Other suitors came and went, but Carmelo Anthony's long-anticipated marriage to the New York Knicks appears to have finally taken place.
The Knicks and Denver Nuggets agreed to a blockbuster three-team trade Monday night that sends the All-Star forward to the Big Apple, sources told ESPN The Magazine senior writer Chris Broussard. The deal does not become official until a conference call with the league takes place Tuesday.
The deal ends the season-long trade saga involving Denver's All-Star forward and sends him where he has publicly stated he would like to play. If it goes through as anticipated, Anthony is expected to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks, where he will play
alongside good friend Amare Stoudemire.
New York gets a potentially explosive frontcourt -- Stoudemire is second in the league in scoring at 26.1 points per game and Anthony is sixth at 25.2 -- but it comes at a heavy cost.
As a part of the deal, the Knicks will send Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and a 2014 first-round draft pick to the Nuggets, who would get
additional picks and cash, the sources said. Along with Anthony, New York would get Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman from Denver.
Multiple media reports say that the additional picks the Nuggets will get are two second-round selections that the Knicks acquired from Golden State when the Warriors signed forward David Lee last summer.
The Minnesota Timberwolves got involved to help New York clear salary-cap space to accommodate its new players. The Knicks ship Anthony Randolph, the expiring contract of Eddy Curry and $3 million to the Wolves in exchange for Corey Brewer, according to multiple media reports.
The Nuggets were reluctant to take on Curry's $11.3 million salary this season for luxury-tax reasons.
"I'm glad it's over," Nuggets coach George Karl said, according to the Denver Post, which first reported the megadeal. "I'm glad it's an opportunity to reinvent. I think everybody handled it as classy as you could handle it. There's some sadness to it, there always will be."
Stoudemire was thrilled to add Anthony.
"Every team needs a 1, 1A punch," Stoudemire said. "And so with the ways that we both can score .... we're very versatile, so it's hard to guard us."
Stoudemire said he had "no doubt" the All-Star forwards and longtime friends could play together, and said Anthony would handle the move to New York as well as he has.
"It's what he wants. It's what I wanted, to come to New York and play on the big stage," Stoudemire said. "He has the same type of swag. This is what he wants and he can handle it. We're going to do it together."
As of Tuesday afternoon, there was conflicting information on what Denver plans to do with Gallinari. League sources told ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher Monday night that the Nuggets are looking at deals to ship him out for a draft pick once the league signs off on the trade. But sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein on Tuesday that the team is now thinking of keeping him.
While Broussard had reported that the New Jersey Nets might try to acquire Gallinari after striking out on Anthony, there are several other interested teams with first-round draft picks to offer in exchange for the perimeter-shooting forward. Other potential suitors include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors.
Sources had said that Denver pulled the trigger on the Anthony deal Monday night, rather than get closer to Thursday's trade deadline, to have more time to shop Gallinari. The Nuggets might now keep him, along with Felton and Chandler, both of whom a league source said Denver was never looking to trade.
The Nuggets have explored an Anthony trade since he refused to sign the three-year contract extension worth nearly $65 million they offered him last summer. They appeared on the verge of sending him to the Nets on multiple occasions. At one point in the past month, it was reported that the Lakers even kicked the tires on an Anthony trade. But the Knicks increased their offer enough recently to get him.
The Knicks hope he can be in uniform Wednesday when they host the Milwaukee Bucks. If he is, he'll probably be wearing a different number.
Anthony wore No. 15 for his seven-year tenure with the Nuggets. He also wore No. 15 during his one season at Syracuse. But that digit will be off limits for Anthony in New York because the organization retired No. 15 twice -- once for Earl Monroe and once for Dick McGuire. When contacted by ESPNNewYork.com late Monday night, a team official said he was unsure which number Anthony would wear with the Knicks.
Anthony led the Nuggets to the playoffs in each of his first seven seasons in Denver after winning a national title at Syracuse as a freshman and had them positioned for another playoff run this year. But Denver advanced out of the first round just once during that time.
He stood to become the headliner of the 2011 free-agent class but didn't want to risk free agency knowing a new collective bargaining agreement could cost him millions. But once he refused to accept an extension with the Nuggets -- and put his Denver mansion on the market last year -- the Nuggets' new front-office team of general manager Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke had to begin trade talks so they wouldn't risk losing him and getting nothing in return as the Cavaliers did with LeBron James and the Toronto Raptors did with Chris Bosh last year.
There were persistent rumors Anthony wouldn't take the extension if traded to the Nets, which was a prerequisite for them agreeing to a trade. He instead gets his apparent wish to join a Knicks team that is in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and in position for its first playoff berth since 2004.
But the Knicks will make their postseason run without the core of the team. Felton, Gallinari, Mozgov and Chandler were four of New York's top six players, and there is some thought that the Knicks gave up too much to get Anthony, a sensational scorer headed to a team that doesn't necessarily need more scoring.
However, the Knicks felt they couldn't pass on the opportunity to land a 26-year-old superstar once he became available. Assuming he extends with the Knicks, Anthony -- as well as Stoudemire -- would be under contract for four more seasons, though the uncertain salary-cap situation could wreck New York's plans to be spenders over the next two summers.
The Nets wanted Anthony, hoping the Brooklyn native would be the face of their franchise when they open the new Barclays Center in 2012. Though he never publicly confirmed the speculation that he wouldn't have signed an extension with the Nets, he did note Friday during the All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles that the Knicks were further along after acquiring Stoudemire last summer.
Anthony met with both Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan over the weekend and hoped there would be a resolution before he returned to the Nuggets. That indeed happened -- he was excused from practice Monday so he could remain in California to appear on Conan O'Brien's show.
The Nuggets made out well, considering they could have lost Anthony for nothing in the summer. The Nets' offer, centered around rookie Derrick Favors and draft picks, would have meant a rebuilding situation. With the New York trade, the Nuggets get a solid point guard in Felton (17.1 points, 9.0 assists per game) to replace Billups, a young small forward in Chandler (16.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg) to play Anthony's position and add a 7-footer in Mozgov. Gallinari either adds 15.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game or nets a draft pick. Either way, the Nuggets will have acquired options in the draft while having the talent to remain relevant in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Denver kicks off the post-Melo era against Memphis on Tuesday night.
Karl said he'll miss Billups, a hometown favorite and consummate professional who helped Denver reach the Western Conference finals in 2009, when the Nuggets nearly eliminated the eventual champion Lakers.
"I think Chauncey will go down as one of the greatest winners," Karl said. "His record of seven or eight conference finals is, I mean, that's incredible. I think that's who he is, that's what he stands for. He brought one of them to us. Last year we had a miserable ending. I think there's many people, including myself, that will be sad for Chauncey. I know he loves Denver and we love him, but things happen. There's decisions that have to be made.
"I'm 100 percent behind the decision we made, even though it will be dangerous and there won't be the veteran point guard back there," Karl added. "Felton, I thought was having a great season this year. But I think Ty [Lawson] and Felton are going to have a great challenge to live up to what Chauncey has given us in past years."
Asked who his starting point guard would be, Karl said, "Probably Ty," then got into his maroon SUV and drove away.
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo and Ian Begley, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.