For months, the New Jersey Nets and the Denver Nuggets appeared to be speeding down a collision course, determined to complete trade negotiations by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. The fate of Nuggets superstar Carmelo Anthony hung in the air as tensions mounted and the stakes increased.
That was until, of course, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced in a press conference that the Nets were pulling out of trade discussions, swerving off the road if you will.
The Russian billionaire said hitting the brakes was a unilateral decision, one that he made for numerous reasons. When asked if he would ever reconsider constructing a trade for Carmelo Anthony, he replied, "I thought I was clear on that."
But can we honestly believe that such a businessman determined to win a championship within the next five years is willing to throw in the towel with over a month left before the deadline? While Prokhorov and GM Billy King offered very unequivocal responses at their press conferences, it is not hard to believe that this is merely a strategic ploy to throw the Nuggets into a state of panic.
One of the first reasons Prokhorov stipulated for ceasing trade talks was the very public and lengthy nature of the process. Granted, all the drama surrounding the negotiations affected both teams on and off the court, but that is certainly no reason to drop all pursuits of a franchise player.
Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri already tried to fake the Nets out with this quip a few weeks ago when he threatened to drop negotiations in favor of the Knicks if information kept being leaked. Thus, it is safe to say that this was just a blanket statement.
Now, let us examine the more legitimate reason cited for this latest knuckle ball. When questioned, Prokhorov admitted that he is "not ready to overpay," suggesting that trading almost half of the Nets roster for Anthony "Rip" Hamilton's undesirable contract, and a frustrated Chauncey Billups is just not part of the Nets plan for rebuilding.
This should come as no surprise for anybody who has been following the string of negotiations. What started out as Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy, and picks for Anthony eventually snowballed into a three-team, 17-player deal that would be unlike any other in recent history.
Many times, the Nuggets tried to take advantage of the Nets' desire for Anthony by demanding they absorb Al Harrington's contract, or add more first round picks into the mix, and the Nets kept countering with another compromise.
Eventually, as the stakes increased, the game of cat and mouse turned into a game of chicken, and the Nets were the first team to call it quits.
Now, the Nuggets are scrambling to find potential suitors, and are reportedly making calls around the league once again. There is of course pressure for them to construct a deal with the Knicks, Anthony's preferred destination, but they are not pleased with New York's current assets. They still believe Favors is the ultimate trade chip.
This desire for Derrick Favors and the Nets' abundance of draft picks could pave the way for the Nets to floor the gas pedal as the clock runs down on the Nuggets. Denver's asking price will inevitably drop, and Prokhorov could sneak in and capture his prize without sacrificing his coveted assets and salary cap flexibility.
As everybody knows, "This is my last offer," is never really a hard line, especially not for the title thirsty Prokhorov.
Expect the Nets and the Nuggets to rev their engines once again as mid-February approaches. With MeloDrama Season One being such a hit, it is not hard to imagine that Season Two is soon to follow.