1. Where Do We Go From Here?
With a three-team trade that would land Carmelo Anthony with New Jersey reportedly stuck in limbo, where do we go from here? Our panel answers all the major questions facing the major players:
MELO SHOULD ...
A) Sign with the Nuggets
B) Agree to join the Nets
C) Try to force a trade to the Knicks
D) Become a free agent
Former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, now an ESPN NBA analyst: D.
He'd have control of where he wants to go. He can pick his team.
Larry Coon, ESPN.com: B.
Melo has made it clear that he wants out. The Nuggets, for their part, seem willing to accommodate him, but Melo has to remember this is a two-way street. He has to be willing to go where the Nuggets can construct an acceptable deal. The Nuggets seem to have done that with Mikhail Prokhorov's Nets.
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network: B.
I know the Knicks are a sexier choice in name and lore, but being with the Nets might be the best long-term decision. It's not that the roster for the Nets is necessarily better. But you have a chance to play for the new Mark Cuban in owner Mikhail Prokhorov and get pampered beyond your wildest dreams. With the Knicks, you'd be under the whimsy of James Dolan, and that hasn't exactly worked out for anybody who isn't a fan of JD and the Straight Shot.
Tim Legler, ESPN NBA analyst: D.
He should become a free agent and sign with the Knicks. That way he can help turn them into a contender without New York giving up parts to get him.
Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company/TrueHoop Network: A.
If Carmelo goes to the Nets or Knicks, those teams will be capped out and certainly not contenders. Denver is finally reaching a point where they will have some financial flexibility and will be in a better position to win. Without all the distractions, this year's Nuggets squad could have made some serious noise in the west and Melo is throwing that opportunity away.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: D.
The Nuggets have paid Melo millions to make them his first priority. If Anthony wants to go to New York, he should should do it the professional and respectful way.
THE NUGGETS SHOULD ...
A) Accept the current trade
B) Keep trying to improve the trade or find another trade
C) Make a deal with the Knicks
D) Call Melo's bluff and see if he'll ultimately stay in Denver
Keep trying to improve. They still have some time.
The Nuggets have until the February 24 trade deadline to get a deal done. The current situation is awkward, to say the least, but it's not like they're going to be title contenders following the trade. They should do what's best for the franchise long-term.
The Nuggets have nothing to lose because they're already losing their franchise player. Might as well try to load up on picks and assets while dumping as many rebuilding-killing contracts as you can. You know you can most likely go back to a previous offer that was almost good enough. Try to squeeze the Nets/Knicks/Whomever dry in order to give yourself the best deal.
Keep trying to improve. When you have a guy of that stature, you have to exhaust every option to make sure you get the best deal.
I have no problem with Denver attempting to add Al Harrington to the deal, as I have argued all along he has the worst contract on the team and should be shipped out along with Melo. However, Melo needs to be traded sooner rather than later as this season feels like a waste of time to the fans and, if they are truly honest, the players as well.
I want to say D, but the threat of falling into the situation that Toronto and Cleveland experienced is real. The Nuggets, until they are satisfied, should wait until the deadline to see what the final offers are.
THE NETS SHOULD ...
A) Do whatever it takes to get Melo
B) Stick to their current offer and wait for the Nuggets
C) Continue to rebuild without Melo
If you can get a superstar, you do whatever you can to keep him around.
The current situation is a fragile balance, and anything could tip it. The Nets should do what they can to seal the deal sooner rather than later.
The Nets are getting a franchise guy, but they can't give away every semblance of a supporting cast for a playoff push this season. What they're giving the Nuggets in return is the best deal Denver will find. Might as well call their bluff.
Do whatever they have to do to get him and agree to an extension. You're going to need a player like that to make noise in the Eastern Conference. I don't have a problem with the Nets giving up whatever it takes to get him.
With the assets the Nets have collected, they are poised to be a major player in the draft and they will also have some cap space to play with. In order to acquire Melo, they have to sacrifice their most promising young player, any chance of significant cap space and at least two first-round picks, plus they are trading away their current best player in former All-Star in Devin Harris. That is not how you build a team.
A. Obviously, it is a mandate from the top. Plus it would give them a chance to inflict a blow to the Knicks, which seems to be a new pastime.
THE KNICKS SHOULD ...
A) Do whatever it takes to get Melo
B) Continue to rebuild without Melo
Superstars like that are hard to come by. With Amare Stoudemire and Ray Felton in the mix, a guy like Anthony can get you over the top.
The Knicks aren't in the driver's seat here, even if they are Melo's preferred destination. If they want to stay in this race, they're going to have to step it up -- previous reports were that the Nuggets "weren't interested" in what the Knicks had to offer.
The problem is it's hard to say what else they can do. Give up Landry Fields? Put together a highlight package of Gallinari's face plastered over Dirk Nowitzki's top plays? The Knicks might as well go for everything here because they aren't going to be able to acquire a player of Carmelo's stature for quite some time, and MSG will only be rocking with a first-round-and-out team for so long.
Do whatever it takes. Whether it means making a trade or, if they feel confident he'll come in free agency, making the offer. He's the guy that can take that team from being a nice story to being able to compete with the big boys.
Can you imagine the sieve of a front line New York would have with Amare and Carmelo side by side? It may make for some exciting offense -- although neither player creates for others, which is a problem when one or the other will have the ball the majority of the time -- and plenty of regular season victories, but there is no way that team can ever be a true contender with those two taking up most of your cap.
He's going to be the best free-agent option. And the best option for the Knicks might be to wait until the summer.
2. Sources: Anthony Slowing Trade
In the end, the biggest holdup in a trade that would send Carmelo Anthony to the New Jersey Nets may be Anthony himself.
According to several league sources, Anthony has not told anyone, not even his representatives, that he will sign a contract extension with the Nets.
One source who has spoken with Anthony since trade talks between Denver, New Jersey and Detroit became public last weekend said the Nuggets forward has never even hinted at signing with New Jersey.
"He has not agreed to go to New Jersey," said the source, who speaks regularly with Anthony. "I have never heard him, in all the times we've talked, say he's willing to go to New Jersey. Not once. Personally, I would be stunned if he went there and signed an extension."
This, of course, does not mean there's no chance of Anthony signing with the Nets. But it does mean the three teams involved in the potential deal that could involve as many as 15 players are working on nothing more than a hunch. For even if they do reach an agreement, Anthony's refusal to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nets would kill the deal completely. New Jersey has been steadfast in its commitment to trade for Anthony only if he agrees to stay with the franchise long term.
3. Daily Dime Live Recap
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network bloggers and fans gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's slate of NBA games in Daily Dime Live.
4. Blazers' Batum Key To Melo Deal?
A key potential piece of the Carmelo Anthony trade puzzle was in action Tuesday, and we're not talking about anybody who played for the Denver Nuggets or the New York Knicks (or, for that matter, the New Jersey Nets, who did not be play).
That player is Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, who has been on the periphery of the Melo Drama reports for weeks -- and for good reason: Sources say he is one of the main players the Denver Nuggets want to ultimately land if/when they finally decide what they are going to do with Anthony.
The Nuggets are by no means the only NBA team with interest in Batum, a 22-year-old small forward from France averaging 11.1 points and 4.5 rebounds. But the Nuggets could have the means to acquire him if their talks with the New Jersey Nets ever come to fruition, because the Trail Blazers would only consider trading Batum if they were getting back a comparable player plus a likely lottery pick, and the Nets have offered their own No. 1 pick (along with different combinations of No.1 picks owed to them in 2011 and 2012 by the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors) in their efforts to acquire Anthony from Denver.
So if the Nuggets acquired the rights to an unprotected Nets' pick, the Blazers would be willing to listen to whatever else Denver would add to a potential trade for Batum.
5. Extreme Behavior
Arron Afflalo, Nuggets: At least one of their trades worked out. Afflalo, picked up from Detroit two summers ago, scored a career-high 31 points to go along with nine rebounds to help Denver rise above its Melo Drama and snap a three-game skid.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs scored just 57 points -- total -- and were two points shy of being doubled up by the champs in L.A. No Cleveland starter scored more than eight points, and starting guard Manny Harris finished with a minus-57 plus/minus. Yeesh ...
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
-- LeBron James, during the final minutes of the Cavaliers' 112-57 loss to the Lakers
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"This is not my last game. I'll be here playing against Miami Thursday.''
-- Carmelo Anthony, after the Nuggets routed the Suns 132-98 in Denver.
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Waiting Is The Smartest Part
He's still real close.
The Celtics host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, weather permitting. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday after practice that Garnett, who hasn't played in two weeks because of a strained calf, probably would not play. But Rivers wouldn't rule out a return totally.
"I don't think he's ready yet," Rivers said. "He could play. I don't think he will. There's a chance."
But he probably won't, and frankly, I hope he doesn't. I'm with Rivers on this one. I don't want to see KG back on the floor until he is completely healthy.
I don't care what the Miami Heat are doing (and neither, says Rivers, does he). I don't care what the Orlando Magic are doing (and neither, says Rivers, does he, although he reminded everyone that he does live in Orlando during the offseason). I don't want to see Garnett back on the floor until he is 100 percent ready.
8. Ball Control
9. While You Were Waiting
All the talk about rebuilding and trading Marcus Camby and Andre Miller has overshadowed the fact that the Portland Trail Blazers are playing some darned good basketball right now. Portland's near upset of the Miami Heat on Sunday night was no fluke. While Brandon Roy rests his knees and weighs surgical options, the Blazers have gone 10-6 without him, including road wins against the Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies.
In fact, only three Western Conference teams in Tuesday's Power Rankings bettered Portland's -- the san Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks. Although the Blazers are just 20-18, they've played 22 of their 38 games on the road and will have the aid of a fearsome home-court advantage 25 times from now until the end of the season. As a result, the Blazers project to win 46 games and grab the No. 6 seed in the West. Today's playoff odds give them an 83.3 percent chance of making the playoffs, and, again, those odds improve if Carmelo Anthony heads East.