Report: Knicks, Carmelo Anthony meet
The New Jersey Nets, meanwhile, might not get the chance to land the sitdown they need to clinch a trade with the Denver Nuggets if the Knicks and Nuggets keep progressing in trade talks, according to sources close to the negotiations.
Sources said the Nets, as of Friday night, were still trying to schedule a meeting with owner Mikhail Prokhorov, minority owner Jay-Z and Anthony, despite Anthony's insistence during Friday's TNT broadcast of the rookie-sophomore game that "no meetings are going to be taking place this weekend."
The Nets have been steadfast in publicly saying they have not reopened trade talks for Anthony.
Prokhorov's spokeswoman, Ellen Pinchuk, released an update Saturday saying Prohkorov "has not met with and has no plans to meet with Carmelo Anthony."
"He is looking forward to enjoying All-Star Weekend," the release added. "We will have nothing else to add on this."
The New York Daily News has reported Anthony and Knicks owner James Dolan met Thursday night in Los Angeles. The newspaper also reported that Knicks and Nuggets officials engaged Friday for a conference call to hash out the parameters of an Anthony trade, seemingly restoring New York to pole position in the Melo Sweepstakes after serious talks between New Jersey and Denver all week.
Anthony did meet for nearly 20 minutes Friday afternoon with reporters covering the All-Star Game, but he offered little clarity about his intentions beyond saying that he's hopeful for a resolution to his future by the end of the weekend.
Among his statements Friday, Anthony openly wished for "something [set] in stone before I leave here this weekend."
The Nuggets do have a trade offer on the table from the Nets that both teams have already agreed upon. Sources have confirmed a Friday report from the Bergen (N.J.) Record that New Jersey has agreed in principle to send prized rookie Derrick Favors, former All-Star guard Devin Harris, Troy Murphy (and his expiring contract), Ben Uzoh and four first-round picks to Denver for Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Melvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman. As ESPN.com reported Thursday night, Denver would then use at least one of those future first-round picks to package with Murphy -- either in this trade or in a separate deal -- to a third team yet to be determined.
But the Nets, as they've maintained since their pursuit of Anthony began in September, won't give final approval to any deal unless the All-Star forward also agrees to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with New Jersey as part of the transaction. Prokhorov longs to have a full-fledged star in place before the franchise's planned move to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season, but New Jersey can't give up assets such as Favors and multiple draft picks without knowing it has Anthony locked up for the long term.
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And Anthony, according to one source, has been privately urged by the Knicks to "hold tight" before agreeing to meet with Prokhorov at All-Star Weekend, which would give New York more time to hammer out a trade agreement that would bring Anthony to his desired destination.
If the Knicks and the Nuggets can reach terms on a trade after weeks of fruitless talks, Anthony's widely anticipated meeting with Prokhorov in Los Angeles would be rendered pointless. The Knicks have consistently told Denver they don't want to part with both Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton in an Anthony trade. New York doesn't want to trade either one of them, but the Nets' re-emergence in trade talks could force the Knicks to surrender both starters along with Wilson Chandler to land a package of Denver players headlined by Anthony and Billups. The Knicks have also long maintained they would be able to furnish Denver with at least one future first-round pick by using Eddy Curry's expiring contract and Anthony Randolph as assets to rope in a third-team facilitator.
The Nets were dismayed Friday, sources said, that the Nuggets granted New York permission to meet with Anthony. Denver had indicated that it preferred to trade with New Jersey more than anyone else, largely because the Nuggets have said they like Favors more than any other young player who has been made available to them over the past five months. But by re-entering negotiations this week with Denver after Prokhorov so publicly and forcefully pulled his team out of the running Jan. 19, New Jersey exposed itself to the possibility the Nuggets were merely hoping the Knicks would improve their offer.
Although it's believed Knicks president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni are against surrendering so much of Amare Stoudemire's supporting cast, Dolan wants Anthony so badly -- perhaps because of the open feuding between the Knicks and the Nets since Prokhorov arrived -- that he's apparently willing to surrender every coveted Knick apart from Stoudemire and perhaps rookie Landry Fields to get him.
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Stripping down the current roster to such a degree would potentially increase pressure on the Knicks to find a way to acquire a superstar such as Chris Paul or Dwight Howard from the 2012 free-agent class, but Stoudemire seemed to endorse the strategy at Friday's All-Star media session. When asked by reporters if he's worried about giving too much away for Anthony, Stoudemire said: "I think the combination of the two of us would be great."
In his own crowded session with reporters Friday, Anthony initially appeared to give the impression that he's more open to winding up in New Jersey than advertised. Anthony said an extension with the Nets is "something I'm going to have to think about deeply," insisted that he "would love to sit down with Mr. Prokhorov" if the Nuggets wanted to deal him to New Jersey and even described the chance to play in Brooklyn as "perfect" because that's "my birthplace."
But after resisting numerous attempts by reporters to pin him down on what his true preference is, Anthony did acknowledge the Knicks have an advantage because New York "already has something there with Amare." The Nets would essentially be stripped down to Anthony and center Brook Lopez if New Jersey went through with the Denver deal as currently constructed.
ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher reported earlier Friday that Anthony would eventually agree to sign the extension with the Nets if talks between the Knicks and Nuggets broke down, because Anthony is determined to secure the maximum amount of money he's eligible to receive under the current collective bargaining agreement ($65 million over three years) before the June 30 deadline.
Anthony also said he realizes how much the constant speculation has worn on people throughout the NBA.
"It's way past soap opera. It's like a bad movie now," Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley said Thursday.
Asked whether he wants to meet directly with his suitors before making a deal, Anthony said: "I think, with anything in business, you want to sit and look in a person's eyes. Whether it's Prokhorov or it's Dolan, whether it's [Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry] Buss, the third team that just came out last week. Whoever it is, you want to sit and have eye contact with them and get a feel for 'em."
Stoudemire said he believes Dolan wants Anthony in New York, and thinks Anthony likes the Knicks -- but not the circus that's followed his status.
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"It can be somewhat foreign to him with all the attention, he may love it, but I think he really wants to find a stable situation for him as far as where he's going to play, like a sense of security," Stoudemire said.
Dallas and Houston might agree to trade for Anthony without a guarantee he would sign an extension with them. He doesn't want one of those deals.
"I really don't want to have to be a rental. I don't feel like I'm a rental player," he said. "I don't want to go somewhere and be a rental for two months and then have to deal with this all over again. I don't want to have to do that."
And he realizes the Nuggets don't have to send him to one of his desired destinations. All he knows is the answers are finally coming.
"The Nuggets have to weigh their options," Anthony said. "If it's a deal with somebody else that's legit, then we all have to sit down and hash that out and talk about it. But time is ticking, man, and time is money."
This is the third time since September the Nuggets and Nets have reached an advanced stage in negotiations for an Anthony trade. A four-team deal including Charlotte and Utah in September and three-team deal involving Detroit also reached a similar stage before collapsing and ultimately prompting Prokhorov to walk away from the talks.
Sources told ESPN.com that Prokhorov has been negotiating directly with Nuggets ownership this week, despite Thursday night's statement from Pinchuk that the Russian billionaire "has not changed his mind" about ending New Jersey's pursuit of Anthony. It appears that the Nets won't actually surrender until Denver trades Anthony elsewhere or Prokhorov finally hears face-to-face from Anthony that he'll only sign the extension with the Knicks.
The trading deadline is 3 p.m. ET Thursday.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Chris Broussard is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics