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?

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.

Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic: Mavericks tap brakes on inevitable comparisons

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DALLAS (AP) — Luka Doncic didn’t get compared to Larry Bird when he was introduced a day after the Dallas Mavericks traded up to get the third overall pick in the NBA draft.

For president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, that’s progress based on his last experience of getting a tender-aged European in hopes of lifting the Mavericks out of the doldrums.

Twenty years later, Dirk Nowitzki is the highest-scoring foreign-born player in league history. Back then, the big German wasn’t remotely comparable to Larry Legend – and his rough first two years proved it.

So ask Nelson about a player the Mavericks clearly coveted heading into the draft in Doncic, and he’ll choose his words carefully regarding the 19-year-old from Slovenia. Doncic won’t turn 20 until after the All-Star break of his rookie season, which is expected to be Nowitzki’s record 21st with one franchise.

“Dirk and I had a long talk coming in,” Nelson said about the player Dallas drafted days after his 20th birthday in 1998.

“We’re obviously very excited to have (Doncic) but he’s got a very tough road ahead of him. Dirk wasn’t done any favors in his first two years. We are going to steer away from any of those comparisons. Luka is his own guy. He’s got his own challenges.”

Coach Rick Carlisle dropped a few international names in trying to describe the versatility Dallas thinks is offered by the 6-foot-7 Doncic, who won Euroleague MVP and Final Four MVP honors while helping Real Madrid win the title just days before the draft.

After offering comparisons to the late Drazen Petrovic, three-time champion Toni Kukoc and longtime San Antonio star Manu Ginobili, Carlisle stopped.

“I really feel it’s important that we shouldn’t try to compare this guy to anybody,” Carlisle said Friday during an introductory news conference that included Doncic and second-round pick Jalen Brunson, who won two NCAA titles in three years at Villanova. “Let him be himself. Let his game takes its own form.”

Doncic figures to shape the future of the Mavericks in some form with Dallas coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the second of Nowitzki’s two difficult years at the start of his career.

Those 1990s-era Mavericks had 10 straight losing seasons. Combine the drafting of Doncic with last year’s ninth overall pick in point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and a still-young leading scorer in Harrison Barnes, and Carlisle expects the losing to stop soon, if not this coming season.

“Last night was symbolic to me that it was kind of a defining moment in this rebuild,” said Carlisle, who had just one losing season as a coach before the current Dallas slide. “We’re going propel forward with the idea that we’ve got to start winning games.”

Just as he did last year with Smith, Carlisle is declaring Doncic a starter, which means the opening night lineup will have a teenager for the second straight year. Youth partly explains a two-year record of 57-107, including the 24-58 mark last season that landed Dallas the fifth pick before the draft-night trade with Atlanta on Thursday.

Another explanation was an unusually large number of undrafted players, including a young German in Maxi Kleber who grew up watching his countryman become the 2007 MVP and 2011 NBA Finals MVP.

The Mavericks haven’t won a playoff series since taking their only title in 2011, and have missed the postseason three of the past six seasons coming off a 12-year playoff streak. Doncic might only get one chance to get Dallas back on track with Nowitzki, the 13-time All-Star who has hinted that 40 is a nice round number as a retirement age.

If this is it for Nowitzki, Nelson sees a trio in Barnes, Smith and Doncic that reminds him of Michael Finley mentoring Nowitzki and point guard Steve Nash and helping the Mavericks end a 10-year playoff drought in 2001.

“Michael Finley was our Harrison Barnes back in the day,” Nelson said. “We feel like we’ve got that here in a different form. There’s just some really cool elements to this that take me back and remind me about what it was like 20 years ago when we were watching these young guys.”

Just don’t remind Nelson about the Nowitzki-Bird comparisons.