HOUSTON - The strongest competition to acquire Carmelo Anthony may have eliminated itself, but the Knicks aren't any closer to landing the three-time all-star forward just yet. Though Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov's stunning public announcement Wednesday night that his team was no longer pursuing Anthony appears to push the Knicks to the forefront in a potential trade with the Denver Nuggets, an NBA source with direct knowledge of the situation said "there is no deal" in place between the Knicks and Nuggets.
The source also added that "there are no proposals" in place, either.
At Knicks practice on Tuesday, team president Donnie Walsh was frustrated with his comments being misconstrued and said he will no longer talk about Denver. Reached Wednesday for reaction to Prokhorov's decision to halt the pursuit of Anthony, Walsh replied, "I have no comment."
Before the Knicks' 104-89 loss to the Rockets Wednesday night at the Toyota Center, Amar'e Stoudemire also declined to comment. Stoudemire has talked with Anthony since the summer about teaming up in New York and at this point, with the weary Knicks (22-19) riding a four-game losing streak, Stoudemire looks as if he could use some star-power assistance. He had 25 points, but struggled against the tough defense of burly Rockets center Chuck Hayes and didn't get much support elsewhere. Raymond Felton had 14 points and Toney Douglas had 13 off the bench as the Knicks scored fewer than 90 points for the fourth time in the last seven games. Kevin Martin had 21 points for the Rockets (20-23).
Walsh has not yet engaged in meaningful talks with the Nuggets' front office, led by team executive Josh Kroenke and general manager Masai Ujiri, but the source said that Anthony has made it clear to his representation, agent Leon Rose and Creative Artists Agency, that "the goal is to get him to New York in an extend-and-trade." That would be a trade that includes a three-year, $65-million contract extension, which the Nuggets put on the table last June. Anthony has been reluctant to sign an extension to stay in Denver and apparently wasn't excited about signing it with the Nets, either.
The Knicks would prefer to see Anthony opt out as a free agent after the season, so they can sign him without giving up any key players, but that does not appear to be Anthony's intention. He has concerns about the potential restrictions in a new collective-bargaining agreement, which will cause him to lose millions as a free agent.
The Knicks can trade for Anthony if they use Eddy Curry's expiring contract ($11.2 million), and they likely will have to add at least two key young players, such as Wilson Chandler or Danilo Gallinari, along with rookie Landry Fields. It is also possible that another veteran may have to be included, such as all-star candidate Felton, with the Nuggets also looking to move Chauncey Billups.