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.

Kyrie Irving on video with Kevin Durant: ‘Me and one of my best friends talking’

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The Knicks opened double-max cap space for next summer. Kevin Durant‘s company is moving to a new office in New York. Kyrie Irving backed away from his commitment to re-sign with the Celtics.

Plenty of people were already connecting dots when this video emerged of Durant and Irving talking at the All-Star game (in which, not for nothing, they jelled).

Ben Stinar of Amico Hoops:

Irving, via MassLive (warning: language in the above video):

It’s just crazy. This is the stuff that just doesn’t make the league fun. It doesn’t make the league fun. Nobody helps promote the league even more by doing bulls— like that, of just putting fictitious things on what we’re talking about. It’s crazy.

It’s a video of me and one of my best friends talking. And then it turns out to be a dissection of a free agency meeting? Do you get that? Like, do you get that? And then I’m asked questions about it? That’s what disconnects me from all that s—.

That wasn’t a denial.

Still, it’s hard to believe Durant and Irving really discussed free agency in a hallway with so many people passing. There are far more discreet places to have that conversation.

Like a restaurant in Miami where they were spotted together:

I understand Irving’s exasperation with this, just as I understood Durant’s testiness over constant speculation. They should be allowed to spend time together as friends without it turning into a bigger deal.

But there is immense interest in where they play next year. People will continue to search for clues – some that prove insignificant, some that might prove significant – about the stars’ futures.

So, I’m at least glad Irving addressed this. It’s going to get discussed either way. Better for him to enter his perspective into the conversation.

Report: Hawks didn’t clear John Collins’ airplane dunk until shortly before dunk contest

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There were two memorable dunks in this year’s dunk contest:

The Hawks nearly stopped us from seeing that latter spectacle.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN on Saturday:

Now, there’s a little curve ball here. The last update that I had was that the Hawks hadn’t approved John Collins jumping over an airplane yet and that they were a little bit were worried that he was going to trip on it and injure himself.

After watching the dunk, I understand the Hawks’ reluctance. Collins broke the plane!

At least he seemingly emerged unscathed.

Report: Pelicans interim GM Danny Ferry trying to convince NBA to soften stance on Anthony Davis

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The NBA reportedly threatened to fine the Pelicans if they sat a healthy Anthony Davis.

Then, Davis got booed by New Orleans fans. He got injured in another game. The Pelicans fired Dell Demps as general manager and elevated Danny Ferry to interim general manager.

New Orleans is reportedly uncertain how to handle Davis the rest of the season. But a key step to changing course is gaining NBA approval, and that’s apparently what Ferry is seeking.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

There were strong signals in Charlotte that the Pelicans — with Danny Ferry now serving as their acting general manager in the wake of Friday’s firing of Dell Demps — intend to re-engage the N.B.A. this week in hopes of convincing league officials to rethink their stance about forcing them to play Davis.

A big question: What does Davis want? He failed to give a straight answer about about his long-term future, but maybe he can explain his desire for just the rest of this season. He previously said he wanted to play, but that was before he got booed and hurt – developments that could change his thinking.

If Davis wants to keep playing, the players’ union could take up his cause. That might not be a fight the league wants.

Heck, the league might still want Davis to keep playing, regardless. The injury risk was real when the league handed down its initial edict. Unemotionally, Davis’ shoulder scare shouldn’t change the calculus. Davis is in the midst of a great season. Him being a healthy scratch for a month-and-a-half would be a black mark for the NBA.

But NBA commissioner has had Ferry’s back before, even reportedly urging the Bucks to consider him for general manager after Ferry made a racist remark that ended his Hawks tenure. Maybe Ferry will convince the league in a way Demps couldn’t.

If so, attention to will turn to Davis and his desire to keep playing.

Dwight Howard reportedly to return to Washington D.C., start on-court steps in recovery

Associated Press
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The return of Dwight Howard should solve all the Wizards problems…

Low hanging fruit jokes aside, Howard was expected to be out two-to-three months for back surgery that happened at the end of November, that would have him back in the coming weeks, and he is now on his way back to the nation’s capital, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Howard played in nine games for the Wizards this season, scoring an efficient 12.8 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds a game.

The Wizards have been starting Thomas Bryant, with Bobby Portis playing some five behind him, in recent games. How Howard fits into that when healthy will be a question for coach Scott Brooks.

The Wizards would need to make up three games and jump three teams in the final 24 games of the season to make the playoffs.