Updated: November 21, 2010, 2:55 AM ET
Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE A handful of updates from the Carmelo Anthony trade watch are presented for your consideration.

1. Melo's Big Five

By Marc Stein

This week's visit to Denver by the New York Knicks, accompanied by the the famously smothering New York media, came with precisely 100 days to go before the trading deadline.

So you had to know we were going to make a contribution to the countdown.

Here, then, are a few fresh nuggets from the Carmelo Anthony trade watch, which we're indeed contractually obliged to refer to as the NBA's Melo Drama inside the first three paragraphs of any such update.

1. The myth

You've heard it a zillion times already this season: No team out there is going to be willing to trade for Melo unless he also commits to a contract extension as part of the transaction.

Consider this your invitation to forget what you've heard.

The theory implies that Anthony will ultimately be able to force his way to the Knicks before the Feb. 24 trading deadline -- if that's indeed where he wants to be, as is widely presumed -- because the other 28 teams wouldn't dare consent to merely renting Melo for the rest of the 2010-11 campaign this close to his free-agent summer, thereby leaving Denver with no choice but to work with New York.

Yet that's just not so.

"Ridiculous," said one Western Conference general manager.

A handful of team executives consulted this week by ESPN.com believe there are more than a few teams in circulation that would be willing to trade for Melo without getting his name on an extension, even though the risk of losing Anthony without compensation in July is precisely why countless league observers believe the Nuggets will eventually have to give in and give him up.

How is that possible? As another GM explains, there are always teams willing to bet that a star like Anthony will like their situation if they can just get him to town.

I know of two such risk-taking teams in Texas alone -- Dallas and Houston -- that would take on Anthony sans extension if their assets proved sufficiently attractive to construct a three-team (or more) deal palatable to Denver. Orlando is also presumed to be another such risk-taker, given the obvious lure of pairing Anthony with Dwight Howard. And Charlotte, with Melo's buddy Michael Jordan in charge, has been suggested as another willing Melo dice-roller by various front-office sources.

The Nuggets, if and when they reach that point, would obviously prefer to trade with a team Melo wants to join long term because they'd get more in return. Assets of the highest quality will be harder to score in a deal that isn't an extend-and-trade, as the GMs call it.

The fact, however, remains that the extension is not everything as I once believed, too.

2. The back pocket

Another reason why Denver won't be obligated to deal only with the Knicks if it ultimately concludes that a trade is unavoidable?

Numerous executives still believe that the main pieces that were Denver-bound in the original four-team trade construction that surfaced and then collapsed in late September -- Nets rookie Derrick Favors and at least two future first-round picks -- remain available to the Nuggets and will be available from now until the trade deadline.

Not sure I agree unreservedly, since parting with Favors strikes me as surrendering the sort of young asset that the Nets can't give up without an extension in place. But that is the consensus on the GM grapevine.

3. The preference

My man Ric Bucher said it in a chat last Friday and I've heard the same: Anthony is more than content to play the entire season in Denver as opposed to being traded in the next 90-something days. And the Nuggets know it.

Melo's reasoning makes plenty of sense, too. Sticking it out with the Nuggets for the rest of the season would allow him to pick his next destination without restrictions in free agency -- once we get past the pesky obstacle of a potential lockout next summer -- and also prevents the team he chooses from being decimated by what it would have to surrender in a Melo deal.

Says one West exec: "The hard part won't be finding teams that are willing to gamble on Melo. The hard part is having what Denver wants and being able to complete a trade without killing your team. You can't kill your roster and just take him back. That's just guaranteeing that he'll leave."

4. The latest target

Perhaps target isn't the best word choice, because the Nuggets have made it clear they're not presently pursuing deals for Anthony.

Not since longtime Nuggets adviser Bret Bearup was ousted earlier this month, completing a front-office purge that earlier claimed Mark Warkentien and Rex Chapman, and, in Bearup's case, ushered away the organization's loudest pro-trade voice.

Sources close to the situation maintain that Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and new personnel chief Masai Ujiri won't even consider the prospect of moving Melo before Dec. 15, when players who signed new contracts in the summer become eligible to be added to trades for the first time. And word is even mid-December is a lot sooner than the Nuggets are prepared to move, with team officials clinging to the hope -- remote as it sounds -- that they'll start looking like more of a hard-to-bolt contender around that time once big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen have returned from their respective knee injuries.

Yet there are a few names known to intrigue the Nuggets in those moments when they force themselves to contemplate life minus Melo, as detailed in this cyberspace a few weeks back when their interest in Blazers untouchable Nicolas Batum was detailed.

Another name on the Nuggets' list of fantasy targets in a three-team (or more) trade scenario, I'm told, is Indiana's Danny Granger. But sources say that Granger, just like Batum, bears an "unavailable" stamp.

The Pacers, as you'd imagine, have made it clear they have zero interest in serving as the third team in a deal that costs them Granger and lands Anthony somewhere else. And Indy isn't one of those teams willing to trade for Anthony without a signed extension, which only adds to the notion that Granger is unattainable.

Just like Batum.

5. The optimist

It can't be a huge surprise after what he's been through in his battle against neck and throat cancer, but it is another fact: Nuggets coach George Karl dispenses positivity about his team, in spite of its plight, more readily than ever before.

Cynics would say that Karl's own desire for an extension factors into that stance, but Karl simply won't surrender the belief that Anthony can still be swayed to commit to the three-year, $65 million extension that has been on the table since June. Team officials were cautiously convinced around the time of the draft that Melo was on the verge of signing it ... until LeBron James and Chris Bosh landed on South Beach soon thereafter to flank Dwyane Wade and alter not only the league's landscape but also the way Team USA's biggest names look at team-building.

The undersized Nuggets are scuffling along at 6-6, having dropped four successive road games since a quality Nov. 6 win at Dallas. But Anthony has been a true, committed pro and Karl has helped him stay engaged -- Melo's averaging 24.1 points and a career-best 9.3 boards -- amid questions and scrutiny and speculation that won't go away.

"I'm enjoying it, man," Melo told me two weeks after the road win over the Mavs. "When we're winning, I'm enjoying it."

"He's been great," Karl insists.

The stunning 54-point third quarter Denver surrendered at Indiana on Nov. 9 appeared to be the first warning sign to support the thinking of know-it-alls like me who came into the season convinced this team would not be able to withstand the Melo Drama and eventually unravel ... except that the Nuggets rallied at home two nights later to deal the Lakers their first loss.

"I've been energized by last year a little bit," Karl said, "and the passion to come back on the court. But I've never understood why [the Nuggets were dismissed by so many experts] when we knew -- and I think most basketball people knew -- that Ty [Lawson] and Arron [Afflalo] were going to be better than they were last year. We get Al Harrington as a shooting 4, which with the way we play ... it helps us. It magnifies the good things that we do.

"The injuries, yeah, we're probably not going to be as good without Kenyon and Chris, but you can survive in the season. ... I think there's an excitement in our team that I don't think people have given us credit for. Even though we have some things that people could look at and say, 'What the hell is going on?' ... it hasn't gotten in on the practice court or in the games."

Dimes past: Nov. 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12-13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18

2. One on One ... To Five


Five questions with new Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob:

Q: You and your partner Peter Guber kind of sneaked up on everybody in June when you guys won the bidding to buy the Warriors, but the truth is you were a minority owner with the Celtics for several years. How did that prepare you for running your own team?

A: Five or six years ago, I had a chance to [join Boston] originally when Wyc Grousbeck first did the deal [to take over the Celtics]. And I didn't do it then because I really wanted to have my own team, be the managing owner. ... Not long after that, David Stern -- who I had gotten to know since the '90s -- he said to me: "You know, if you really want to own the Warriors someday and if they ever come open for you, you really need to be a minority owner with the Celtics. You can always get out of it, but it'll be good for you to learn the league, get to know everybody. It'll pay really good dividends."

And I took that advice to heart, even though it was 3,000 miles away. ... It was something I very much enjoyed. The ownership group was fantastic. They were great guys and I got to have a lot of involvement with Danny Ainge, which was fun and a great learning experience. And, of course, we won a ring. But when the Warriors were available for real, finally, after all these years, I got myself right in the middle of this process.

I'm very proud to have that ring. You have to understand that I grew up as a little kid with the transistor radio next to my ear listening to Johnny Most and the Boston Celtics in the 1960s. It's meaningful to me. You can't take that away no matter what. That will always mean a lot to me. But I'm a Golden State Warrior. I'm the owner of the Golden State Warriors now. This is my team and this is No. 1. And what I love about this situation is that we have an opportunity to take a franchise which has an incredible fan base -- we live in the best city in the world -- and we can take this and make this into anything we want it to be. There's no reason in the world that this franchise cannot be the premier franchise in the NBA.

It's a big hill to climb. The Celtics. The Lakers. A few other teams have good histories as well. But we want to be regarded ... we want to be in that same stratosphere where people talk about the top franchises in sports, the top brands in sports. We've got a long way to go, but I love that. That's what I've done all my life. This isn't nothing to start with. I usually start a startup where there's nothing there, where there's a couple people sitting at a desk and a business plan and we've built them into billion-dollar-revenue companies. We don't have that. We've got something to work with here. We have a lot to do to get there, but I really enjoy the idea of taking it to the next level. And the next level.

Q: How involved were you with the Celtics behind the scenes?

A: The ownership situation in Boston is a little different than most NBA teams. Wyc leads it, but it's a group of 17 people, which by the way is very much the way I've done this one. It's very participatory. You're involved as much as you kind of wanted to be. Clearly Wyc Grousbeck makes the final call, but he listened to people and listened to advice. And I was kind of a basketball junkie, so he let me -- that not being his forte -- get involved with [Celtics minority owner] Steve Pagliuca, who's another basketball junkie. We got involved in the basketball operations, we sat in the war room at the draft every year, [helped with] trades and so on. I was more involved than what one might think about a minority owner living 3,000 miles away.

I want to thank Wyc Grousbeck. He was really very supportive. He knew my plan from the very beginning. I was very clear that [buying the Warriors] was something that may never happen, but on the other hand it may happen. ... This was no surprise to anybody [in Boston or the league office]. It certainly wasn't for me. This was my plan all along. Now you never know what the situation is going to be and whether you can get it and certainly it was a bidding process. I had an inside track to some extent and we did all the right things, but then we got a little bit lucky because certainly there were some people in the bidding process that could have written a check for probably any number they wanted to.

Q: I think that's a fairly obvious reference to [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison, whom we all assumed for months would be the one who wound up buying the Warriors. What was it like to take him on in a bidding war?

A: Scary. No question scary. Who knew what he was going to do? He's a very formidable opponent and obviously very, very good at what he does. He's built an empire. I don't think we ever took him lightly. However, to be very honest, my mantra through the entire process was: "I'm not really going to worry about him. I'm just going to do what it takes to win this." ... As it turns out he kind of laid back a little bit, I think, on this bidding process. And I don't think he really knew much about us or how serious we were. Maybe he didn't think there was as much competition as there was and I think that helped us.

Q: What factored into the decision to change coaches (replacing Don Nelson with Keith Smart) so close to the start of training camp?

A: We felt, Peter and I, that we really needed a fresh beginning. I very much respect Don Nelson, his legacy, his creativity. He's won a lot of games in the NBA and he certainly was a great player with my original hometown team [Boston]. I just think for this ownership group and for this team, being a young team, I just felt we needed a new beginning, a fresh start. I had a couple conversations with him during the month of August, which cemented that view. And when it kind of came down to it, during the month of September, even though I wasn't the owner and wasn't supposed to make any changes, I convinced the seller and also the management team that this is something we really needed to do. The management team was on board. So let's just say we influenced that decision.

It was a difficult situation because I didn't own the team. And you can understand why the seller might not want any changes to occur. So we had to negotiate with them because we hadn't closed on the deal. We had to convince everybody that we're going to close and that we need to do this. It wasn't really in [outgoing owner] Chris Cohan's interest ... and [the league] didn't really want to see me involved in things like that. I really wish the timing was not right before training camp, but when training camp was about to begin, it just had to be done and we weren't quite closed.

Q: Monta Ellis is a player whose name always comes up in trade speculation, but that was before he had such a great start to the season. Can you clarify his status?

A: I love Monta Ellis. I really love his attitude right now. He's always been one of my favorite players. He's a terrific, unique talent in the NBA. Who else is there that fast? He can get his shot off at any time against anyone. He's only 6-3, not a big guy, but he has tremendous heart. And I think that's the thing that maybe not just me but a lot of people really didn't quite see as much in previous years. And maybe that was because of other influences on the team. Or maybe that was because of his relationship with the coach, which maybe could have been better. We can all speculate, but what we have to do is look at the here and now.

I took Monta to a 49er game before the season. I met his wife and spent time with him and I got a very good sense that this guy was really on board. With David Lee and the changes in the locker room, [Lee] being here was really helping. [Ellis] and [Stephen] Curry have a good relationship now. I just think that he has turned it around a lot. He is a guy that is very, very, very motivated to be here, motivated to win. He's been nothing but a team player.

The answer to your question is, no one is ever totally untouchable. My job -- and I will be held accountable -- is to bring a winning team here to Oakland. A championship team. So I don't think I can sit here and say that anyone is untouchable, but Monta Ellis isn't going anywhere right now. He's just too good. He's too much a part of what I really view as what I want the Golden State Warriors to be. So I think you can presume that Monta's going to be a Warrior.

3. D-League Preview

The NBA Development League's season opened in historic fashion Thursday night in the small Texas town of McAllen, where Nancy Lieberman became the first female head coach of an NBA-affiliated team in the Texas Legends' 123-115 nationally televised road loss to the defending champion Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Our annual flurry of factoids to set up season No. 10 in the D-League follows:

The league's oft-repeated mantra to fans (and even prospective players): The D-League is (A) not only the most scouted league in the world outside of the NBA but also the most athletic and (B) has at least one D-League alumnus on 29 of 30 NBA rosters. Want more? There were 63 former D-Leaguers on opening-night rosters, up nearly double from the 35 on opening night as recently as 2006-07.

The growing baseball-style ties to NBA teams: San Antonio (Austin Toros) and Oklahoma City (Tulsa 66ers) fully own and operate their D-League affiliates. Houston, meanwhile, is entering Year 2 in Rio Grande of a "hybrid" affiliation, which enables NBA franchises -- after making a three-year commitment worth up to $1.5 million -- to fully control the basketball-operations side of a D-League team while leaving the minor-league team's local owners to run the business side.

Lieberman's Legends, meanwhile, are essentially an extension of the Mavericks' organization even though they don't officially fall under either of those categories above, since Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson is a Legends co-owner and makes many of the Legends' decisions (in consultation with fellow Legends execs Spud Webb and Del Harris) from the Mavs' offices. Boston, Cleveland and Utah, meanwhile, aren't quite tied to their D-League affiliates to that extent but do work loosely with the Maine Red Claws, Erie Bayhawks and Utah Flash, respectively.

The Nets, furthermore, announced last week that they're entering into a hybrid agreement with the Springfield Armor starting next season, while the Los Angeles D-Fenders -- previously owned and operated by the Lakers -- are expected to return to the league next season after going on hiatus this season.

The big rule changes: The D-League has adopted the international goaltending rule that allows players to knock the ball away immediately after it touches the rim and, in experiment No. 2, has shortened overtime periods from five minutes to three minutes.

The player you'll recognize most: Rashad McCants will instantly become the biggest name in minor-league hoops if he decides to join the Legends, as team officials continue to expect. No one, though, should be more familiar to NBA-watchers than former No. 4 overall draft pick Antonio Daniels, who's trying to make it back to the NBA by launching his comeback -- from a full season of inactivity after knee surgery -- as the D-League's oldest player ever at 35.

The four players currently on D-League assignment by their NBA teams: Houston's Patrick Patterson (Rio Grande Valley), Phoenix's Gani Lawal (Iowa Energy), Toronto's Solomon Alabi (Erie) and Cleveland's Christian Eyenga (Erie). Patterson is just the second lottery pick in league history to be sent down on assignment from the NBA, after Memphis Grizzlies center Hasheem Thabeet last season.

The other players foremost on Stein Line HQ radar: Patrick Ewing Jr. (Reno Bighorns), Nick Fazekas (Reno), Salim Stoudamire (Idaho Stampede), Latavious Williams (Tulsa), Sean Williams (Texas) ... and Cal State Fullerton alumnus/dunker supreme Gerard Anderson (Reno).

The coaching carousel: Almost all of the focus will be on Lieberman, obviously, but ex-Golden State and Sacramento coach Eric Musselman (Reno) and former NBA vets Darvin Ham (New Mexico Thunderbirds) and Randy Livingston (Idaho) are noteworthy D-League coaching newcomers, too. Returning coaches include Maine's Austin Ainge (son of Celtics personnel chief Danny Ainge), Springfield's Dee Brown (yes, that Dee Brown) and Rio Grande's Chris Finch, who doubles as Luol Deng's coach with Great Britain's national team.

The compensation: D-League players are placed in one of three classifications (A, B or C) based on experience and earn modest salaries of $25,500, $19,000 or $13,000. Daily per diem on road trips is $40 ... compared to $113 in the NBA. But D-League teams do provide housing and medical care to players to offset the comparatively low wages in relation to what foreign teams pay.

The buyout rules: Foreign teams that wish to extricate D-League players from their current contracts must pay between $15,000 and $45,000 depending on the player's salary.

The All-Star Game: It will again be staged in conjunction with the NBA's All-Star Weekend, starting with a Friday night skills competition and the actual game Saturday afternoon (Feb. 19) at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

The NBA D-League Showcase: All 16 teams will convene in South Padre Island, Texas, from Jan. 10-13 for a total of 16 games in four days, all of which will be televised on NBA TV. Each D-League team will play two games at the Showcase in addition to its standard 24 home games and 24 road games, with executives and scouts from all 30 NBA teams in attendance. This year's Showcase will also feature slam-dunk and 3-point contests that will be televised on Versus.

The playoff format: The D-League is continuing with the experimental system introduced two seasons ago that enables the regular-season winners of the East and West and a third team with the next-best record to choose their first-round opponents from the bottom four seeds.

Eight of the D-League's 16 teams qualify for the playoffs, with all three rounds consisting of best-of-three series. The two division winners and the next six best teams based on record qualify for the playoffs.

The promise: NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver,as covered here Thursday, says the D-League will operate next season even if a lockout is in effect. It is likewise believed that the next labor agreement between the NBA and its players will allow for increased use of the D-League by NBA teams, judging by this season's new rule allowing D-League teams to claim the rights to three players who are cut from the training camp rosters of their NBA parent clubs before opening night.


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