NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Cross another superstar off the New Jersey Nets’ wish list, and let the pursuit of Carmelo Anthony begin anew.
The megadeal to bring Anthony to New Jersey ended in stunning fashion on Wednesday night when Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov told the team to end the long, drawn-out trade talks with the Denver Nuggets.
"There comes a time when the price is simply too expensive," Prokhorov said in a news conference before the Nets faced the Utah Jazz. "I am instructing our team to walk away from the deal."
In the past two weeks, the talks had taken on a soap-opera feeling and the Russian billionaire felt it had hurt his team.
"Really, I am not happy with the way the deal has gone until now," said Prokhorov, who fielded questions in English and Russian. "It has taken too long. It has been played out in public. The uncertainty has taken a toll on the players ... and I believe it has cost us several games."
The Nets have lost six straight, including all four on a just-completed West Coast road trip that ended in Oakland on Monday.
Prokhorov also canceled a planned meeting with Anthony on Thursday and said there was no chance — that’s a big nyet — that the trade would be resurrected.
There were reports Wednesday that Anthony’s representatives had let the Nuggets know that the 26-year-old forward was interested in playing for the Chicago Bulls. Houston and the Knicks also have been mentioned in trade talks involving Anthony.
The deal between the Nets, Nuggets and Detroit Pistons was huge in name power and the number of players.
New Jersey had offered to ship six players and at least two first-round draft picks to Denver in a three-team deal that would have sent Anthony to the Nets along with former Pistons teammates Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton.
Prokhorov decided Tuesday to end talks with the Nuggets, and general manager Billy King said he informed them via a text message as Prokhorov was speaking on Wednesday.
Prokhorov said the Nets received permission from Denver to talk with Anthony on Monday night, but he never spoke to the All-Star forward.
"Maybe he sent me an e-mail but I never use computer, that’s why, maybe, I missed it or maybe carrier pigeon got lost," Prokhorov said.
Since Prokhorov took over the team last year, the Nets have tried but failed to land a superstar.
Prokhorov personally led the Nets’ delegation in free agency talks with LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in July, and he said the decision to pursue Anthony since the start of training camp was purely based on basketball.
However, Prokhorov showed he didn’t make billions waiting for other people to make decisions. When he got fed up, he said enough.
"I am not ready to overpay," Prokhorov said. "As soon as you make a mistake, you can wait for the next chance for the next five or six years. That’s why I prefer to be really patient."
Prokhorov even showed a touch of sarcasm when asked if King tried to talk him out of the decision.
"I am not sure that Billy King knows," he said with a wry smile.
King, who was hired to replace Rod Thorn in the offseason, said the Nets and Nuggets never reached an agreement at any time during the negotiations.
"I am not disappointed at all," King said. "It’s been a long process. In all my years, 16 years in the NBA, I have never seen anything like this."
King said he came close to calling off the deal himself during the talks.
"There were times in my mind I wrestled with the same idea, because you get to a point where you say enough is enough," said King, who said he was frustrated by "everything" in the talks.
The coverage of the proposed trade has dominated league news for weeks, with many wondering whether the three-team trade would ever get done, or whether Anthony would agree to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension that was a must for New Jersey to make the deal.
What has made the situation so interesting is the deal involved eight players on the Nets and up to 15 players on the three teams.
"I think every player on our roster was mentioned in some way expect Brook (Lopez)," King said. "There comes a point in time where they have to focus. It is their job, but they have families and they read or hear things that may or may not be true and that’s what I care about."
King planned to talk to the players on Thursday about moving forward, saying the situation took a toll on the team.
The proposed deal had New Jersey sending point guard Devin Harris, rookie power forward Derrick Favors, the third draft pick overall, guards Anthony Morrow, Quinton Ross and Ben Uzoh, swingman Stephen Graham and at least two first-round draft picks to Denver.
Besides Anthony and Billups, the Nuggets would’ve sent Shelden Williams and Terrico White, who is injured, to the Nets. The Pistons would’ve received veteran Troy Murphy and center Johan Petro for Hamilton. Murphy has a $12 million contract that will expire after this season.
King said Murphy has asked to be traded and will be allowed to stay home until a deal is finalized.
King called the seemingly never-ending talks on a Melo deal a perfect storm, with the Nuggets and Nets both dealing with new ownerships and managements.
"There is no blame for anyone," he said. "We all worked hard to get a deal done, we just couldn’t get one."
King added Nets will now move on.
"This is not like the Titanic, this happens and the ship sinks," King said, adding the Nets’ have five first-rounds picks in the next two years and plenty of cap space.