed to accept a three-year, $65 million extension with New Jersey if the Nuggets and Nets work out an agreement.

The New York Knicks have been firmly engaged in talks with Denver, but haven’t come close to an agreement on a package of players and picks for Anthony. Anthony has expressed his preference to play for New York, but also is determined to get a deal done before the Feb. 24 trade deadline to ensure the contract extension.

The Record of Hackensack (N.J.) is also reporting the resumption of talks.

The Nets had twice previously thought they were close to acquiring Anthony only to have talks stall. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov canceled a scheduled meeting with Anthony last month and declared his franchise would no longer pursue the All-Star forward. In addition to not wanting to meet the Nuggets' ever-increasing demands – Denver had sought Favors, Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, at least three other role players and wanted to dump as much salary as possible on New Jersey – Prokhorov said on Jan. 19 he was pulling out of negotiations because he was unsure whether Anthony wanted to sign an extension with the Nets.

Prokhorov had ordered Nets officials to not restart talks for Anthony unless the Nuggets first engaged them.

Anthony has preferred to join the Knicks, but he runs the risk of having to settle for a smaller contract under a new collective-bargaining agreement if New York can't get a deal done with Denver.

While Knicks president Donnie Walsh has remained unwilling to gut his roster to make a trade for Anthony, the Nuggets are fighting to hold together a coaching staff and locker room that has grown increasingly disillusioned with the franchise star, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Several sources describe a locker room frustrated with Anthony chasing shots and points over winning games, a resistance to listen to coach George Karl and a distancing of himself throughout the season from the rest of the team.

For these reasons – and a fear of losing him for nothing in free agency – few are buying the bluff of the Nuggets believing they can still convince him to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension.

“With the way he’s distanced himself from the team, the organization, they’re kidding themselves if they think he’s signing a new deal,” one league official told Yahoo! Sports. “He hasn’t checked out on the season because he never checked in.”

The Nuggets are working on a contract extension for Karl, and no one close to him believes he can muster much enthusiasm to keep coaching Anthony. Karl has played along with the company line on wanting to re-sign Anthony, but sources said he’s far more at peace with coaching a rebuilding roster than this mix of Nuggets. Karl has struggled coaching Anthony with the loss of top assistant, Tim Grgurich, who left the franchise before the season’s start.

The Nuggets are selling the idea they’ll be content to keep Anthony through the Feb. 24 trade deadline if no one meets their demands. The Nuggets want to package Anthony and Chauncey Billups(notes) for a deal that includes Danilo Gallinari(notes), Raymond Felton(notes), the expiring contract of Eddy Curry(notes) and a draft pick, the New York Daily News reported. Another source said Denver is still pushing for more Knicks players, including rookies Landry Fields(notes) and Timofey Mozgov(notes), in the package.

“This is like the Nets talks all over again: Denver keeps moving the goal posts,” one league source said. “They don’t know what they want there.”

As the Daily News reported, the wild card is Knicks owner James Dolan and the looming possibility he could overrule his president and cut a deal with Denver himself. There are fears that Dolan is listening too much to former president and coach Isiah Thomas and possibly agents and representatives for Anthony who have agendas to undermine Walsh.

“Donnie isn’t going to make a one-sided deal and gut his team to get this done now,” said one league source who regularly speaks to Walsh. “He’ll end up with two unhappy stars because they have no supporting cast. But if Dolan gets more involved in this, he could really makes a mess of this.”

New Orleans Hornets general manager Dell Demps remains one of the most aggressive suitors on the trade market, looking to add scoring and size to his roster, sources said.

The Hornets and David West(notes) have ended talks on a contract extension, but Demps will live with the possibility of losing West for nothing when West opts out of the $7.5 million owed him in the final year of his contract this summer. Demps will not try to trade his power forward before the Feb. 24 deadline, sources said.

Demps will try to get Chris Paul(notes) and West help for the season’s final stretch run to get them into the playoffs.

The Hornets have tried to engage the Nuggets for shooting guard J.R. Smith(notes), but Denver seems reluctant to move Smith until there’s a resolution on the Anthony talks. Portland’s two available centers – Marcus Camby(notes) and Joel Przybilla(notes) – are intriguing to most teams searching for size, but the Hornets don’t appear to have pieces that appeal to the Blazers. Portland already has control of the Hornets’ conditional 2011 first-round pick from the Jerryd Bayless(notes) trade in October.

New Orleans has a strong interest in Cleveland Cavaliers forward Antawn Jamison(notes), but no team seems willing to trade for the two years, and $28 million left on his contract. Cleveland has shown no desire to negotiate a buyout on Jamison’s contract, and sources said Jamison isn’t going to pressure the issue.

The Hornets will likely be in pursuit of New Jersey Nets forward Troy Murphy(notes) once the Nets reach a buyout agreement with him after the trade deadline. Nets coach Avery Johnson made clear he didn’t want Murphy after the three-team trade that brought him from the Indiana Pacers. Trade talks have gone nowhere for Murphy, who has an expiring contract. Nets GM Billy King will ultimately work a buyout to free Murphy to sign elsewhere.

In addition to the Hornets, several other teams are expected to show interest in Murphy, including the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks, sources said.

After signing Josh Childress(notes) to a five-year, $33.5 million contract over the summer, the Phoenix Suns are unsuccessfully trying to push him on the trade markets, league executives said. Childress has averaged 5.2 points in 17 minutes per game. … New Jersey’s Travis Outlaw(notes) – another overpriced summer signee at five years and $35 million – has been offered in deals, but there are no takers. Nets fans can thank Johnson for pushing that deal onto the franchise’s payroll. … The Philadelphia 76ers have struggled to find a trade for shooter Jason Kapono(notes), who has fallen out of Doug Collins’ rotation. The Sixers could be willing to work a buyout for Kapono after the deadline, sources said. … After winning seven of their first nine games under interim coach Frank Vogel, the Indiana Pacers have backed away from the trade market and are no longer aggressively looking to shake up their roster, sources said. Indiana previously had been willing to listen to offers for Danny Granger(notes). … The Chicago Bulls are still making calls on J.R. Smith to solve their shooting guard issues, but red flags on Smith’s character have made the Bulls cautious. “They just don’t want to mess that locker room up,” one source with knowledge of the talks said. “The Bulls have too good of a [locker] room right now.” … Richard Hamilton(notes) will have to be willing to give back a significant portion of the two years, $25 million owed him to get a buyout on his contract. Sources said the Celtics still remain intrigued with Hamilton as a scorer off the bench. … The Knicks are telling free-agent center Earl Barron(notes) to stay in shape and they’ll touch base after the trade deadline.