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The long-awaited meeting between Carmelo Anthony and the New Jersey Nets took place late Saturday afternoon at a Los Angeles-area restaurant, according to sources briefed on the discussion.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z spent the 40-minute session informing Anthony of the club's short-term and long-term vision, centered upon their scheduled move to Brooklyn for the start of the 2012-13 season and their confidence in building a championship-caliber team around him, largely through free agency.
Sources said Anthony was noncommittal after hearing the Nets' presentation, declining to say whether or not he would sign the three-year, $65 million contract extension that New Jersey has established as a prerequisite for completing a trade with Denver.
Anthony told the Nets he will think about the situation and reiterated his publicly stated position of hoping to have a resolution to this five-months-old trade saga by the end of the All-Star Weekend. Much of the league, nonetheless, continues to operate under the assumption that the All-Star forward remains desperate to wind up with the New York Knicks when all is said and done.
"It's up to Melo now," said one source close to the talks.
Anthony, by all accounts, is hoping his flirtations with the Nets will force New York to give Denver everything it wants so the Nuggets and Knicks can complete a deal before Thursday's 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Nets, meanwhile, have heard the seasonlong speculation that Denver is reluctant to trade Anthony to New York -- not only because it likes the Nets' assets better but because they feel that Anthony and Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire conceived this partnership back in the summer -- and will cling to the hope that the Nuggets threaten to keep Anthony in Denver for the rest of the season if he won't sign off a deal with New Jersey.
In the latter scenario, there would still be plenty at risk for both the Nuggets and Anthony. If Anthony isn't traded by Thursday and he refuses to sign the extension before the June 30 deadline, Denver could lose its franchise player without compensation in free agency. But if the Nuggets take a Nets-or-bust stance and Anthony blocks the trade, he'd be forced to sign the extension with Denver to ensure that he locks in the richest possible contract before the next collective bargaining agreement, since the league-wide reductions in player salaries widely presumed to be coming in the next labor deal could theoretically cost him a hefty sum.
In addition to Prokhorov and Jay-Z, Nets general manager Billy King and club CEO Brett Yormark were also present. Anthony was joined by his agent Leon Rose, as well as business manager Bay Frazier.
The New York Daily News first reported earlier Saturday the Nets had finally secured a sitdown with Anthony.
New Jersey and Denver have essentially agreed to the terms of a trade if Anthony decides he can accept signing an extension with the Brooklyn-bound Nets. The Nuggets would receive prized Nets rookie Derrick Favors, former All-Star guard Devin Harris, Troy Murphy's expiring contract, Ben Uzoh and four first-round picks in exchange for Anthony, Billups, Shelden Williams, Melvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman. Sources say Denver would use at least one of those first-round picks to package with Murphy to send the veteran forward to a to-be-determined third team.
But New Jersey's re-emergence in the Melo Sweepstakes, after Prokhorov so publicly and forcefully pulled his team out of the talks on Jan. 19, has forced the Knicks to offer more than they'd like to ensure that the Nets -- whose relationship with the Knicks has been spiky ever since Prokhorov arrived -- don't beat them out for Anthony.
Sources say that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, against the wishes of team president Donnie Walsh and coach Mike D'Antoni, is prepared to surrender the likes of Danilo Gallinari and Raymond Felton along with Wilson Chandler in a trade package for Anthony. But it's an open secret in the league that the Nuggets find New Jersey's offer, centered around Favors and multiple draft picks, to be far more favorable. NBA.com and the Daily News likewise both report that the Nuggets also continue to ask for Knicks rookie center Timofey Mozgov, with the Knicks unwilling so far to add Mozgov to their proposal.
Anthony's meeting Saturday with the Nets came despite Prokhorov, through his second statement this week issued by spokeswoman Ellen Pinchuk, claiming he had no plans to meet with Anthony.
"Just to update you, Mikhail has not met with and has no plans to meet with Carmelo Anthony," Pinchuk said. "He is looking forward to enjoying All-Star Weekend. We will have nothing else to add on this."
Anthony also issued repeated insistences Friday that there would be no meetings this weekend with Prokhorov. He declined comment Saturday morning when asked about a Daily News report that he met with Dolan on Thursday.
The Nuggets have looked into trading Anthony since he declined to sign a three-year contract extension worth nearly $65 million this season. The Nets and Nuggets recently revived trade talks for Anthony after near-deals struck by the teams collapsed in September (four-team scenario also involving Charlotte and Utah) and January (three-teamer involving Detroit.)Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Chris Broussard is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.