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It Would Be a Big Upset if Nets Top Knicks in Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes

Feb 18, 2011 – 9:26 PM
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Chris Tomasson

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LOS ANGELES -- The Knicks and the Nets don't meet too often for anything significant on the court. In fact, the only time many really wanted to see them battle was when the Knicks won a title in 1973 and the Nets followed with crowns in 1974 and 1976.

The problem was the Nets were then in the ABA. Since the Nets joined the NBA in 1976, the teams have both made the playoffs in the same season just seven times and have faced each other in the postseason just three times, all in the first round.

So, you're having a hard time remembering that epic miniseries in 1983, when the Knicks won 2-0?

Well, now the Knicks and the Nets are having a battle that could turn out to be memorable for years to come. They're both trying to acquire forward Carmelo Anthony from Denver by Thursday's trade deadline, with the Knicks certainly the favorites.

Is it any surprise that Friday a New Jersey paper (Bergen County Record) reported the Nets were close to a deal for Anthony and a New York paper (New York Daily News) reported the Knicks were the more likely destination and the Nets have been simply used as leverage? The Nets used to share New York with the Knicks until moving to New Jersey in 1977 but they go back over the Hudson River for 2012-13, when they're scheduled to move to Brooklyn.

So let's let Anthony settle this. Where does he think he's going by the trade deadline?

Actually, he said he doesn't know and won't offer his preferred destination. But he does admit he wants all of this drama to get over soon.

"Before I leave here, I would love to have something on the table,'' Anthony said Friday about being in Los Angeles through Sunday's All-Star Game at the Staples Center. "I would love to have an offer, a legit offer on the table. ... As of lately, there's been a lot of things going on, deals in the media that haven't been legit.''

Anthony, who is on the trading block due to having yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million extension with the Nuggets, still claims signing that extension with Denver is a possibility. But that looks less likely each day, especially with Anthony saying Nuggets officials really haven't put the full-court press on having him stay since the start of 2011 and saying the team never really has spelled out to him a vision for the future.

So it looks as if Anthony will be gone by Thursday to the Knicks or Nets, but don't completely rule out the Nuggets keeping him past the trade deadline and trying to work out a deal between after the season and June 30. Sources had said earlier this season Anthony was not interested in signing the extension with New Jersey, with his preference being New York, and there has been no indication he has changed his mind.

Still, it's not out of the question that, if the Nuggets can't reach a suitable deal with the Knicks, Anthony could change his mind about the Nets as the trade deadline approaches and fear possibly grows about Anthony losing tens of millions of dollars under a new collective bargaining if he were to opt out of his contract this summer and become a free agent.

"That's something I have to think about,'' Anthony said Friday about possibly signing the extension with the Nets, which the Bergen County Record called a stipulation for Anthony going to New Jersey. "There's a lot of things that come into play when dealing with this."

If Anthony talks to Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, that might not help his chances of wanting to go to New Jersey, which can offer the Nuggets many more assets and which is where Denver obviously would prefer to send Anthony. Stoudemire, a starter for the East while Anthony will start at forward for the West, first said he's "not a recruiter.''

But then Stoudemire turned into one. Or at least one who sure didn't mind recruiting Anthony through the media.

"I'd be very surprised,'' Stoudemire said of Anthony possibly going to the Nets. "It's kind of hard for me to picture him in a Nets jersey.''

Stoudemire then was pressed as to where he wouldn't be surprised to be seeing Anthony after the trade deadline.

"He's from New York,'' Stoudemire said of the Brooklyn native. "That's where he's from. His family and friends are there. ... Obviously, we're friends. And to team up with a player like Melo would be great.''

Then Stoudemire sounded as if he had been hired as a consultant by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg. He claimed the addition of Anthony could help heal economic woes in The Big Apple.

"I think the combination of us two would be great,'' Stoudemire said. "I think it could definitely uplift the city and the economy in New York.''

As for the economy in Newark, where the vagabond Nets are playing this and next season after moving from East Rutherford, Stoudemire doesn't seem to care too much about that.

Stoudemire might say he's not a recruiter. But he suddenly sounded like a college football recruiter who tries to land a player by dissing a rival school.

"You do want to step into a franchise that is accustomed to winning,'' said Stoudemire, whose Knicks are 28-26 this season to the Nets' 17-40. "When we played in New Jersey (last Saturday), it was like a home game for us, for the Knicks. I think most players would want to play in the Knicks before New Jersey.''

Ouch. And New Jersey can't even call in local heroes Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi to make pitches for Anthony since the Nets will be moving to Brooklyn, where they hope to not end up like a sequel to the Los Angeles Clippers.

So it might be up to Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov to save the day. While Anthony had said at midday in Los Angeles he didn't know anything about reports he would meet during All-Star Weekend with Prokhorov, he didn't rule that out as a possibility.

"I look at this as a business thing right now,'' Anthony said. "I would love to sit down with Mr. Prokorhov or with whatever team that the Denver Nuggets want to send me to. I would love to sit down and look them in the eye so I can see what the future holds in that situation.''

Anthony said he also would be willing to meet with New York owner Jim Dolan. He indicated he hadn't had any meeting scheduled with the Knicks even though the Daily News had reported such a gathering had taken place Thursday night.

Anthony reiterated he doesn't want to be a rental player, which would mean being sent to a team for which he doesn't sign an extension and then must continue to go through the speculation that has been following him everywhere since late last summer.

"I don't want to go somewhere and be a rental for two months and then have to deal with this all over,'' Anthony said. "I haven't gotten no sleep in a week so I want to get it done."

At least Anthony has averaged 33.8 points the past six games. That might be best NBA run ever by an insomniac.

Obviously, Anthony could end all the misery now by signing the extension with the Nuggets. But even though he claims that's still an option, it seems highly unlikely.

"The Nuggets know everything I'm thinking,'' said Anthony, not offering those thoughts. "You got to talk to them about that. They know all my thoughts right now.''

Nuggets executives Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri didn't return messages Friday. Undoubtedly, they don't have much interest in talking about Anthony being wary about returning to the Nuggets because they're going to cut payroll and look to have a younger team. That wouldn't seem to translate into much immediate winning for Anthony, 26, a nine-year veteran who stressed he's "not getting any younger.''

So where is Anthony going to end up? Well, he should be on a plane somewhere after the All-Star Game and not staying in Los Angeles.

"The speculation of him going to the Lakers, I thought was kind of over the top,'' Miami star Dwyane Wade said about recent reports about the possibility Anthony could be heading to the two-time defending NBA champions.

So it looks as if will be the Knicks or the Nets. The smart money always has been on New York, which is where Anthony long has wanted to play. It's just a matter of the Nuggets getting the Knicks to cough up more assets than they've been wanting to give.

The last time the Nets and Knicks met in the playoffs, the Nets won 4-0 in 2004. It's the only playoff series they've won over New York.

The Nets are trying to beat the Knicks one more time. It would be a victory that really counts but one that still seems unlikely.

Chris Tomasson
Chris Tomasson | Twitter: @ChrisTomasson | E-mail Chris

Chris Tomasson covered the Denver Nuggets from 2002-09 for the defunct Rocky Mountain News. Prior to that, he was on the Cleveland Cavaliers beat for the Akron Beacon Journal and also has covered five Olympics, major college sports, the NFL and MLB. He has won numerous awards, including 10 in the past nine Pro Basketball Writers Association contests.
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