Since the moment Mikhail Prokhorov announced his team was dropping out of the Carmelo sweepstakes, the Knicks have held all the cards during talks. To repeat what's been said for weeks now, they've been in a nearly perfect negotiating position: Denver risked losing him if he wasn't dealt, and only the Knicks appeared to be serious suitors. (And unlike with LeBron James, they'd have legitimate reasons to think Anthony would sign in New York — his preferred destination, reportedly — if he reached free agency and the math worked out.) Denver, realistically, had only one option: engage another team to drive up their asking price.
And so it should come as no surprise that Denver has reportedly reached out to the Nets and restarted talks. The Nets, after all, had made a strong offer before pulling out of the negotiations, and even if Denver has weakened its position by crawling back to the table, the scaled-down package being discussed reportedly still includes Derrick Favors and draft picks. (Plus, what better way to get the Knicks' attention than to bring the Nets into the mix.) The Nuggets would love to pit the Nets and Knicks against each other in a bidding war, with teams adding starters and draft picks to their offers until the Nuggets are satisfied with their haul. That's Denver's goal. Maybe it's not a likely scenario, but it's better than dealing with one team exclusively.
(Of course, it remains to be seen if Carmelo would even sign an extension with New Jersey should the teams agree to terms. Perhaps Anthony's comment that he'd consider signing an extension with Denver if he's not dealt indicates he really doesn't want to sign his next contract under a new collective bargaining agreement. Or perhaps the Nets are just wasting their time.)
In any case, Donnie Walsh is certainly smart enough to understand that if talks with the Nets are serious, he'll lose some of his leverage. (For what it's worth, Howard Beck talked to one executive who thinks New Jersey has the best odds of landing Anthony.) But we're confident Walsh is also smart enough not to overpay for Anthony. Believe it if you wish, but here are the Nuggets' demands from one week ago, according to the Post:
The Post has learned the Nuggets made a whopping demand one week ago that is more exorbitant than recent reports. According to an NBA source debriefed on Carmelo Anthony negotiations, Denver asked for Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Landry Fields, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and a first-round pick (obtained via Anthony Randolph) for Anthony and point guard Chauncey Billups.
That is, of course, absurd. It's almost as if Denver's asking for everything short of Amar'e Stoudemire and Walt Frazier's suits, hoping Jim Dolan will decide he must have Anthony at any cost and overrule his GM, particularly if there's a chance the Nets will land him. Donnie Walsh is too smart to be played like this. But Dolan? Here's what a league source told Adrian Wojnarowski:
"Donnie isn't going to make a one-sided deal and gut his team to get this done now," said one league source who regularly speaks to Walsh. "He'll end up with two unhappy stars because they have no supporting cast. But if Dolan gets more involved in this, he could really make a mess of this."
He sure could, particularly if Isiah Thomas really is advising him, even in an unofficial capacity. The trade deadline, by the way, is now just one week away.