Commentary

Mozgov is missing piece in Melo deal

Time to add Timofey to trade package -- and make Nuggets an offer they can't refuse

Updated: February 21, 2011, 2:04 PM ET
By Ian O'Connor | ESPNNewYork.com

As much as Carmelo Anthony wants to play for the New York Knicks, and he wants to play for them in a big way, he has made it clear he wants his $65 million contract extension even more. So all those fans hoping the Knicks will keep their young and promising roster intact and sign Anthony in the summer need to understand something:

There isn't going to be a summer.

Anthony insists on getting paid, and on getting paid before Thursday's trade deadline. The Denver Nuggets know it. The New Jersey Nets know it. And Jim Dolan's Knicks certainly know it, too.

[+] EnlargeTimofey Mozgov
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIs holding on to Timofey Mozgov worth missing out on Carmelo Anthony? We didn't think so.

So without further delay, the Knicks should add Timofey Mozgov to their proposal and close this thing out. If Mozgov joins Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Wilson Chandler as the centerpieces of the outgoing package, Denver will almost certainly accept and the Knicks will show up in the Garden on Wednesday night with this starting five:

Chauncey Billups and Landry Fields in the backcourt, and Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Ronny Turiaf up front.

Denver has yet to notarize a transaction that would include the Minnesota Timberwolves, who would receive Anthony Randolph and Eddy Curry's contract (which should have its own social security number, by the way), and which would suddenly land Denver the Knicks' 2014 first-round pick, according to CBSSports.com.

If all goes according to plan, the Knicks should be pretty good in 2014, meaning their draft pick should be pretty far down in the first round.

Denver might yet hold out for Mozgov, a prospect they've targeted. Only the Knicks don't want to part with him any more than Brian Cashman wanted to give CC Sabathia a third-year opt-out clause in a seven-year, $161 million contract that the slimmer pitcher will trade in for a fatter deal.

But sometimes you've got to do what you've got to do, and right now the Knicks have got to land Carmelo Anthony, who is prepared to take the $65 million extension from someone, even from one of the two teams -- the Nuggets and the Nets -- he has little or no desire to play for.

"If the Knicks don't end up with Melo after all this," said one source close to the negotiations, "the guy or guys they wouldn't put in the deal had better turn out to be really freakin' good."

Mozgov is young, tall, athletic and cheap, so there are valid basketball reasons why Dolan, Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni don't want to include him in the deal.

But Timofey Mozgov? Really? He's going to prevent the Knicks from securing Carmelo Anthony and sending a strong statement to all future recruiting classes -- not just Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard from the 2012 class -- that New York has become a preferred destination for the superstars of the game?

The Knicks need to surrender their Russian center to knock out their bloodied Russian opponent, Mikhail Prokhorov, who, if nothing else, has turned lying into an international art. Prokhorov matched Dolan's meeting with Anthony in Los Angeles, and brought along his world-famous business partner, Jay-Z, who hasn't exactly been the Mariano Rivera-like closer he was advertised to be.

Denver hopes to make it happen with Prokhorov and Jay-Z because Denver prefers (and has already accepted) a Nets package built around Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and four first-round picks. Anthony doesn't care to spend his prime in Jersey or Brooklyn, not when Madison Square Garden is the alternative, yet the Knicks can't go to the bank on that.

Anthony's second priority is to play for the Knicks. His top priority is to sign for the big bucks that won't be there in the summer, or in the fall, or whenever a new collective bargaining agreement starts turning full scholarships into half scholarships.

The Knicks understand the urgency of the moment, understand it's still possible Anthony will take some of the money Prokhorov and Jay-Z couldn't convince LeBron James to take. So in these critical final hours of Melomania, the Knicks want to paint the best possible organizational portrait for Anthony's viewing pleasure.

Toward that end, the team released a joint statement from Dolan, Walsh and D'Antoni on Sunday that declared "the three of us are in complete agreement with everything that we are currently working on" and added, "We want to make it clear that no one from outside our organization has been involved in the process in any way."

The Knicks were trying to quash the notion that Dolan and his unpaid adviser, Isiah Thomas, were pushing hard for the Anthony trade, while Walsh and D'Antoni were privately rooting for the whole thing to fall apart.

Truth is, Walsh and D'Antoni are as excited as their boss about having Anthony on the team; they just don't want to pay what they believe to be an absurd price for him. In other words, Walsh and D'Antoni don't want to add Mozgov to the pile.

Dolan? Against all odds, against his rich history of bad decisions, the Garden chairman is actually making some smart moves on this one, ensuring he does everything possible to bring Melo home. Seven months after following Prokhorov and Jay-Z into LeBron's lair, Dolan beat the Nets to Anthony and told him how desperately he wanted the Nugget to be a Knick. If it wasn't quite George Steinbrenner lifting weights with Roger Clemens on a recruiting trip to Clemens' home, it was a start.

But yes, Dolan is fielding advice from Thomas on a regular basis. Does that mean he's ignoring Walsh? No, it does not. Dolan is listening to his team president, just like he's listening to his dear friend down south.

Dolan tried to rehire Thomas -- now the coach at Florida International -- twice over the summer, first as a general manager and then as a consultant, before Walsh and David Stern shot those attempts down. Dolan insisted he would continue to seek Isiah's counsel, and seek it he has.

The Garden chairman ordered Walsh to thank Thomas at Amare Stoudemire's introductory news conference; Dolan believes Isiah's relationship with Stoudemire's longtime summer coach and adviser, Travis King, helped to land the free agent and to save the Knicks from what would've been a disastrous July. In fact, when it became clear the Knicks were in danger of striking out in free agency, D'Antoni -- not Dolan -- was the team official who called Thomas to ask for a hand in recruiting.

Dolan now believes Isiah's ties to Anthony's reps at Creative Artists Agency have aided New York's cause. Between now and Thursday afternoon, those ties won't close the deal.

The Knicks should go ahead and add Mozgov and get their man. If they fail in this overheated pursuit of Anthony, their statement of front-office unity won't do anything to temper the pain.

Ian O'Connor

ESPNNewYork.com columnist
Ian O'Connor has won numerous national awards as a sports columnist and is the author of three books, including the bestseller, "The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter." ESPN Radio broadcasts "The Ian O'Connor Show" every Sunday from 7 to 9 a.m. ET. Follow Ian on Twitter »

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