Nuggets sit down with Carmelo Anthony to woo him, while Rockets, Clippers wait in the wings

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Thumbnail image for canthony_arty.jpgIt still sits there on the table. The elephant in the room. The thing as subtle as an Oliver Stone film — three years, $65 million. Denver’s contract extension offer to Carmelo Anthony. Which he has yet to sign.

Because it sits untouched trade rumors swirl. But the Nuggets don’t want to ship him off, they want is him to sign it, to keep him a mile high. And by extension to keep themselves as contenders.

Last weekend Josh Kroenke — son of owner Stan Kroenke who may well take control of the team soon if Stan completes efforts to buy the St. Louis Rams — flew to Baltimore to sit down with Anthony and sell him on Denver, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. Kroenke wooed, but no resolution was reached — Anthony did not sign the deal.

Denver is expected to hire a general manager soon, with the Suns No. 2 man David Griffin still the frontrunner. As Dell Demps did with Chris Paul in New Orleans, Griffin (or whoever is hired) will sit down with Anthony and try to sell him on his vision, his plans. Even with that, it was important for Kroenke to make the effort as he is the guy that ultimately pulls the strings.

And all that may not be enough.

If Anthony is not going to sign that deal — and he should be clear with Denver of his intentions one way or the other — Denver has no choice but to trade him. They do not want to end up like Cleveland and Toronto, who are starting to rebuild from scratch after losing their superstars with little compensation.

But any trade would need to be an extend-and-trade with the deal Denver has on the table. Anthony could leave as a free agent at the end of the year and sign a new max deal under the new collective bargaining agreement (which will be approved after next summer’s impending lockout), but that likely will cost him $15 million or more in lost wages. That’s a lot of scratch.

Wojnarowski says that Houston is as or more desired of a landing spot by Anthony than New York. The Rockets certainly have pieces to trade for Anthony and it would give them a star player on the perimeter, someone who if matched with a healthy Yao Ming would make them very formidable.

But the Denver Post reports the Clippers are also in the mix. The belief is that Anthony wants to play in an entertainment hub because of his new wife, actress LaLa Vasquez. Los Angeles is that. And they certainly have talent on the roster to trade, although due to contract size center Chris Kaman almost certainly would have to be part of any deal. A stumbling block could be how insistent Denver would be on getting Blake Griffin.

Oh, and if Anthony would approve going to the Clippers. That may be the biggest hurdle of all — his side has never mentioned the Clippers, that came from Denver sources.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.