Nuggets, Nets and Cavs discussed Melo

It's looking more and more like Carmelo Anthony will remain in Denver until the Feb. 24 trade deadline, and after all this time, the New Jersey Nets remain the Nuggets' preferred trading partner.

The Nets and Nuggets have discussed various trade scenarios, and just before Christmas they nearly worked out a three-team deal involving the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to league sources.

The Nets have a standing offer of rookie Derrick Favors, two first-round draft picks and Troy Murphy on the table, but last month, sources said the Nuggets aren't interested in Murphy because they would inherit the remaining $8 million on his expiring contract. So the Nets brought in Cleveland and its $14.5 million trade exception.

Denver would have received Favors, Devin Harris and three first-round picks. Cleveland would have received Murphy and one or two first-round picks, and the Nets would have received Anthony, Al Harrington and the Cavaliers' trade exception, the sources said.

Beyond the sticking point of Anthony’s accepting or refusing to sign the long-term extension with New Jersey, the deal fell apart because both Denver and Cleveland wanted the 2012 first-round pick the Nets got from Golden State in the Marcus Williams trade. That pick is protected through the first seven slots.

While Denver never asked for the Nets' five first-round picks, New Jersey might have wound up sending those five picks to the Nuggets and the Cavs. Losing all those first-rounders makes the Nets squeamish, as does not getting back a point guard if they have to give up Harris.

Because it has Ty Lawson, Denver doesn't have much need for Harris. But the Nuggets were hoping they might be able to send Harris, whom Portland covets, to the Trail Blazers for Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum, according to sources. It was likely wishful thinking because Portland has no intention of moving Batum.

While Chauncey Billups' name has been mentioned with Anthony's in trade rumors, Billups' desire is to remain in Denver, which is his hometown.

There's some feeling throughout the league that the Nuggets' lack of interest in Murphy will subside by the trade deadline because by then, he'll be owed only about $3.5 million this season.

While the Nets remain enamored with Anthony, there are some within the organization who wonder if the club might be better off keeping Favors and its five first-round picks and building through the draft. In the end, however, if the Nets can get Anthony, they'll pull the trigger.

New York still in Melo hunt

The Knicks remain Anthony's preferred destination, but the superstar forward also wants that three-year, $64.4 million contract extension. Leon Rose, Anthony's agent, has discussed trade scenarios with the Knicks and Nets, and the Knicks have tried to use the probable lockout to their advantage.

With the owners hoping to make current contracts fit within the confines of the upcoming collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks are telling Rose that Anthony's $64.4 million extension may not be worth that much anyway, that it may get slashed once the new CBA is in place. So, of course, why not just wait and sign with the Knicks as a free agent, or so New York's argument goes.

Around the league, executives are skeptical about the Knicks' chances of trading for Anthony. Denver remains cold toward a Knicks offer, and while New York insists it can get a first-round pick (most likely for Anthony Randolph), rival executives are saying, "Why haven't they gotten the pick yet?''

Phil and Ron

People close to Ron Artest say his confrontation with coach Phil Jackson during a Lakers practice a week-and-a-half ago stemmed from Artest's sincere belief that if Jackson is going to call him out publicly, he should also call other players out publicly.

Everyone in Lakers Nation knew Jackson was holding his tongue in regards to Kobe Bryant's one-on-one play, so Artest figured Jackson should have held his tongue about him as well, at least publicly.

Artest let Jackson know as much when they met privately after the confrontation, and perhaps that's why Jackson made his Kobe "screwed up the game'' comments a few days later.

While the confrontation made huge news, neither Artest, Jackson nor the rest of the organization viewed it as being a big deal.