Now what for Carmelo Anthony? Denver?

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A trade between Denver and New Jersey for Carmelo Anthony always made sense — for Denver and New Jersey. Anthony never seemed all that interested, the fact he wanted to meet with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to be sold on the team does not make him sound like a guy who wanted to go there. Meanwhile the drama dragged on and on and on….

Until Wednesday afternoon, when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov killed it. He told the Nets management to walk away from the deal, that the costs had of making the deal had become too high.

What this sounds like to me is a face-saving deal:

Anthony never really wanted to go to New Jersey, but Anthony does not like to play the bad guy (as Alan Hahn of Newsday noted). By handling it this way Prokhorov gets to keep some dignity. This way, he’s the one doing the breaking up, not the one getting dumped. He gets to sound like the hard a– Russian rather than the guy who could not win the free agent again (he had enough of that last summer).

So now what? Who is left to chase ‘Melo?

Here is a list of teams where Carmelo Anthony may land:

• The New York Knicks. Knicks fans, come on down, you’re the next contestants on “Is The Price Right for Denver?” As distasteful as it may be for the Nuggets front office, this may be the best deal they can get. Especially if New York is the only place that Anthony will sign an extension.

If Knicks GM Donnie Walsh can trade Anthony Randolph for a 2012 first round pick (as is expected), then the rules allow them to trade their 2011 and 2013 first round picks (even though they did not have a 2010 pick). The package likely would be something like Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, the body and expiring contract of Eddy Curry, and a first-round pick or two.

The Nuggets were right to like a deal that involved Derrick Favors more, but this gets them a couple of quality players, a couple picks and payroll savings next year. That’s not terrible.

• The New Jersey Nets… Prokhorov was bluffing. It doesn’t seem likely, but it a possibility. If Anthony was willing to go to the Nets but the Nuggets kept pushing and overplayed their hand — “You have to take Renaldo Balkman or the deal is off!” — this is the way to call that bluff. Make the Nuggets accept your terms, which is still better than any other offer. And it could happen, in a couple of weeks the Nuggets might call the Nets back and accept lesser terms.

Of course, this theory depends on Anthony actually wanting to go to New Jersey. Wanting it bad enough that this stunt doesn’t frighten him off. Yes, that is possible, but I wouldn’t bet the kids’ college fund on it.

• The Chicago Bulls. They were in the bidding last summer but pulled out. However CAA power broker William Wesley is reportedly headed to Chicago to try and convince them to get back in the game. The Bulls might be willing to talk but they have no incentive to up the offer from the Luol Deng based one the Nuggets already soundly rejected. The Bulls are not about to give up Joakim Noah, especially not now. It would be quite a loss of face for Denver to come crawling back to this deal.

• The Denver Nuggets: They could play hardball. They could dare Carmelo Anthony to not sign the three-year, $65 million extension on the table and take his chances as a free agent under a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Basically, call his bluff. See if he’s willing to lose $10 million or more. Anthony has said he wants to sign an extension and have a deal under this CBA, he’s comfortable in Denver, so maybe he’ll cave.

Not likely. He’s still gong to make at least $50 million on a new deal wherever it is, which should be enough to live on. If he wants out, he wants out. This strategy also carries big risks for Denver — if he does leave as a free agent the Nuggets get nothing in return. They are Cleveland or Toronto. That seems too big a risk, they need to get something back for losing their star.

• The Dallas Mavericks: Mark Cuban has said he wants to get in on the bidding if it comes to “rent-a-Melo.” And by rent-a-Melo we mean Dallas doesn’t care if he signs the extension or not, they would be happy to rent him for the remainder of this season to try and win a title.

Denver could get an up-and-coming young player like Rodrigue Beaubois and save money on the expiring deal of Caron Butler (who is already out for the year with knee surgery). Dallas would also have to send picks and other players. It’s really not as good as what the Knicks can offer, but if you want to spite the Knicks and Melo…

• The Rockets: They have wanted to step in as part of the rent-a-Melo portion of the bidding as well (giving them the chance to woo him for the long term). The Rockets have Yao Ming’s expiring contract, a lot of good role players — Kevin Martin, Shane Battier and others — and have a pick or two to send. But right now they are well out of the playoffs and bringing in Anthony means they likely only move up the seven seed at best, to face a team like the Lakers or Mavericks in the first round. Is that worth what would be given up?

Damian Lillard talks about his “no pressure” pitch to Carmelo Anthony, selling Portland

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Self-made, over-achieving players in the NBA tend not to be the recruiters. They worked hard and made it to where they are more on their own, and their world-view follows that path. Think Derrick Rose in Chicago.

Damian Lillard was one of those guys, but he has done a little recruiting of late — he reached out to Carmelo Anthony last week. Lillard told Chris Mannix of NBC Radio (who is filling in for Dan Patrick for the day on his national radio show) that it wasn’t really the John Calipari hard-sell.

“It wasn’t really a pitch, I just reached out to him and let him know the interest just wasn’t from our front office, if there was a possibility there was definitely interest from the players as well, and I didn’t want that to be confused,” Lillard said on the radio show. “I didn’t put no pressure on him or ask him a bunch of questions, I just said what it was from our end.”

That is nice, but Anthony reportedly has focused in on Houston, and might settle for Cleveland (if there was a deal to be had). Would ‘Melo waive his no-trade clause to head to Portland?

“I didn’t get a sense that he wouldn’t,” Lillard said in a tepid response. “What we have here is a good situation for him and that’s just kind of where it went. I let him know what I thought he could do for our team and what our team could do with his presence. And that was it. We didn’t go over no details or talk about a no trade clause or nothing like that. He’s gonna make his own decision to do that or not, I just want to make sure we had some kind of a conversation.”

It’s a start. It’s likely not enough. Anthony wants to go somewhere and chase a ring, and despite what C.J. McCollum thinks, Portland with ‘Melo isn’t a contender. Even with Anthony, I would have them sixth in the West, maybe fifth at best (Warriors, Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, and probably Minnesota are better still). And this is assuming Portland can find a team to take on Myers Leonard’s contract to make a deal work.

What Lillard wanted to get across was that Portland is a great place to be an NBA player.

“I think people talk about what it would be like in Portland or to play in Portland, but actually having lived here, I live here year-round, so I know it’s a great place to live,” Lillard said. “Some of the best food in the United States. You talk about loving the game of basketball, our team and the soccer team are all the city has, so we get a lot of support and our fans really back our team and are really passionate about our team. That type of environment, and that type of love and support around the city, what NBA player wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

Jimmer Fredette re-signing in China

AP Photo/George Bridges
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Jimmer Fredette played well in China last year, and buzz even emerged about him re-joining the NBA after the Chinese season ended in March. Never happened.

Even in the offseason, when every NBA team had open roster spots, nobody stateside has signed Fredette.

So, he’s returning to the Shanghai Sharks.

Fredette:

Fredette retains a cult following in America, but not the talent of an NBA player. He can score plenty in a lesser league, but his game doesn’t fit with better players on the floor.

Perhaps, he could’ve gotten a training-camp invite, maybe even with a small guarantee. But would’ve faced an uphill battle sticking into the regular season. Better for him to lock into a bigger salary in China now.

Rumor: Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder ‘officially circling each other’

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Carmelo Anthony prefers to be traded to the Rockets. He might soon be traded to the Rockets.

Are the Thunder trying to interject themselves before it’s too late?

Bill Simmons of The Ringer:

Thunder assistant general manager Troy Weaver was an assistant coach at Syracuse when Anthony played there. Weaver is also well-connected in the Washington area (D.C./Maryland/Virginia). I’m not sure how much that means to Anthony, who grew up in Baltimore – in many ways, a different world from the DMV (which includes only parts of Maryland and Virginia closer to D.C.). Still, Weaver and Anthony at least share their Syracuse connection.

The problem: An Oklahoma City trade for Anthony would almost have to include Steven Adams (way more valuable than Anthony) and/or Enes Kanter (way less valuable than Anthony). There’s no easy way to bridge either gap, especially considering how much the Thunder need Adams’ interior presence.

Here’s my best stab at a workable framework for a trade, via ESPN’s trade machine:

screenshot-www.espn.com-2017-07-24-12-26-16

The Clippers would get a more-skilled backup center while just shuffling bad contracts (at least that’s how it seems they view Wesley Johnson‘s deal). The Thunder would still need to send the Knicks more assets (Terrance Ferguson, Jerami Grant and/or draft picks). The Knicks would get a veteran point guard in Austin Rivers while Frank Ntilikina develops and, more importantly, additional young assets. It’s just a matter of determining whether there’s an overlap in the picks Oklahoma City would trade and New York would receive. That window might be tight – or not exist.

Adding Paul George and Anthony to a team led by Russell Westbrook would be exciting. I’m just not sure it’s realistic.

Rumor: Knicks likely to trade Carmelo Anthony to Rockets this week

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After numerous starts and stops and starts and stops, maybe the Knicks will actually trade Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets soon?

Tarek Fattal of the Los Angeles Daily News:

So, they found a third team to take Ryan Anderson or a fourth team to take Meyers Leonard?

If true, that’d please at least Anthony.

There’s room for a trade to work. New York is clearly ready to move on from Anthony, and Houston wants him to join James Harden and Chris Paul. The Rockets can add sweeteners to convince another team – or maybe even the Knicks – to take a bad contract in the trade.

But this has dragged on so long, I need more evidence the deal is actually close before I believe it.