Or at least that's how they see it.
According to a front-office source who spoke to FanHouse midday Tuesday, the Nets had been actively pursuing additional draft picks to "sweeten the pot" in a prospective trade for Denver's star small forward and, in essence, make it even harder for the Nuggets to say no to their next proposal.
That deal appears to have taken form, as league sources confirmed the particulars on a trade that was first reported by Yahoo! Sports and is expected to be finalized Wednesday: Nets guard Terrence Williams will go to Houston, Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic will go to the Nets, and Nets forward Joe Smith will go to the Lakers. More importantly for the Nets, Houston will send its lottery-protected 2012 first-round pick to New Jersey, and the Lakers will send the Nets their 2011 first-round pick.
Tomasson: Carmelo Anthony Trade Report Immediately Shot Down by Nuggets
That puts the Nets' draft-pick count at five in the next two years, as they have their own for the next two years as well as Golden State's 2012 first-rounder and the two that are about to be acquired. And considering the Nuggets are looking to rebuild and acquire young talent if they can't convince Anthony to sign his extension offer in the Mile High City, the Nuggets suddenly have even more incentive to deal him to the Garden State than they did before. Only four of the picks are in play, as league rules mandate that a team can't deal future first-round pick for two consecutive years.
Yet that's only half of the Anthony equation, as skepticism remains around the league as to whether he would be willing to sign the necessary extension with the Nets to get a deal done. Anthony made it clear recently that he has no plans to simply play out his contract and become a free agent this summer, meaning his approval is required in a trade unless his new team is willing to risk losing him for nothing in return eight months from now. There have been reports that he will only agree to a trade with the Knicks, although numerous league sources question whether that's truly the case.
The Nuggets would get rookie forward Derrick Favors as their centerpiece in a possible deal with the Nets as well as the expiring contract of forward Troy Murphy, but the additional picks would certainly make it all the more enticing. But if Anthony is, in fact, determined to sign the three-year, $65 million extension with no team other than the Knicks, then the Nets will have gone to great lengths to fall short in their pursuit of a star, just as they did last summer with LeBron James.
Still, Nets general manager Billy King, according to a source close to him, has been confident in his ability to persuade the Brooklyn native to join him all along and likely remains as such. While the current locale in Newark, N.J. is hardly the kind of Big Apple experience Anthony is dreaming of, the team is moving to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.
What's more, the Nets hope there is some intrigue that comes with the possibility of playing for billionaire Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov, he of the seemingly-limitless bank account and championship dreams of his own. They might hope Anthony doesn't peruse the NBA standings, too, as the Nets are a woeful 6-18 thus far this season after winning a franchise-low 12 games last season.
The Knicks, however, have plenty reason of their own to be optimistic about eventually landing Anthony. There was no better reason than the Madison Square Garden scene on Sunday, when Anthony's Nuggets fell to the Knicks and he received an updated look at what it might mean to play in the hallowed heart of New York City. Whereas the furious "Fire Isiah" crowd chants filled the arena just a few years ago, Anthony's good friend and Knicks power forward Amar'e Stoudemire was showered with chants of "MVP" by the locals who are loving the team's 16-9 start.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are connecting all the obvious dots and growing enthusiastic about the potential for a Stoudemire-Anthony pairing that should happen if three reported factors are, in fact, true.
1) The Nuggets are determined not to lose Anthony for nothing and will trade him by the Feb. 24 trade deadline if he doesn't sign the extension.
2) Anthony will refuse to sign the extension with any team other than the Knicks, although he refuted that notion to FanHouse on Monday.
3) Anthony, as he said on Sunday, has no plans to enter free agency and will opt for the long-term security of the extension.
In order to make room for Williams, league sources confirmed an ESPN.com report that shooting guard Jermaine Taylor will be sent to Sacramento in exchange for a future second-round pick. The sources told FanHouse that the Kings were given cash considerations in the deal that will exceed Taylor's $780,871 salary this season. The deal can't be finalized until Wednesday because of the inclusion of Smith, who signed as a free agent last summer and thus can't be traded until Dec. 15.
For the Lakers, it's a financially-motivated move to save money on the luxury tax. They lose the 26-year-old Vujacic's expiring contract worth $5.4 million this season while taking on Smith, the 35-year-old who is owed $1.3 million. Because Smith signed a one-year, veteran's minimum deal, the league is paying for $497,792 of his salary.
Williams, the No. 11 pick in the 2009 draft out of Louisville, will have a chance to gain much-needed career momentum with the Rockets. He had taken a wrong turn in New Jersey, as he recently spent time in the D-League and was also disciplined after his work habits and professionalism were called into question.
E-mail Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @samickAOL.