The New York Knicks have reached out to Memphis about participating in a three-team deal that would send Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo to Denver and Carmelo Anthony to New York, according to league sources.
Talks are in the infant stages and nothing is imminent, but the discussions are a sign of the Knicks’ increased aggressiveness in trying to trade for Anthony.
Emboldened by their belief that Anthony will refuse to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the New Jersey Nets, the Knicks have stepped up their efforts to bring the Nuggets star to New York.
The Nets, Nuggets and Pistons are still in discussions on a trade that may involve more than 13 players and hope to have it wrapped up by next week, the Bergan (N.J.) Record reported.
The Knicks have tried to engage Denver in trade talks all season, but the Nuggets, unmoved by the players New York has to offer, have been unwilling to partake in significant discussions. Sources, however, say that is changing as the Nuggets themselves wonder whether Anthony is willing to go to New Jersey.
The Knicks understand they need to recruit another trade partner or two in order to put together a package Denver would be interested in, and that’s their motivation for inquiring about Mayo. It is not clear at this point whether Denver is actively involved in the talks with Memphis.
Mayo, who has had a disappointing and controversial season in Memphis, is on the trading block, and the Knicks’ hope is that he would satisfy Denver’s desire for a promising young prospect. Though the third-year guard is coming off the bench and scoring less than 13 points a game this season, Mayo averaged 18 points over his first two years.
While Mayo, who has one year, $5.6 million remaining on his contract after this season, does not have the leverage to stop a possible deal, sources say he would not be happy with a trade to Denver.
After nearly three years of rebuilding in Memphis, Mayo is looking to go to a winning situation, according to the sources. He understands without Anthony, Denver would be starting over.
Mayo, however, would like to go to the Knicks.
The Knicks’ only interest in Mayo is to aid them in acquiring Anthony.
The Knicks will also need at least one first-round draft pick to grab Denver’s attention, and New York is confident it can get such a pick for Anthony Randolph from one of several clubs. Sources say Indiana was willing to trade a first-round pick to New York for Randolph last summer.
Any Knicks package for Anthony would also likely include some combination of Wilson Chandler,Danilo Gallinari or Landry Fields.
While the Nuggets weren’t impressed with those names early in the season, their strong play during the Knicks’ resurgence has upped their value, according to sources.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets continue to discuss a possible three-team deal with the Nets and Pistons. The Nets would receive Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Detroit’s Richard Hamilton while Denver would get Nets rookie Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round draft picks and several other minor players.
But even if the clubs agree to a deal, Anthony could kill it by refusing to sign an extension to play long-term in New Jersey. Several sources say Anthony does not want to play in New Jersey and has thus far given no indication that he would sign such an extension.
Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, has been pushing for a deal with New Jersey and, in an effort to get the star to sign off on the trade, several people have been telling Anthony that New York doesn’t want to break up its current team to get him, according to sources.
Sources say that’s why Anthony made the curious comment on Monday in which he wondered whether the Knicks even wanted him.
“New York is playing well right now. I don’t think they’re looking at me,” Anthony said. “They wouldn’t want me to come in there and mess what they have up. That’s what I’ve read.”
But the Knicks are very interested in Anthony. The club’s preference would be to sign him as a free agent next summer and thereby keep their current roster intact.
But in that scenario, Anthony would not receive the $65 million extension and with a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon, he would risk losing millions of dollars by entering free agency.
If Anthony eventually nixes a move to New Jersey and tells Denver he will only sign an extension with New York, the Nuggets would likely either trade him to the Knicks or a club like Houstonthat would be willing to trade for him without his signing an extension.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.
Follow Chris Broussard on Twitter: @chris_broussard
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