Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov delivered the bombshell to the media on Wednesday night as he made his opening statement after traveling to the United States for what he thought would be a chance to finish the deal to bring Carmelo Anthony to the Nets from the Denver Nuggets.
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"I'm not happy with the way ... this deal has gone until now," Prokhorov said. "It has taken too long. It has been played out in public and it certainly has taken a toll on the players and I believe that it has cost us several games. I think management did a great job, but there comes a time when the price is simply too expensive. I'm instructing our team to walk away from the deal."
The Nets have lost six straight, including all four on a just-completed West Coast road trip that ended in Oakland on Monday.
The decision to pull out of the talks was made Tuesday, said Prokhorov, who displayed a discernable level of frustration at the collapse of the deal the Nets had been working on for three months.
"It's my decision," said Prokhorov, who said the Nets were given permission to speak with Anthony but never got a "straightforward answer" on the specifics of that meeting.
Prokhorov said he never heard from Anthony.
"Maybe he sent me an e-mail, but I don't have a computer," Prokhorov said. "Maybe the carrier pigeon got lost."
Denver general manager Masai Ujiri declined to answer questions about the Nets' decision, beyond saying the Nuggets have been in talks "with plenty of teams" regarding Anthony and insisting he harbored no ill will toward the Nets for calling off talks.
Nuggets coach George Karl said he wasn't surprised that Prokhorov pulled the plug on this deal.
"I think I've been one of the guys who have been kind of hinting to you that this is a lot farther away from happening than you all think it's going to be," Karl said. "But we've got a fun game, a hell of a team to play against tonight ... and I'm more excited about that than my billionaire friend from Russia kind of throwing another curveball or knuckleball into the process.
"If it's true, it's true. If it isn't true, it isn't true," Karl added. "If it's a ploy in the negotiation, that's for the guys upstairs to figure out."
Previously, New Jersey had offered to ship six players and at least two first-round draft picks to Denver in a deal that would have sent Anthony to the Nets along with former Pistons teammates Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.
Derrick Favors, the 19-year-old rookie who was rumored to be the centerpiece in the multiple-player deal, was shocked upon hearing the news in the locker room before the game.
"I don't have to worry about it no more," Favors said. "It's over with. This is my first time hearing it. I'm excited."
Asked if there was a tipping point in the withdrawal, Prokhorov would not be specific.
"It is my feeling of strategy, that is enough," Prokhorov said.
"I am not ready to overpay," Prokhorov said. "As soon as you make a mistake, you can wait for the next chance for the next five or six years. That's why I prefer to be really patient."
Nets GM Billy King, who was hired to replace Rod Thorn in the offseason, said the Nets and Nuggets never reached an agreement at any time during the negotiations.
"I am not disappointed at all," King said. "It's been a long process. In all my years, 16 years in the NBA, I have never seen anything like this."
King said he came close to calling off the deal himself during the talks.
"There were times in my mind I wrestled with the same idea, because you get to a point where you say enough is enough," said King, who said he was frustrated by "everything" in the talks.
King called the seemingly never-ending talks on a Melo deal a perfect storm, with the Nuggets and Nets both dealing with new ownerships and managements.
"There is no blame for anyone," he said. "We all worked hard to get a deal done, we just couldn't get one."
King added Nets will now move on. Forward Troy Murphy, who was part of of the proposed Nuggets-Pistons-Nets, will remain away from the team until the Nets can trade him.
"This is not like the Titanic, this happens and the ship sinks," King said, adding the Nets' have five first-rounds picks in the next two years and plenty of cap space.
Chris Sheridan is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. ESPNNewYork.com contributor Mike Mazzeo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.