A report on ESPN Radio that said the Nuggets rejected an offer from the Knicks that included Wilson Chandler, Landry Fields, Eddy Curry and a first round pick for Carmelo Anthony might have some dust on it. That was a scenario discussed in preliminary conversations in the fall, a person with knowledge of the talks told Newsday. The Knicks consider that a starting point now, with Carmelo making it clear his choice destination -- and possibly the only team he'd agree to sign an extension with -- is the Knicks.
The source said most of that package will likely be part of any deal that does go down between the teams, if an agreement can be reached by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. And while Fields is valued within the Knicks organization, the source said the Nuggets "don't hold Fields in great esteem."
One would think that Fields, a two-time Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month selection who has emerged as a second-round gem, would have some value, especially with such an affordable salary ($788,872 in 2011-12). But the Nuggets weren't high on Fields in the draft and believe they have a better version in Arron Afflalo, who is a favorite of the coaching staff. But Fields could be included if the Nuggets feel they can flip him in another deal.
Still, to come away with Fields still on the roster would be great relief to the Knicks, who wouldn't have anyone to play shooting guard if they had to trade him. But while Donnie Walsh may be able to pull off this trade without losing Fields, the greater concern is he may have to give up Chandler AND Danilo Gallinari, which is something the Knicks are extremely hesitant to do.
But would that be a deal-breaker? This is what the Knicks need to find out over the next four weeks as they get into the negotiation stage. Once the Nuggets name their price, the process can truly get underway.
Eddy Curry (expiring $11.2M salary), who might be the only player involved who is rooting for this deal to go down - "I have no comment on that," Curry said with a grin when I asked him if he's looking forward to the trade -- is pretty much a given in any discussion because his high salary fits in the money match.
Another player that could be added to the deal to help make up salary is Kelenna Azubuike, whose expiring $3.3M salary is now eligible for 80 percent coverage by insurance, which, if covered, would result in some cash savings for the Nuggets (as we've been telling you since the summer, saving money will be just as important in this deal as acquiring talent). Azubuike may be a way to take Al Harrington and his long-term contract off Denver's hands, which they seem to want to do. But that is one of several variables that could come up in the discussion, along with something we mentioned two days ago: swapping Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups.
But that's again speculation at this point. Let's get back to facts:
We also know the Nuggets will want first round picks, as many as they can get. The Knicks can offer their 2014 pick, though that's way too far into the future to stand alone. Walsh has options to trade Anthony Randolph to the Trail Blazers, Timberwolves or Pacers for a first-round pick. If Walsh gets a 2012 pick without protection, he can keep that and then offer his 2011 and 2013 picks to Denver, or offer the '12 and '14 picks, which may have more value to Denver, considering that the '11 draft is not expected to be very deep.
Walsh can also use cash to buy a 2011 first round pick from a team that may finish in the 20s and have little interest in the shallow draft. Then the Knicks can deal that one or their own pick. Bottom line, picks aren't an issue.
You know what else isn't an issue? Creative Artists Agency. The Nets may have had a three-team deal with the Nuggets and Pistons, but really there were four teams involved, because you had to include CAA and their interests (which is how Rip Hamilton got involved). But the Knicks already know Carmelo will sign an extension with them, so they don't need to involve Leon Rose, Worldwide Wes and Co., at least not until the very end. And that's just fine for CAA because if Carmelo does wind up in New York with the $65M extension, CAA can celebrate the victory of getting exactly what its client wanted.
Meanwhile the Knicks are hitting a wall here at midseason with five straight losses going into Saturday's game at Oklahoma City. Amar'e Stoudemire is looking battered from shouldering the scoring load -- and taking a pounding from physical defenses -- and it is getting more and more apparent that a second go-to scorer is needed if only just to keep the Knicks from falling into the mosh pit of teams battling for the seventh and eight playoff spots.