A stagnant 24 hours in the Carmelo Anthony trade talks have left four teams and several players in limbo as little progress has been made on the proposed megadeal that would send Anthony to New Jersey.
The Denver Nuggets, as ESPN.com reported Friday, entered the weekend on the brink of ending their seven-year association with Anthony by dealing their franchise player to the New Jersey Nets as part of a trade that would also involve Charlotte and Utah.
Numerous reports surfaced Saturday, however, that the Nuggets have grown hesitant about going through with the trade, which in its current incarnation would bring Nets rookie Derrick Favors, Jazz veteran Andrei Kirilenko and two future first-round picks in return for Anthony, with the Nets also sending point guard Devin Harris to Charlotte and Utah acquiring veteran forward Boris Diaw from the Bobcats.
On Sunday, it appeared the Nuggets were still holding out hope of retaining Anthony.
"The deal is in neutral," one source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com on Sunday afternoon. "Denver is trying to get [Anthony] there for media day [on Monday] and beg him to stay."
One source close to the talks told ESPN.com on Friday night that the Nets expected to know by Saturday whether the deal -- which also requires Anthony to sign a three-year contract extension worth $65 million before New Jersey will sign off -- would go through.
Now they hope to learn Monday if the deal has any life, with sources saying Denver has been exploring deals with other teams, to the frustration of the three other teams -- New Jersey, Charlotte and Utah -- that had agreed on the basic framework of the original four-team deal.
While he couldn't talk directly about Anthony, Nets general manager Billy King acknowledged he had been working on a trade.
"I would say that we're exploring everything," King said Sunday. "But there's no deal. We have nothing. We have nothing. We're excited about the guys playing. I'll continue to explore and see if we can make the team better. At this point I'm excited about watching our guys practice.
"I'll continue to work the phones. It's going to be a methodical process whether we do a deal now or six months from now or next year. But there is nothing."
King admitted there was a sense of frustration in trying to make a big deal happen.
"It's a process," he said. "Anytime I made a trade it's a process. Some of them take two years to get to the point when you get the player you want. Some take two weeks. I think you've got to make sure you do it and do it the right way."
Fanhouse.com reported Saturday afternoon that the Nuggets "are compromising the trade with their slow-moving ways." The Newark Star-Ledger quoted a source close to the negotiations in Sunday's editions as saying that the trade talks have "definitely" taken a step back.
"Everyone is waiting on Denver, not Melo [committing to an extension]," one source close to the trade talks told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan.
The trade as currently constructed would satisfy virtually all of the requirements that the Nuggets have expressed to interested teams over the past week to 10 days, when they began fielding offers for their disgruntled superstar after turning potential suitors away throughout the first half of September.
At a minimum to part with its All-Star scoring machine, Denver wants a top young player it can market, salary-cap relief and at least two future first-round picks. The Nuggets would get the top young player in Favors, who was the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, and the cap relief in Kirilenko's expiring contract.
But as ESPN.com reported Friday night, quoting a source close to the All-Star forward, Anthony was still holding out hope that the New York Knicks or Chicago Bulls -- his two preferred destinations -- would make an 11th-hour bid to trump the Nets' offer once they realized how close the four-way trade was to completion.
The Nuggets could also elect to back away and keep Anthony for the short term in hopes that offers get better with time. They'd do so even after new vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke, according to CBSSports.com, flew to the East Coast earlier this week for face-to-face trade negotiations with the Nets, helping escalate the talks to the brink of a done deal.
Pulling out of the deal at this advanced stage could also mean that the Nuggets, even after going this far in talks, have not abandoned their hope that it is still possible to convince Anthony to reconsider his desire to be traded.
ESPN.com reported earlier this week that there was strong sentiment within the organization, starting with Nuggets coach George Karl, to mount one last campaign to try to win back Anthony's support once he arrived in training camp, where he would be greeted by pro-Denver voices such as Karl and Nuggets teammate Chauncey Billups for the first time in weeks after a lengthy isolation from the organization.
Before the trade talks reached a stage where the framework for a four-team deal had been established, sources said one of Denver's plans was urging Anthony one last time to sign the extension that has been on the table since June, with the promise the Nuggets would trade him closer to the February trading deadline if he continued to be unhappy.
But Anthony's desire to leave Denver, sources say, runs deep.
All indications Friday night were that Anthony was warming to the idea of joining the Nets, whose planned move to Brooklyn in two years under Russian billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a strong lure, in addition the presence of center Brook Lopez, one of the league's top young big men.
Yet it's no secret that Manhattan is where Anthony most wants to be, with Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire having spoken publicly more than once about how much he and Anthony would like to play together with the Knicks.
But New York's lack of future draft picks to offer and Chicago's blanket refusal to make Joakim Noah available to the Nuggets in trade talks appear to have established the Nets as Anthony's best option if he's determined to move immediately.
Yet that can happen only with the Nuggets' cooperation, which could still come before Monday but also might not.
Anthony has the ability to become a free agent at season's end, which is the hammer that has enabled his representatives, Leon Rose and William Wesley of CAA, to apply such pressure to the Nuggets in hopes of forcing a trade before camps open Monday. The tension has been building since June, when the Nuggets believed that Anthony was on the verge of signing a three-year, $65 million contract extension, only for Anthony to pass.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.