1. Where Do We Go From Here?
With Prokhorov informing the basketball world the Nets are no longer in the "let's give the Nuggets all our best assets" business, it appears the Nuggets are being forced back to square one. But while their preferred option may be off the table, it does not mean their hands are tied.
The Nuggets are not enamored with the Knicks' assets, but a trade with New York would be the simplest way out. If Denver decides to take the path of least resistance, they could probably complete a deal with New York before you eat your next meal. But for perhaps the first time, the chance of Carmelo being pawned off to a team looking for a late-season push seems possible. The Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks or another darkhorse team might be able to pull together some decent assets to entice the Nuggets.
And don't completely write New Jersey off, either. Regardless of what Prokhorov said, it may take only a call and a concession from Denver to get things rolling again.
But despite all of the distractions, the Nuggets still have a pretty good team. At any time, Denver can announce it's not trading Carmelo to see if it can recapture the magic that made it a contender for much of last season. Does Carmelo really want out of Denver so badly that he will walk away from $85 million in guaranteed money? Hanging onto him is the only way to find out.
Maybe, when all is said and done, we will look back and see the only possible outcome was for Carmelo to end up in New York. Just do not expect the Nuggets to give up on working for something more before the arrival of the trade deadline.
-- Jeremy Wagner, Roundball Mining Company
NEW JERSEY NETS
Sure enough, the wheels fell off the Carmelo Anthony deal. And unless it's a cunning ploy by owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King to acquire him for a lesser price, Anthony will not be playing at home in Newark this season. After a wild media conference that showed off the best of Prokhorov's hard-handed Russian charm, the Nets took on the Utah Jazz -- without Carmelo and relatively free of rumors -- and used a well-balanced attack en route to an upset victory on Russian Culture Night.
So where can the Nets go from here? The answer is simple -- up. Now that the stink of the Melo saga has finally rolled off their shoulders, the Nets can focus on playing as a complete team instead of worrying about who might not be in practice the next day. It's only one game, but the difference between the scurrying team on the floor during the previous 12 games and the confident one against Utah was staggering. Without Anthony, the Nets still have a young, solid core, which includes former All-Star point guard Devin Harris, cornerstone center Brook Lopez, 3-point machine Anthony Morrow and, of course, the prize of the no-deal, Derrick Favors.
Favors, the youngest player in the NBA, still has skyscraping upside and is playing surprisingly efficient basketball despite his inexperience and the swirling cloud of rumors. In just more than 18 minutes per game, he's shooting 55.1 percent from the field while grabbing almost 16 percent of available rebounds. There has never been a teenage rookie in the history of the NBA who played up to that level. The closest? Some guy named Dwight Howard. Favors may never have the game-changing impact that Howard has, but that's a pretty solid start to hang your hat on. I know the Nets are impressed.
-- Devin Kharpertian, NetsAreScorching
NEW YORK KNICKS
With the Nets now out of the picture, the Knicks become the front-runner in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes. And GM Donnie Walsh would be wise to do all he can to make Melo-to-NYC a reality. The problem is the fact that he will not necessarily be able to put together an optimal package for the All-Star small forward without giving up some key pieces that have triggered the team's turnaround this season.
Should Walsh gut the current roster to offer a package close to the haul New Jersey had reportedly offered? Yes.
The Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls now feature legitimate three-man cores that will make it hard for Eastern Conference teams to compete for an NBA Finals berth in the next half-decade. I like Danilo Gallinari as much as anyone, but he, Ray Felton and Amare Stoudemire are no match for those other squads -- even if you presume that the supporting players can gel in the coming seasons. So if Walsh has to part with some or all of Gallinari, promising rookie Landry Fields, Wilson Chandler, Bill Walker and a few picks (one of which they reportedly should be able to acquire by dealing Anthony Randolph), then that is the cost of pushing a team that hasn't been relevant in more than a decade toward contender-status.
In Mike D'Antoni's system, Carmelo's volume scoring will not inhibit an offense -- it will buoy the team. There will be plenty of shots to go around, and while a team that has Stoudemire to finish in the paint would ideally prefer a wing with better play-making ability than Anthony, sometimes talent is too good to turn down. Anthony's defensive lapses will also become more forgivable in D'Antoni ball, in which we will also likely see his 3-point accuracy get back near the career-high 37.1 percent he posted just two seasons ago.
Swing for the fences, Donnie Walsh. New York needs this.
2. Nets' Loss Knicks' Gain?
NEWARK, N.J. -- Great news for the New York Knicks, right? Not so fast.
The man ultimately in charge of where this drama turns next is Stan Kroenke, whose son, Josh, is now the nominal owner of the Denver Nuggets, but who ultimately will have final say on what is best for the family's NBA franchise.
And if Donnie Walsh isn't willing to make a truly fair offer, do not underestimate the possibility of Kroenke unloading Anthony to a team that would be willing to use him as a rental for the remainder of the season while watching whether Anthony is really, truly willing to leave $83 million on the table -- the $18 million he is due to be paid next season, plus the nearly $65 million in additional money from the three-year contract extension that Anthony has refused to sign.
A league source with knowledge of the Nets' and Nuggets' maneuverings said Denver's first step upon hearing of the Nets' withdrawal was to start taking another lap around the league, making calls to teams to gauge what they'd be willing to offer.
No team will ever be able to match the pile of assets the Nets were willing to mortgage their future on, but there might be somebody out there with enough expiring contracts, extra draft picks and young, talented players to trump any low-ball offer Walsh might make.
3. Daily Dime Live
Zach Harper, TrueHoop Network bloggers and fans gave their pre-, in- and post-game opinions -- as well as their reactions to the latest Melo drama -- in Daily Dime Live.
4. Nets Walk Away From Nuggets, Melo
Let's pretend you're a marginally popular high schooler, and you want to go to the prom with a big-deal girl.
You know you're a long shot, for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is that she's dead set on going with another, more popular kid.
One good way to play it is to make sure she knows you're her dream date. Tell her that again and again. It probably won't work. But it's a decent way of maximizing your slim chances. People like to be wanted. And if for some reason she can't get together with that other guy ... you just might charm your way to the top of the list, with your earnestness and your flowers.
What you can't do, if you're the long-shot date, is play it cool and expect everything to work out. You can't play hardball. You can't ignore her and drive her crazy.
Well, the Nets are that marginally popular dude. And I'll be honest, I have been admiring their dedication to Anthony. Through all of this, they have had the best offers, shown the most love.
5. Extreme Behavior
New Jersey Nets: Mikhail Prokhorov took a stand, then, with Prokhorov in the stands, the Nets made good on their owner's renewed faith with a 103-95 win over the 27-win Jazz. Even better? Derrick Favors, the key to a Denver deal, had 12 points, six boards and three blocks in 30 minutes.
New York Knicks: The Nets might not be the only team stuck in a MeloDrama daze. The high-powered Knicks, tops in the legue in scoring, totaled just 89 points and turned it over 14 times in a loss to the Rockets, New York's fourth straight defeat.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"Maybe he sent me an e-mail, but I don't have a computer. Maybe the carrier pigeon got lost."
-- Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov on whether he has heard from Carmelo Anthony
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Shaq An Ageless Wonder
BOSTON -- Doc Rivers was 34 years old during his final NBA season, so immediately he admits the comparison is apple to oranges. But asked to explain where Shaquille O'Neal found the effort to put the Boston Celtics on his 38-year-old back in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 86-82 triumph over the Detroit Pistons at the TD Garden, Rivers could only reflect on his final season in San Antonio.
"Listen, all I can reach back to is my last year, which is not even close," Rivers said. "But honest to God, when you get old, there are days the legs work and days they don't. And you can't call them. Honest to God, in my last year, there was no rhyme or reason. You can play a back-to-back game, the second day, and you felt great and the first [you didn't] -- it made no sense. I think that's who he will be."
Yet over the past three games, Shaq has turned back the clock and, with the girth of his 7-foot-1, 325-pound frame, is preventing it from spinning back to the present. O'Neal scored 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting over a season-high 35 minutes in Friday's win over the Charlotte Hornets, then battled through foul trouble to chip in 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting in Monday's playoff-like triumph over Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
On Wednesday, O'Neal was as quiet as his fellow starters while connecting on just two of his first five shots for five points over the first three quarters. He then exploded for seven points in the final frame, adding three rebounds and two steals as Boston erased an eight-point deficit to emerge with a win it probably didn't deserve.
O'Neal finished with 12 points and a season-high 12 rebounds over 25 minutes. He was the crunch-time center until Detroit dusted off the Hack-a-Shaq defense, which forced Rivers to insert Glen Davis for the final 1:28.
"The whole team was flat, I just had to pick it up," O'Neal said. "I'm not really playing a lot of minutes. I'm not really tired. We haven't been rebounding that well, so I wanted to try to get every lose ball, every rebound, and when I got back in in the fourth quarter, we were down [eight], so we just had to try to get everybody involved."
8. Thornton Stings Grizzlies
9. Lakers Lowlights
Call it a Tale of Two Halves. In the first half, the Lakers played fairly solid ball, save for a couple of minutes in the second quarter. But in the second half, the third quarter in particular, the wheels came off the wagon. Turnovers, poor decisions on offense, breakdowns on D, and some white-hot shooting from Jason Kidd and Jason Terry did them in.
Dallas owned the last seven minutes of the third quarter, and continued its domination into the fourth. The Lakers tried to make a late push, but the hole was too deep. The Mavs picked up a win they were desperate to get, while the Lakers missed a chance to keep a Western Conference rival, slumping but healthier now with the return of Dirk Nowitzki, on the mat for another night. Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of pushback from the visitors. They had no answer for what became an extended run for the Mavs.