- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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The Denver Nuggets remained on the brink Saturday of completing a four-team megatrade that would land All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony with the New Jersey Nets, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
The proposed deal, as ESPN.com reported earlier Friday, would also involve Utah and Charlotte and is poised to deliver prized Nets rookie Derrick Favors, Jazz veteran Andrei Kirilenko and multiple future first-round picks to Denver in exchange for their franchise player.
Sources told ESPN.com that the deal, which has yet to be finalized, would send former All-Star point guard Devin Harris to Charlotte, with Bobcats forward Boris Diaw moving to Utah. The Bergen Record reported Friday afternoon that the Nets would also receive Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin, with New Jersey's Jarvis Hayes accompanying Harris to Charlotte in a sign-and-trade. Nets swingman Quinton Ross would go to Utah and Denver would get a 1-to-7 protected first-round pick in 2012 that New Jersey received from Golden State.
"Everyone is waiting" on Denver, not Melo, a source close to the trade talks told ESPN's Chris Sheridan on Saturday.
Negotiations progressed well Thursday and Friday, according to two sources close to the talks. If final hurdles are cleared, Anthony's uncertain future -- which has dominated discussion throughout the league since mid-August -- could be unexpectedly resolved before the Nuggets hold their first practice of the new season.
The trade's completion hinges in part on Anthony's willingness to sign an extension with the Nets as part of the deal, as Kevin Garnett did to clinch the blockbuster trade that sent him from Minnesota to Boston in July 2007. One source with knowledge of New Jersey's thinking told ESPN.com that the Nets will not part with assets such as Favors (selected No. 3 overall in the June draft) and Harris (an All-Star in 2009) and go through with the trade unless Anthony commits to the extension, no matter how ready Denver is to pull the trigger.
One source close to the talks told ESPN.com on Friday night that the Nets expect to learn by Saturday whether Anthony will sign the extension. The New York Daily News, quoting a "reliable source," reported Friday night that Anthony has already approved the deal.
One source close to Anthony had told ESPN.com on Friday afternoon that the 26-year-old -- whose top two preferred destinations are New York and Chicago -- was warming to the idea of joining the Nets, whose planned move to Brooklyn in two years under Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a strong lure, in addition the presence of center Brook Lopez, one of the league's top young big men.
Yet the source said Anthony was also hoping that the Knicks or the Bulls, realizing Anthony is on the brink of going elsewhere, make a last-ditch attempt over the weekend to join the bidding.
New York's lack of future draft picks to offer and Chicago's blanket refusal to make Joakim Noah available to the Nuggets in trade talks established the Nets as the front-runner to win the Anthony Sweepstakes. ESPN.com reported last Sunday that the Nuggets had begun telling teams for the first time that they were willing to make a deal before the start of the season.
Anthony has the ability to become a free agent at season's end, which is the hammer that has enabled his agent, Leon Rose, to apply such pressure to the Nuggets in hopes of forcing a trade before camps open Monday. The tension has been building since June, when the Nuggets believed that Anthony was on the verge of signing a three-year, $65 million contract extension, only for Anthony to pass.
Nuggets coach George Karl had been hoping that it was still possible to convince Anthony to reconsider his determination to be traded once he arrived in training camp and started hearing some pro-Denver voices after weeks of isolation from the organization. Sources said that the Nuggets were planning to mount one last campaign to get Anthony to sign the extension, with the promise that they would trade him closer to the February trading deadline if he continued to be unhappy.
But the Nuggets have signed off on the proposed deal and now await word from New Jersey about its ability to sell Anthony on the extension, which does hold significant appeal because it would enable Anthony to sign one more contract under the league's current collective bargaining agreement.
Word of the trade talks surfaced on Friday, hours after new coach Avery Johnson and players reported to camp and talked to the media about the upcoming season. The team's first practice is Saturday.
There have been talks about trades involving the Nets and Anthony in recent weeks and Johnson was asked about the rumors.
"All year you are going to hear stuff about not only our situation but every team. That's the way it goes," he said. "Every general manager, and you have 30 of them, they are always out looking to improve the ballclub and that's what they should do. If Billy was sitting up in his office looking at some political talk on television, because I heard he was a politics guy, I would be very disappointed. He is going to be always looking to improve our ball club."
Johnson said that he wants Harris to be the engine that runs the team and he noted that Favors shows the potential at 19-years-old that Tim Duncan and Garnett showed at the same age.
Johnson was concerned that trade talks might be a distraction for the players.
"They understand that is part of the game," he said. "It's a part of the business. There may be some things said about coach this year that is really inaccurate. That is a part of what we deal with. When you sign you name on contracts to be an NBA player or coach that's kind of the unwritten rule, the fine print you don't see. Your name is going to come up and something is going to be said. You have to deal with it."
Johnson refused to speculate on how many games the new-look Nets would win after winning only 12 last season.
"We're not making any promises except to say we're going to play hard and we'll see what happens on nights when our talent level is not as high as other teams."
New owner Mikhail Prokhorov has said the Nets will challenge for a playoff berth this season.
Johnson noted that statement was made before the free-agency period.
"You have to look at the context of when the statement was made," Johnson said. "Mikhail and I are on the same page. This is not going to blow up in smoke if that doesn't happen the first year."
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
The Denver Nuggets are having serious discussions about a four-way trade that would land Carmelo Anthony with the New Jersey Nets, according to sources with knowledge of the negotiations.