Nets re-enter the Carmelo fray

Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony (L) moves against the New York Knicks guard/forward Landry Fields during the first quarter at the Pepsi Center in Denver on November 16, 2010. UPI/Gary C. Caskey

Chris Broussard of ESPN is reporting that the New Jersey Nets and Denver Nuggets have reignited the Carmelo Anthony trade talks.

While Anthony would prefer playing in New York, sources say he has grown frustrated with the Knicks’ inability to pull off the trade, especially when reports out of New York suggest the Knicks are hesitant to exchange a collection of role players for him.

Sources close to Anthony have long said he would be willing to go to New York as a free agent this summer and thereby risk losing tens of millions of dollars under a new collective bargaining agreement, but as the trade deadline has drawn near, Anthony’s willingness to leave that type of money on the table has seemed to wane. That’s what New Jersey is banking on.

At the very least, New Jersey’s re-entry into trade discussions would seem to drive up the price for the Knicks. Denver likes Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields and Timofey Mozgov and wants two, if not three, of those players in a deal, as well as point guard Raymond Felton in exchange for Chauncey Billups. Any deal between the Knicks and Nuggets is also likely to include a first-round pick from Minnesota that the Timberwolves would give up in exchange for New York’s Anthony Randolph. But the Knicks are reluctant to part with two, much less three, rotation players.

Knicks owner James Dolan, however, badly wants to acquire Anthony before the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and sources say he has been pushing team president Donnie Walsh to get a deal done. Walsh and head coach Mike D’Antoni do not want to decimate their roster to get Anthony, especially since they’ve been confident that Anthony would sign with New York as a free agent this summer. But now that New Jersey is back in the mix, the Knicks’ leverage has declined.

This could turn out to be a savvy move by Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov. He felt like his team was getting played by the Nuggets and/or Carmelo, and he ordered management to back off. Now that the trade deadline is quickly approaching, he sees that the Knicks may get Anthony for nearly nothing, and by reentering trade talks, at the very least he should be able to drive the price up on any forthcoming Knicks/Nuggets trade, hurting the rival Knicks long term. The best case scenario is that he acquires Carmelo and convinces him to sign that much-ballyhooed three-year extension worth $65 million.

As for Carmelo’s frustration that the Knicks haven’t already gotten a deal done, Donnie Walsh and Mike D’Antoni only want to ensure that there’s a supporting cast present once New York’s new star finally walks into the Knicks’ locker room. Most stars wouldn’t want to be traded to a team that is decimated by the trade, but I think at this point Carmelo just wants to play in New York, supporting cast be damned.

In the end, New Jersey definitely has more to offer, but it’s not clear how willing Carmelo is to play for the Nets long term. Without that commitment in place, the Nets are unlikely to move forward since there’s no point in renting Anthony for a playoff run. The Nets may have more to offer, but no deal will get done without Anthony’s three-year commitment.

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