The proposed four-team deal that would send Carmelo Anthony to New Jersey is no longer being actively pursued by the Nets, according to NBA front-office sources.
Although it’s possible that the trade could be revived or that the Nets will construct another multiteam offer for Anthony that the Nuggets find more enticing, sources close to the situation said Tuesday that the Nets were no longer prepared to wait on Denver’s indecision, which has left several players in limbo since ESPN.com reported Friday that the framework was in place on a blockbuster deal that also involved Charlotte and Utah.
The Bergen Record reported that Nets general manager Billy King had issued a Tuesday deadline to the Nuggets to finally accept or reject the original proposal, which would have brought Nets rookie Derrick Favors, Jazz veteran Andrei Kirilenko and two future first-round picks to Denver. Nets guard Devin Harris would have gone to Charlotte and Bobcats forward Boris Diaw would have headed to Utah.
Yet it became clear after a stagnant weekend — during which Denver held talks with other teams about Anthony — that the Nets, Bobcats and Jazz were losing patience. Another issue is the constant questions players such as Harris and Kirilenko have been fielding daily about their futures because the near trade has been so highly publicized.
Sources say that the Nets, by backing away now, hope to ease some of the tension in training camp under first-year coach Avery Johnson after four days of practices gripped by anticipation of the trade.
“I know that I love our guys, love the guys who are here,” Johnson said. “We’re not a distracted team at all.”
Johnson said Favors hasn’t been bothered by the trade talk.
“Favors has been one of our best players so far,” Johnson said. “He’s doing a nice job.”
Anthony joined his Nuggets teammates on the first day of training camp Tuesday, calling the court his “safe haven,” a place where he doesn’t have to “deal with all the other stuff.”
The All-Star forward became almost agitated when asked if he might give anything less than 100 percent considering his uncertainty with the team.
“I love the game too much to disrespect the game like that,” said Anthony, who averaged 28.2 points last season in leading the Nuggets to their second straight Northwest Division title. “Anytime I step on the court, I’m going to give it my all, regardless of what’s going on, what’s the situation.
“This is basketball. I focus on basketball — it’s something I know how to do and I love to do. As far as my effort on the court, nobody can question that.”
Nuggets coach George Karl gave Anthony an “A” for his effort after practice, saying he thought his star was “very professional, very mature.”
ESPN.com reported as early as last week that the Nuggets, even as they advanced deep into trade talks with the other three teams, have been clinging to hope that Anthony — who has had virtually no contact with the organization all summer — could be convinced to reconsider his desire to be traded once he reported to training camp and started hearing pro-Nuggets voices again.
“The perfect storm in my mind is to keep Melo, convince him that this is the best place for him, that this is where he has to win a championship,” Karl said.
That process has begun, but sources close to the situation continue to say that the Nuggets’ approach is futile, insisting that Anthony remains determined to leave in free agency in July.
And sources with knowledge of Denver’s thinking have maintained for weeks that the Nuggets will not keep him beyond the February trading deadline if they believe he’s headed for free agency, after watching Cleveland and Toronto lose LeBron James and Chris Bosh, respectively.
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard reported Monday that a major reason Denver would not sign off on the original four-team proposal is because the trade as constructed would have saddled the Nuggets with nearly $10 million in additional salary and luxury-tax costs this season.
A source with knowledge of Denver’s thinking told Broussard: “[Nuggets owner] Stan Kroenke is not going to pay that much money to take a step backwards. They’ll have to find a way for Denver to take on less money for that deal to happen.”
Although the proposed deal would have furnished Denver with two future first-rounders and Favors — satisfying many of the prerequisites it established when it began fielding offers for Anthony earlier this month — Kroenke’s 2010-11 payroll would have increased by $4.8 million, which would force the Nuggets to spend an extra $9.6 million (including luxury-tax penalties) to become a worse team.
Broussard reported Monday that the financial implications made the deal very unlikely to happen in its current form, despite that fact that Nuggets adviser Bret Bearup — longtime consultant to Kroenke and son Josh, who serves as Denver’s president — has wanted to trade Anthony for quite some time.
The New York Knicks, who are Anthony’s team of choice, have continued to pursue Anthony, but Denver has generally been cold to conversations with the Knicks. Sources told Broussard that the Nuggets are not only lukewarm on the players available from the Knicks but also believe that New York might have done some back-channel recruiting of Anthony over the summer.
The Nuggets, sources said, are thus determined not to work with the Knicks except as a last resort.
But the expectation around the league remains that Anthony, because he still possesses the ability to walk away in free agency in July, will not be a Nugget past February. That perception was fueled by media reports that Anthony did not participate in several of the promotional activites players typically perform on media day, with the Denver Post noting that Anthony’s picture was removed Monday from a highly visible advertisement on the Nuggets’ website and replaced by second-year guard Ty Lawson.
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.