LOS ANGELES - Will it be Hello Melo, or will it be nyet?
The Knicks Sunday night were presented a counteroffer from the Denver Nuggets that, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation, required rookie center Timofey Mozgov as the final piece in what would be a blockbuster trade for Carmelo Anthony.
The source said if the Knicks did not accept this deal, Denver would trade Anthony to the Nets contingent on Anthony's agreeing to a three-year, $65-million contract extension. A person with knowledge of Anthony's thinking remains skeptical that he would agree to sign an extension with New Jersey.
In the three-team deal, the Knicks would send Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Mozgov, a future first-round pick and $3 million in cash to the Nuggets in exchange for Anthony, veteran guard Chauncey Billups and two other players, who were identified by CBSSports.com as Shelden Williams and Anthony Carter.
The deal would result in the Knicks giving up three starters and returning two. Mozgov had re-emerged as the team's starting center and helped provide size along the front line. Ronny Turiaf, at 6-10, would be the only center on the roster, but the Knicks could look to sign free agent Earl Barron.
The Nets reportedly have a deal in place that includes rookie Derrick Favors and four first-round draft picks going to Denver in a three-team trade. After meeting with Nets officials on Saturday, Anthony was noncommittal about signing an extension with them, a source said.
Multiple sources said Anthony is determined to be traded and agree to an extension before Thursday's trade deadline and is not inclined to wait until the offseason, when he can opt out as a free agent. The Knicks then could create enough salary-cap space to sign him.
"He wants the money," the source said.
Anthony said after Sunday night's All-Star Game that he hadn't heard anything and expects to be in a Denver uniform Tuesday night when the Nuggets host the Grizzlies. He added, "The deadline is Thursday. Something has to happen . . . The end is here.''
Denver has favored the Nets' offer over what the Knicks were willing to give up, a source said, but there always was a concern that Anthony wouldn't sign an extension to play there. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced Jan. 19 that he was breaking off negotiations with the Nuggets. But last week, as Newsday reported, the Nets went back to the table.
Prokhorov, who attended Saturday's meeting with Anthony, admitted in an interview Sunday with CNBC's Darren Rovell that he decided to get back into negotiations with Denver just to keep pressure on the Knicks.
"I think we made a very good tactical decision to force [the] Knicks to pay as much as they can," Prokhorov told CNBC. "So it's very good, it's very interesting, it's very competitive."
A person with direct knowledge of the situation said the Nuggets presented a trade scenario to the Knicks last week that was "monumental" and involved more players, including Mozgov and fellow rookie Landry Fields. The Knicks, the source said, already have gone beyond their initial limits in negotiations. Multiple sources told Newsday early Sunday that the Knicks have drawn a line in the sand and are "not going any further."
The Knicks' first game after the break is Wednesday night against the Bucks at the Garden. It also is Legends Night, which would be an ideal time to introduce Anthony to New York.
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