Posted Jan 19 2011 8:29PM - Updated Jan 20 2011 9:17AM
NEWARK -- Mikhail Prokhorov came to America and pulled the plug.
He arrived from Moscow this afternoon to celebrate "An Evening of Russian Culture," but before he did that, he may have affected the landscape of the NBA. The Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes, at least from the Nets' perspective, are over.
"Really, I am not happy with the way how this deal has gone until now," Prokhorov said at a news conference before the Nets played the Utah Jazz. "It has taken too long. It has been played out in public. And I'm certain it has taken a toll on the players. And I believe it has cost us several games.
"So I think the management of the team did a great job. But there comes a time when the price is simply too expensive. I'm instructing our team to walk away from the deal. And the meeting that was supposed to be held with our management tomorrow in Denver with Carmelo is hereby cancelled."
It was a sudden and stunning announcement, given how long and how hard Nets general manager Billy King and his staff had worked to bring Anthony to New Jersey, and how close they seemingly were to working out a trade with the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons.
A final deal was never agreed to, but basic parameters were in place and on Monday night, the Nuggets granted the Nets permission to meet with Anthony about a contract extension. King was set to fly to Denver on Thursday, but Prokhorov told him to stay home.
"We discussed it and this is what we came up with," King said. "It was his idea."
Various reports indicated that Anthony had no interest in becoming a Net. But both Prokhorov and Nets general manager Billy King insist that there was no indication either way as far as Anthony's desire to sign a contract extension with their team.
"We never talked to him," King said. "Never met."
There are two obvious questions here, and it's doubtful we'll ever get an answer to either on the record from the parties involved.
Question No. 1: If Anthony really was OK with wearing a Nets jersey for the next 4 ½ years, or at least was willing to listen to the team's sales pitch, then why are Prokhorov and King walking away less than 24 hours before they were set to meet?
Perhaps it's just a negotiating ploy. When asked what it was that made him finally decide to walk away, Prokhorov said, "It's my feeling of strategy." But both Prokhorov and King otherwise made it clear that the deal was unconditionally done. King was asked point blank if the Nets were definitely out of the trade discussions, and he didn't hesitate.
"Yep," he responded.
Question No. 2: If Anthony really had no intention of playing for New Jersey, then why did the Nuggets and Nets waste so much time and energy on working out a trade?
In an interview with Sports Illustrated this week, Anthony indicated that "the lines of communication are open" between him and Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri. But somewhere, there had to be a communication breakdown, because as trade negotiations became more and more public over the last month, the morale of both the Nuggets and Nets suffered greatly.
And either Anthony wasn't being completely honest with Denver, or Denver wasn't being completely honest with New Jersey.
Now, both teams, as well as the Pistons, have to find a way to move on.
Prokhorov restated his goal of winning a championship in five years, and King was quick to point out that the Nets are still stacked with assets.
"When you have the flexibility that we do with the picks and you can make some moves, [a quick turnaround] can happen," King said, noting how the Boston Celtics went from 24 wins to a championship in one year.
Denver won't find a deal as good as the one they would have got from New Jersey. They were set to receive a talented young big man in Derrick Favors, multiple draft picks, and millions of dollars in both short and long-term savings. In the same vein, it won't be easy for Detroit to find a landing spot for Richard Hamilton and the two years left on his contract.
The New York Knicks obviously benefit from all of this. All indications are that Anthony wants to join Amar'e Stoudemire at Madison Square Garden, and now that the Nets are out of the picture, Denver has little leverage in dealing with Knicks president Donnie Walsh.
There's still more than a month before the trade deadline. And Anthony will remain in the headlines until the Nuggets figure out what to do with their star.
For now, the headlines belong to Mikhail Prokhorov, who put on a show by putting an end to the drama.
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