Talks progress in three-team deal, Rockets enter fray for Melo

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While the Rockets don't have a franchise talent like New Jersey's Derrick Favors, they can offer cap relief in the expiring contract of Yao Ming ($17.7 million), Shane Battier ($7.4 million) and Jared Jeffries ($6.9 million), as well young talent like leading scorer Kevin Martin or Aaron Brooks, the NBA's 2009-10 Most Improved Player. Houston also has the right to swap draft picks with the Knicks in 2011 and it owns New York's pick outright in 2012.

It is unclear if Anthony would be willing to sign an extension with Houston or if the Rockets are willing to make a deal for Anthony without the extension. Sources told in August that Anthony would be willing to sign with the Rockets but that was before Yao's season-ending injury.

One source said that while the Rockets were discussing a trade for Anthony they were "not close" to a deal on Monday.

The Nets' push to acquire Anthony via a blockbuster, three-team deal dragged on Tuesday. New Jersey is still deep in discussions with the Nuggets and Pistons for a deal that would send Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton and Anthony Carter to New Jersey; Devin Harris, Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, Ben Uzoh and Stephen Graham to Denver; and Troy Murphy and Johan Petro to Detroit.

According to sources, Denver would recieve first-round draft picks from New Jersey, while the Pistons would get a second-round pick as extra compensation for taking on the salaries of Murphy and Petro. Murphy is in the final year of his contract, worth about $12 million, and according to a source, he'll seek a buyout if traded. Nets center Petro still has two years and approximately $6.8 million left on his deal. Detroit was reportedly seeking a first-round pick from the Nets for taking Murphy and Petro, but as of Monday morning, sources said the Pistons were talked down to a second-rounder.

That issue has since been resolved, a source said, with the rebuilding Pistons not willing to walk away from a deal that will ultimately save them close to $17 million.

"They weren't going to kill the deal over picks," said an executive involved in the talks. "They want to get rid of Rip and they know no one else is going to take him."

However, the proposed trade stalled again late on Sunday when Denver expressed interest in including Al Harrington in the deal. With the Nuggets now poised to begin a complete overhaul, sources say they are highly motivated to dump Harrington and the remaining four-years and $28 million on his contract.

New Jersey has balked at taking on Harrington, feeling the Orange, N.J., native's contract would significantly hurt the teams chances at landing another All-Star-caliber player over the next two years. As a result, sources say the Nuggets have been calling around trying to get a fourth team involved that would take Harrington.

Nuggets officials have grown increasingly upset about how much information is being leaked to the press. On Monday, Denver began warning teams, agents and anyone they have influence over that the leaks could jeopardize the proposed three-team deal. One source close to the process said Denver has issued a "gag order" to all parties.

Despite reports indicating Anthony was only willing to sign an extension with New York, New Jersey has never wavered in its belief that if a deal could be brokered with Denver, then Anthony would sign the three-year, $65 million extension the Nuggets offered him last June. The inclusion of Hamilton, who has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract, is another sign that Anthony is willing to agree to an extension with the Nets.

A league executive involved with the talks texted Sunday that "Melo will sign with Jersey. Nets are completely convinced of that now."

The driving force between the latest trade scenario, which was first reported by The Bergen Record of Hackensack, N.J. on Friday, is Leon Rose, who represents both Anthony and Hamilton and has been pushing the Nets to include Detroit in the discussion.

The Knicks, who have long been viewed to be Anthony's top choice, have never been seriously involved in the discussions for the forward. While New York can offer Denver more talent (Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Landry Fields have been made available), they don't have the draft picks the Nuggets crave. The Knicks don't have a first-round pick to trade until the 2014 season.

By acquiring Billups, 34, and Hamilton, 32, the Nets believe they can meet Anthony's desire to be competitive now while selling him on their ability to use his presence and a new $900 million arena in Brooklyn to make additional moves to acquire an elite free agent in 2012. On Tuesday, Nets officials released a photo of construction of the Barclays Center along with a release stating that the arena was on scheduled for an opening in the summer of 2012. Orlando's Dwight Howard and New Orleans' Chris Paul are, according to sources, both free agent targets of the Nets in '12.