UPDATED: Carmelo Anthony trade talks move closer as Nets zero in

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The New Jersey Nets have managed to move their efforts to obtain Carmelo Anthony in a trade with the Denver Nuggets “further along” according to a report from ESPN New York.

Here’s where we stand at posting time:

  • The teams are the same as last we left, with the Pistons pulled into the deal and sending Rip Hamilton to New Jersey to re-team with Chauncey Billups in what our boss man Kurt Helin described as eerily similar to what could have been in Detroit in 2003 had the Pistons drafted Melo.
  • The previous hang-ups were two-fold: the Pistons refused to give up a draft pick in the deal, and everyone was reluctant to take on the insane Johan Petro contract ($10 million over the next three seasons).
  • The first hang-up is reportedly resolved, with Detroit not having to surrender a pick. Petro remains a sticking point, as the Pistons are only willing to be the two teams’ cash dump partner if they’re taking on the least amount of salary.
  • It’s a massive deal in its framework, with 15 players coming and going, and this is outside of whatever fourth team is brought in to potentially take on Petro.
  • Denver would get two first-round picks, Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, and Anthony Morrow among other assets in the deal.
  • New Jersey is hoping that by acquiring both Hamilton and Billups to team with Lopez, that will be enough to talk Melo into the much-discussed extension, even without a sit-down with Mikhail Prokhorov.
  • There’s a lot of confusion on where this is coming from, but the loudest talks have been that Denver is relenting to pressure from Melo’s representatives. If that’s the case, it bodes well for Jersey’s chances at an extension.
  • It’s unclear at this point what Detroit’s after besides clearing its books.

The Billups situation is particularly interesting. Billups’ agent told FanHouse that if traded, he would opt to become a free agent this summer. Billups has been pretty clear about wanting to finish his career in his home of Denver. But in this scenario, Billups become the starting point guard for a contending team beside a star in Carmelo, with a legit big man in Brook Lopez, in a huge market in 2012 when the Nets go to Brooklyn, and he gets to reunite with former teammate Rip Hamilton. I’m not sure Billups will get a better chance to go out on top. Maybe he doesn’t care after already having his ring, but it’s enough to at least give him and his agent pause.

For the Pistons, you have to wonder if they’re simultaneously looking to move Tayshaun Prince in a deal to send out both long-tenured veterans in a short period of time, in an effort to completely remake themselves as a team of the future. With ownership up in the air, this appears to be a solely financial endeavor, but if they’re not getting picks back in this deal, they’re going to want to gear towards the future somewhere. There’s a solid core in place with Greg Monroe, Austin Daye, and whatever point guard ends up being decent along with Jonas Jerebko. Moving both veterans would give them a truly clean slate, so to speak, which they haven’t had in years.

We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.

UPDATE 8:16 p.m. ET: Woj over at Yahoo! has a further list of players included in the deal as it stands, which includes Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams going to New Jersey and Ben Uzoh, Stephen Graham, and Quinton Ross on their way to Denver along with Harris, Favors, and the picks. Chris Mannix of SI reports that Anthony will reportedly agree to an extension with New Jersey, pending the deal. Mannix says the Nets are convinced of that now.

UPDATE 10:12 p.m. ET: Woj at Yahoo! now reports that deal is on hold as Denver is contemplating whether they want more assets. The deal is on hold as of now and this could kill things. Two other teams have walked off from previous talks because Masai Ujiri decided to get cute by agreeing, then changing the bar height.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.