Source: Knicks cautiously optimistic
LOS ANGELES - While the Nets ominously linger on the periphery, the Knicks are trying to close in on the completion of a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets, a person with knowledge of the situation told Newsday Saturday.
The source said there is cautious optimism that a multi-player blockbuster trade is "on the right track,'' but another source told Newsday that a concern remains that the Nuggets might continue to change the pieces in the deal.
A source said the Nuggets still are trying to force the Nets, who have long been their preferred trading partner, on Anthony. The Nets reportedly offered four first-round picks plus rookie Derrick Favors in a multi-player package for the four-time All-Star.
As reported in yesterday's Newsday, the Knicks reluctantly added Danilo Gallinari to a package that included Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton in a multi-player deal that would send Anthony and veteran guard Chauncey Billups to the Knicks.
While multiple sources have said Anthony prefers to be traded to the Knicks, sources say the Nuggets heavily favor the Nets' offer. One NBA executive scoffed at the notion that the Nets' offer is better, saying the players Denver is asking for from the Knicks "beat New Jersey without Amar'e [Stoudemire].'' That was a reference to the Knicks' 105-95 victory over the Nets in Newark Feb. 12 with Stoudemire sidelined because of a sprained big toe.
Regardless of the offers, the most important part of either deal is getting Anthony to agree to sign a three-year, $65-million extension.
The Knicks - who, according to sources, met Anthony here Thursday night - are confident he would. But two sources with direct knowledge of the situation said Anthony would not sign an extension with the Nets. The New York Times website reported that Anthony has been telling confidants that he is not interested in signing with the Nets.
ESPN.com reported last night that Anthony met for 40 minutes with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, minority owner Jay-Z and general manager Billy King late yesterday afternoon at a Los Angeles-area restaurant, according to a league source.
ESPN reported that the Nets informed Anthony of their short-and long-term visions - the certainty of their move to Brooklyn for the start of the 2012-13 season and their plans to build a championship-caliber team around him, largely through free agency.
ESPN said Anthony was noncommittal afterward and told the Nets he would think about the situation and would like to have a resolution before the end of the weekend.
That would contradict a statement Prokhorov released Saturday through a spokeswoman that said no meeting with Anthony was planned. "Mikhail has not met with and has no plans to meet with Carmelo Anthony,'' Prokhorov spokeswoman Ellen Pinchuk wrote in an e-mail to Newsday and other media outlets. "He is looking forward to enjoying All-Star Weekend. We will have nothing else to add on this.''
An NBA source said Denver might want to keep the Nets involved mainly to keep pressure on the Knicks, who might significantly decrease their offer for Anthony if they know they are the only team bidding.
The source said there also is the potential that the Nuggets and Nets could work out a smaller deal that would not require an extension. It then would be up to Prokhorov and the Nets to try to convince Anthony to sign an extension before he opts out and becomes a free agent.
A source warned that though talks have progressed positively at the ownership level between Nuggets executive Josh Kroenke and Knicks owner James Dolan, within the Nuggets' hierarchy, there remains heavy resistance to making a deal with the Knicks and giving Anthony what he's wanted from the start.
Denver's position might be affected by the Knicks' recent hiring of former Nuggets GM Mark Warkentien. When Kroenke was told that media reports suggested Warkentien was brought in to broker the Anthony trade, a person with knowledge of the situation said Kroenke replied, "We'll see about that.''
A report on NBAtv Saturday said the Nuggets came back to the Knicks Saturday with a request for rookies Timofey Mozgov and Landry Fields rather than Gallinari, but multiple sources say the Nuggets have long targeted Gallinari as a piece in any deal. The Knicks never wanted to include Gallinari in the deal, according to multiple sources, so the report would seem a favorable scenario for them, though it would mean giving up three starters (Felton, Fields and Mozgov) and a key reserve (Chandler) for Anthony and Billups.
Still, considering how often the Nuggets have changed the conversation during the talks, a source said it has been difficult to settle on one set of parameters.
Anthony is scheduled to play for the Western Conference in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night at the Staples Center; despite the ongoing negotiations, that isn't likely to change. But there is a reason to believe he won't be in a Nuggets uniform Tuesday when Denver hosts Memphis. At this point, Anthony is waiting for an answer.
"I don't know,'' he said of his immediate future. "When I know something, you'll know something.''
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