LOS ANGELES -- When Jim Gray strolled by, I knew the night was headed for disaster. The Master of Ceremonies -- and, apparently, mastermind -- for LeBron's "Decision" was hovering at the exact time the NBA world was now wondering what yet another star was going to do about his future.
Would Carmelo really sign that contract extension with the Nets?
So far, he hasn't, but it shouldn't be long now before we find out. One thing I can tell you is despite suggestions elsewhere that Amar'e Stoudemire doesn't care either way, let me assure you that people close to him have told me he is very much interested in teaming up with Carmelo in New York.
But he, like the entire Knicks organization, doesn't want it to come at a cost that would ravage a roster that Amar'e believes has great potential.
"Amar'e never said as has been reported that he does not want Carmelo," a person close to Stoudemire said last night. "He thinks he would be great in New York . . . [Carmelo] just has to be patient and wait it out."
That is what the Knicks want, but Carmelo's party wants something else. They want that $65 million over three years (plus next year's salary of $18 million) that is tangible money, rather than risk going into free agency under an extremely restricted new CBA system.
It's a mess in Denver now and the cloud that has hung over the team all season as a result of Carmelo's uncertain situation has the team in an emotional tailspin. The Nuggets have been listening to offers -- at least from everyone but the Knicks -- and considering options, but a source told me things took a serious turn over the last few days and suddenly there was a greater motivation to get something done sooner rather than later.
Things got very hot with the Nets over the weekend, but by Sunday night Josh Kroenke started pumping the brakes. George Karl's misery can be overwhelming for those close to him, but Kroenke started to reconsider a rash move just because the coach lost his patience. It also didn't help that CAA -- the fellas that rep Melo (you remember them from the LeBronathon) -- started applying their own full-court press.
Denver may not get a better offer than what Billy King has presented to them with seemingly inexhaustible effort. But what we still don't know is if Carmelo will sign that extension. Will he? Won't he?
Didn't we do this dance already once before?
Those close to Carmelo have said one thing he wanted to avoid was winding up in the same situation as LeBron. Well, guess what? You're almost there.
The Knicks are closely monitoring the situation with some anxiety. At this point it seems the Knicks just want some type of conclusion to emerge just so they can move forward. If Carmelo does take the deal to go to the Nets, Donnie Walsh and his staff are ready to quickly transition into using those assets they have horded over the last few months -- Eddy Curry's expiring, Anthony Randolph's potential -- and fill some actual areas of need on the current roster, with nothing more important than finding a starting-quality center.
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* - Amar'e had a rough night against the Lakers' bigs, but wasn't very aggressive early on as he settled for jumpers, which usually is a decent strategy. But in this game the reliable J had the shanks as he missed 12 of his first 14 shots. In the second half, especially when things got physical, Amar'e started to attack more. Teams have tried to bang him, especially knowing he's the only big Mike D'Antoni will use (and, obviously, he's their best player) and Amar'e said he welcomes it: "I love it. I hope they keep it up. All that does is fuel me."
* - Landry Fields got to live a childhood dream -- or maybe a nightmare -- of guarding Kobe Bryant one-on-one on the Staples Center floor. Kobe dropped 25 on the rookie from Long Beach, though he did it shooting 10-for-28. "I've been watching him my whole life," Fields said. "I always wanted a chance to try to guard him."
Fields didn't exactly embarrass himself. He had 12 points and was the only Knick regular to shoot 50 percent (5-for-10). His defense on Kobe was good, as he made sure to keep Bryant in front of him and force him into jumpers. Kobe had 10 points in the third quarter that saw the Lakers break the game open. He got Fields on a trademark double-fake fade shot that Fields has seen -- and called -- many, many times on TV.
"I would be like, here it comes, spin, spin, fade," Fields said of his years watching the Lakers on TV.
With that much knowledge, you would think Landry would know what's coming when he was defending it.
"No," he said with a laugh. "Game speed is a little bit different than watching on TV."
* - On to Portland to face the Trail Blazers and ask Marcus Camby the annual "Would you like to play for the Knicks again?" question.