Nets End Carmelo Trade Talks
Owner Mikhail Prokhorov says deal’s expense, length of talks too much for the Nets.
by Kyle Stack / @KyleStack
What was supposed to be a celebration of Russian culture at Wednesday night’s New Jersey Nets-Utah Jazz game turned into a dramatic blow delivered to one of the most speculated trade talks in NBA history. Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, fresh in town after flying from Russia, made it clear who was making the decisions in his franchise by declaring the team would end its more than four month pursuit of Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.
In what direction the Nets would move was anyone’s guess, although Prokhorov appeared at peace, despite the impact of his decision.
Prokhorov’s press conference an hour and a half before Wednesday’s Nets-Jazz game began innocently enough. After all, Prokhorov initially came to town in celebration of the night, which was to feature many observances of Russian culture, with Jazz forward, and native Russian, Andrei Kirilenko taking a central role in the celebration.
Prokhorov seemed at ease at the start of the press conference, which was telecast live in the tightly-packed press room within the Prudential Center, with many various Russian media outlets awaiting his thoughts on the night. Prokhorov even joked at the outset of his statements that he “didn’t expect there to be so many fans of Russian culture.” That’s when the presser took an unexpected turn.
The Nets owner said that before discussing Russian Culture Night, he wanted to make a few comments on the team’s position with Anthony, whom the Nets had been trying to acquire in a complicated three-team deal also involving the Detroit Pistons.
“I am not happy with the way this deal has gone until now,” Prokhorov began. “It has taken too long. It has been played out in public. And I’m certain it has been taking a toll on the players. I believe that it has cost us several games…games our team I believe could win during this period of time.”
Then Prokhorov delivered the crushing blow to the Carmelo trade talks between the Nets and Nuggets.
“I think management of the [Nets] did a great job, but there comes a time when the prize is simply too expensive. I am instructing our team to walk away from the deal. And the meeting, which was supposed to [occur] with upper management tomorrow in Denver with Carmelo, is hereby canceled.”
And with that, the trade that was reportedly supposed to send Anthony and Chauncey Billups from Denver to New Jersey was over. Other facets of the reported deal included Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams also going from Denver to New Jersey, Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Quinton Ross, Stephen Graham, Ben Uzoh, Anthony Morrow and at least two first-round draft picks going from New Jersey to Denver, and Troy Murphy and Johan Petro heading from New Jersey to Detroit in exchange for Richard Hamilton.
Prokhorov, who appeared confident and without remorse throughout his comments, acknowledged the decision to walk away from a deal which had dominated NBA headlines for months was his own. Nets general manager Billy King and head coach Avery Johnson apparently knew of the decision before the press conference, as it was determined earlier in the day Murphy would be allowed to stay home, per his request for a trade.
Even though Prokhorov stated early in his press conference that he would cancel a proposed meeting with Anthony on Thursday, he said later he had never spoken with Anthony or with the Nuggets.
“Maybe [Anthony] sent me an e-mail, but I never use [sic] computer,” Prokhorov said with a grin.
Prokhorov confirmed he never received “any negative information” from Anthony or the Nuggets. He refuted claims the proposed trade had marketing or sponsorship motivations, claiming it was a trade “on the pure basketball level.”
King reiterated that point during a press conference following Prokhorov. The proposed trade for Anthony “was a basketball decision,” King said.
The proposed deal’s never-ending speculation had a notable effect on the team, as Prokhorov first mentioned and King reiterated. “Every day there was something new,” he said. “As a player, you can put it out of your mind for awhile, but after awhile it becomes overwhelming. You go into games and the questions aren’t about the game; it’s about are you going to be traded or not. I’m not blaming anybody for it; I’m not blaming the media. It’s just the nature of where we are.”
King explained one reason why the deal dragged on for as many months as it did was due in part to the new regimes in New Jersey and Denver. Prokhorov’s deal to buy the Nets was approved by the NBA last May. Prokhorov hired King as general manager in mid-July, while the Nuggets’ hire of their general manager, Masai Ujiri, formerly an executive with the Toronto Raptors, took place in late August.
Nuggets president Josh Kroenke took over operational and financial control of the Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in late August after his father, Stan, was approved to become majority owner of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams. The NFL prohibits majority owners from having an ownership stake of major league franchises in other NFL cities, which was initially an obstacle for Kroenke given that the NFL’s Broncos play in Denver.
King claimed the Nuggets were not difficult to deal with. “This process is just different,” King said. “I think it was the perfect storm for something to take as long as it has.”
King was adamant the Nets never had a deal for Anthony, in any form. And now that no deal appears in sight, King stated he was more concerned with getting the players to re-focus on basketball.
Favors, the third overall pick in the 2010 Draft, expressed relief these trade rumors had ended, affording him more time with the Nets. “I don’t have to worry about it — well, not worry about it — but I can concentrate on just playing basketball,” Favors said.
“It’s just a relief to get it out of the way, and to not have to hear about it,” he added.
When Petro was approached about his thoughts on Prokhorov’s announcement the pursuit of Anthony had ended, the sixth-year 7-footer expressed surprise at the news.
“That’s what this is all about,” Petro said. “I was so into being here that I didn’t even know what was going on with ‘Melo. I didn’t know about what you just said — you are the first one telling me that.”
When asked by SLAMonline if media reports throughout the past few months had been overblown in how it affected players on and off the court, Petro admitted the talks bothered him.
“It was definitely all over the place,” Petro said. “My name was on that, too. I’m not gonna lie — it was a little bit frustrating at times. But that’s a part of the business. We have to know how to keep on going and keep doing what we’re doing in a Nets uniform.”
Prokhorov and King were emphatic in their declaration this would be the end of trade talks with the Nuggets regarding Anthony. The reporter to ask the last question during Prokhorov’s press conference wondered if the Nets would be amenable to a deal for Anthony if the Nuggets come back with an offer.
Prokhorov dismissed the possibility, reiterating his earlier comment that the Nets will no longer pursue the star player they had hoped would be the face of their franchise’s move to Brooklyn in 2012. “I think I was absolutely clear on that matter,” Prokhorov said.