LOS ANGELES – Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony(notes) met with New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority partner Jay-Z for less than an hour Saturday as they tried to sell him on accepting a three-year, $65 million contract extension, a source confirmed to Yahoo! Sports.
"The Nets didn't come away very confident," a source briefed on the meeting told Yahoo! Sports.
Nevertheless, the Nets' best hope remains that Denver refuses to do a deal with New York, gets to the trade deadline on Thursday and simply tells Anthony: If you want your $65 million extension, you can only get it with the Nets. If not, we will keep you and let you go to free agency.
"Denver still wants the Nets deal, not New York's," a league executive told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday night.
Ultimately, this may still come to a bluff between the Nuggets and Anthony. Are the Nuggets willing to lose him for nothing and let him go into free agency? Is Anthony willing to finish the year with Denver and go into the uncertainty of free agency and a new collective-bargaining agreement that could cost him tens of millions of dollars on a max contract?
The meeting, first reported by the New York Daily News, had been several months in the making and comes after the New York Knicks and Nuggets reached a stalemate in trade talks. All along, Denver has preferred a deal with New Jersey that includes rookie forward Derrick Favors(notes) and multiple first-round draft picks over New York’s assets.
Anthony has told close confidants he is hopeful the Knicks can work a trade for him by the end of the weekend. This has turned into a high-stakes game of leverage and bluffs, with Anthony and Prokhorov – despite numerous denials about a possible meeting – thrusting pressure on New York to keep improving its offer.
The Nuggets’ star believes he needs to create leverage with the Knicks and keep the Nets as an option should a deal to New Jersey turn out to be the only way for him to get a contract extension and avoid the uncertainty of free agency.
Several Western Conference teams are still trying to get involved with Denver for Anthony – some even willing to take him without the assurance of a contract extension – but as one conference executive told Yahoo! Sports on Saturday: “Denver does not want to send him into the Western Conference.”
The Knicks made a revised offer on Friday that included Danilo Gallinari(notes), Yahoo! Sports reported. The proposed Knicks-Nuggets deal would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups(notes), Renaldo Balkman(notes) and Shelden Williams(notes) to the Knicks for Gallinari, Raymond Felton(notes), Wilson Chandler(notes), Eddy Curry(notes) and a draft pick.
Several league sources believe Knicks owner James Dolan is leaning heavily on the advice of former president and coach Isiah Thomas and undermining the negotiating process for current president Donnie Walsh.
The framework of a Nuggets-Nets trade – as Yahoo! Sports first reported on Thursday night – would include Anthony, Billups, Balkman, Williams and Melvin Ely(notes) and for Favors, Devin Harris(notes), Troy Murphy(notes), Ben Uzoh(notes) and four future first-round draft picks. The Nuggets have a third team to take on Murphy's $12 million expiring contract – believed to be possibly Minnesota or Sacramento, sources said. The team would use its cap space to get Murphy's contract, at least one first-round pick from the Nets and $3 million cash to help pay Murphy's remaining salary. Murphy would then receive a contract buyout and made a free agent.
The NBA’s trade deadline is 3 p.m. ET Thursday.
Yahoo! Sports' NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this report.