The New York Knicks have reached out to Memphis about participating in a three-team deal that would send Grizzlies guard O.J. Mayo to Denver and Carmelo Anthony to New York, according to league sources.
Emboldened by their belief that Anthony will refuse to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the New Jersey Nets, the Knicks inquired about Mayo independently of the Nuggets in an effort to enhance a trade package to Denver that would bring Anthony to New York.
But Denver has no interest in Mayo, sources close to the situation said Friday.
The Nets, Nuggets and Pistons still are in discussions on a trade that may involve more than 13 players and hope to have it wrapped up by next week, the Bergan (N.J.) Record reported.
The Knicks have tried to engage Denver in trade talks all season, but the Nuggets, unmoved by the players New York has to offer, have been unwilling to partake in significant discussions. Sources, however, say that is changing as the Nuggets themselves wonder whether Anthony is willing to go to New Jersey.
The Knicks understand they need to recruit another trade partner or two in order to put together a package Denver would be interested in, and that's their motivation for inquiring about Mayo.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh denied to the New York Daily News Thursday night that the team was in talks with the Nuggets or the Grizzlies.
Although Mayo, who has one year, $5.6 million remaining on his contract after this season, does not have the leverage to stop a possible deal, sources say he would not be happy with a trade to Denver.
After nearly three years of rebuilding in Memphis, Mayo is looking to go to a winning situation, according to the sources. He understands that without Anthony, Denver would be starting over.
Mayo, however, would like to go to the Knicks.
The Knicks' only interest in Mayo is to aid them in acquiring Anthony.
The Knicks also will need at least one first-round draft pick to grab Denver's attention, and New York is confident it can get such a pick for Anthony Randolph from one of several clubs. Sources say Indiana was willing to trade a first-round pick to New York for Randolph last summer.
Though the Nuggets weren't impressed with those names early in the season, their strong play during the Knicks' resurgence has increased their value, according to sources.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets continue to discuss a possible three-team deal with the Nets and Pistons. The Nets would receive Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Detroit's Richard Hamilton while Denver would get Nets rookie Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round draft picks and several other minor players. The Pistons would bring home Troy Murphy, Johan Petro and a second-round pick from the Nets.
But even if the clubs agree to a deal, Anthony could kill it by refusing to sign an extension to play long-term in New Jersey. Several sources say Anthony does not want to play in New Jersey and thus far has given no indication that he would sign such an extension.
One source close to the negotiations said that the most recent discussions between the Nuggets and Nets have not yet made Denver forward Al Harrington part of the trade, despite the fact that the Nuggets' determination to include Harrington was widely regarded as one of the key factors that derailed the teams' negotiations last weekend.
Attempts to find a fourth team to join the trade that would be willing to absorb the four years and nearly $28 million remaining on Harrington's contract have thus far been unsuccessful, even though the final two years of that deal are not fully guaranteed.
The Nets, sources said, have been planning for the face-to-face meetings with Anthony that would be required -- and which ESPN.com reported last month would be cleared by the Nuggets -- to convince the 25-year-old to commit to the three-year, $65 million extension with New Jersey that would clinch the trade.
Sources say Nets part-owner Jay-Z, who has a friendship with Anthony, could meet with the All-Star forward early next week, but it's also believed that a sitdown with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov -- who is not expected in the country until Wednesday -- will ultimately be required to fully sell the Russian billionaire's plans for building his Brooklyn-bound team around the Brooklyn-born Anthony.
Anthony's agent, Leon Rose, has been pushing for a deal with New Jersey and, in an effort to get the star to sign off on the trade, several people have been telling Anthony that New York doesn't want to break up its current team to get him, according to sources.
Sources say that's why Anthony made the curious comment Monday in which he wondered whether the Knicks even wanted him.
"New York is playing well right now. I don't think they're looking at me," Anthony said. "They wouldn't want me to come in there and mess what they have up. That's what I've read."
But the Knicks are very interested in Anthony. The club's preference would be to sign him as a free agent next summer and thereby keep the current roster intact.
But in that scenario, Anthony would not receive the $65 million extension, and with a new collective bargaining agreement on the horizon, he would risk losing millions of dollars by entering free agency.
If Anthony eventually nixes a move to New Jersey and tells Denver he will sign an extension only with New York, the Nuggets likely would either trade him to the Knicks or a club such as Houston that would be willing to trade for him without his signing an extension.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.