Carmelo Anthony trade drama continues to cast a spell over NBA fans and media.
The trade is on! No, it's not! Yes, it is! He's going to New Jersey! No, he's not! Now New York! Maybe Detroit's involved. Maybe Memphis. Maybe this, maybe that.
The whole affair certainly has given news outlets like this one plenty of headline fodder for weeks. But now, it seems, comes an entirely new piece of news. The word out of New Jersey is that the deal is dead. The Nets are walking away and will let the chips fall where they may.
What exactly happened? Is dead really dead? Where do things go from here? I'll try to answer those questions and more in the pages ahead.
This most recent twist in the story broke when Nets majority owner, billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, flew in from Russia and called a press conference in New Jersey.
He announced that "I'm instructing our team to walk away from the deal", according to multiple published reports. He went on to explain that "it's been too long and too expensive."
It remains to be seen where the Nets and Nuggets go from here, but Prokhorov is not an owner who spouts off at the mouth. When he says something like this, you take him seriously.
The atmosphere surrounding the proposed trade has grown to circus-like proportions, and it had obviously grown tiresome for all parties involved, especially the Nets.
Originally reported two weeks ago as nearly a done deal, the process has been dragging on over the details of the teams and players involved. Prokhorov is someone who is used to getting things done, efficiently and quickly, and the complications and repeated starts and stops he was dealing with eventually became too much.
It's difficult to pin down a specific straw that broke the camel's back. As reported by the Denver Post, Nets GM Billy King, in response to a reporter asking what specific part of the process was most frustrating, simply stated "Everything."
Having constant rumors and speculation surrounding your team, especially in a situation like this, can't be a good thing.
It's understandable that the Nets would've preferred that things happen as quickly as possible, because once things become public, people's feelings start to get hurt, and players' focus goes out the window.
Forget Carmelo, do you think Devin Harris has enjoyed the last couple of weeks? He's had to play basketball in limbo, not knowing what to believe and what to ignore.
Even guys not rumored to be involved in the deal are affected. Brook Lopez is the one Nets player who shouldn't have any doubts about his whereabouts come February 24th, but he has no idea who he's going to be playing with, as more than half the Nets current roster has been rumored to be moving.
For any businessman, you strive for as much certainty as you can find. And with nothing certain about this deal, every day the Nets still wait is another day it could blow up in their faces.
It's easy to think that at first glance, but it wouldn't seem to be the case.
Prokhorov was given the chance during today's press conference to hedge his bets, but upon being asked if his decision was final, he bluntly said "for sure," before offering this small elaboration: "I was absolutely clear on this matter."
So at this point, it truly does appear that the Nets have decided to pull up stakes and move on. They don't want to be caught up in the drama any longer. Maybe that will change in the future, since we still do have a month before the trading deadline, but oddsmakers wouldn't bet on it.
Unhappy and disgruntled, I'd imagine.
They just lost their last best chance to get real value in return for their superstar. They'll still try to move him in the next month, of course, rather than risk getting nothing in return, but a good deal of their leverage is gone.
Perhaps they go back to the Knicks now, who have also expressed recent interest and have seemed to be Carmelo's choice from day one. Perhaps they try to drum up interest in other teams. But rest assured, one way or another, Anthony's days in Denver are probably still numbered.
The general consensus is that the Nuggets were holding out in an attempt to either pry more from New Jersey, or get the Nets to accept some extra castoffs.
At first, the primary name Denver was looking to add into the mix was Al Harrington, who signed a five-year free agent deal with the Nuggets this past offseason for more than $30 million which has been widely panned. His contract is dead weight in the Mile High City, and they've been looking for potential suitors to spin him off onto ever since.
More recently, Renaldo Balkman's name entered the center ring. Balkman is a little used reserve (he's appeared in just five games for Denver this season), and pawning him off on the Nets wouldn't be a monumental move, but would serve to add to Denver's cap flexibility this summer.
There was also speculation about just how eager other teams were to help either the Nets or Knicks try to start building the foundation of their own superteams. Finally, mixing and matching salaries in a deal this large and complex is not easy, even for NBA accountants.
It may have been yet another sticking point.
Carmelo was rumored to have a meeting scheduled with Prokhorov, Billy King and the rest of the Nets hierarchy to talk about a potential extension with them sometime this week, perhaps tomorrow, but now that meeting, if it ever was actually scheduled, appears to be off.
As reported by ESPN New York, Carmelo was quoted on Sunday as telling reporters "I don't want to talk to nobody. I let the front office handle that type of stuff. It ain't my job to be talking to New Jersey, New York, the Lakers, Dallas, no one. That's not my job to do."
He's also never confirmed that he'd ever even been approached by anyone in New Jersey about the topic, or that he'd be willing to sign an extension if it was offered by them. For their part, the Nets certainly don't want to pay as steep a price as they'd have to in order to land him, if there's no guarantee he'd be anything more than just a three-month rental.
Only one thing seems certain. The Nuggets offer of an extension has been on the table for months, and Anthony has yet to pick up a pen.
The Nets were said to be willing to part with a comprehensive package of players, picks, and cash.
The players would have included up to eight players, most prominently, guards Devin Harris and Anthony Morrow, and rookie forward Derrick Favors. Favors was the key piece for the Nuggets, as team officials are very high on his potential and see him as someone who could fill Anthony's role with the team in a couple of years.
The draft picks would have been at least two first-round picks, and the cash the Nets would throw in would provide a good deal of financial flexibility for Denver as they looked to rebuild next year and beyond.
Even with all that on the table, though, it doesn't seem like it was enough.
The short answer is, not really. At least nobody who Carmelo would legitimately agree to sign an extension with, the final domino that would need to fall for anything to happen.
For the Knicks' part, they can certainly put together a decent package, but there's no way that it could be as appealing to Denver as the one the Nets offered. They'd probably put forward names like Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Landry Fields for the Nuggets to select from, all of whom are promising young players.
The problems come in the rest of the deal. The Knicks' ability to offer draft picks is handicapped by league rules preventing them from giving up their first rounder in 2011 or two years from now. As for 2012, that first-rounder was already traded away to Houston. That's partly why New York's been shopping Anthony Randolph of late, looking to score a pick in return that they could turn around and re-gift to Denver.
The Knicks also don't have the kinds of expiring contracts, or the ability to take on additional contracts, that would appeal to the Nuggets.
Everyone goes back to the drawing board.
The Nuggets look for a new team willing to offer the kinds of assets that the Nets did, and GM Masai Ujiri keeps feverishly working the phones, the faxes, the texting lines, and anything else he can think of.
The Nets presumably move on, and develop some other plan to improve their team by going after another trade target or a free agent over the summer. With a 10-31 record, and currently sitting in last place in the Atlantic Division, It's not like they're going anywhere this season anyway, with or without Anthony.
The Knicks continue pitching their package to Denver in the hopes that it becomes more appealing now that the Nets appear to be walking away. They also try to clear some cap space for next season in anticipation of hopefully signing Anthony long term.
The rest of the NBA sighs and asks "can we just get back to playing basketball?"