FIRST, TO CUBAN: "There is not one grain of truth in there,'' Cuban emailed in response to questions about a CBSSports.com report linking Dallas and Anthony.
That seems rather sweeping, so we emailed him back. ... poking for more specifics.
"I've said all I needed to say,'' Cuban tells DallasBasketball.com.
Let's separate "what's new'' from "what we already knew'' …
‘TOUCHING BASE': We wrote a week ago that the Mavs are "continuing to touch base'' with the Nuggets. In that sense, the CBSSports.com report is not breaking new ground in noting Dallas' interest. This is a process that began in mid-August. It continues every day.
So we assume that Mark is talking about the supposedly new "grains of truth.''
AN OFFER?: The fine CBS beat writer Ken Berger is reporting that "the Mavs' interest has yet to take the form of a concrete offer, as one person connected to the Anthony drama told CBSSports.com Tuesday that Dallas had yet to present one.''
That mirrors what we've already written, too – and we've gone beyond that, detailing what the Mavs will offer up in trade to acquire Anthony if and when the time is right … and how in Denver's eyes, it isn't enough:
Whenever Dallas calls to bring up its grab-bag of assets – let's say, $3 million cash, two first-round draft picks, Roddy Beaubois, Butler's $10.8 mil expiring and DeShawn Stevenson's $4.1 mil expiring -- the Nuggets come away leaving the impression that they can and will do better.
ABOUT THAT EXTENSION: Which brings us to the intricacies of attempting to get Anthony to sign an extension – or to not bother doing so.
Early this summer, DB.com reported that the Mavericks were generally opposed to the concept of a "rent-a-player'' and that they would want Anthony or whomever to execute a Sign-and-Extend upon completion of the deal. (A little-known wrinkle here: An extension can formally be part of a trade. The NBA has a provision in the rules that allows an Extend-and-Trade that works the very same way a Sign-and-Trade does. In this case, ‘Melo would sign an extension with Denver that is conditioned on his trade to some specified team within 48 hours.)
They began to soften on that position – again, speaking generally -- a few weeks ago, for a number of reasons. Berger is arguing that among those is …
THE MAVS ORGANIZING A ‘SHIFT': Berger writes:
Part of Dallas' strategy, according to sources, is to shift the Anthony discussions to what Cuban recently called the "rent-a-player" phase, which
would drive down the price and encourage other teams to present offers without assurances that Anthony would stay put for five years -- the two he
has remaining (including the early-termination option for 2011-12) plus the extension.
This may be part of what Cuban is "furious'' about. It suggests a sort of "sabotage'' of another organization that the Mavs organization certainly isn't going to cop to.
We're not quite clear on how this would work, anyway. How would Dallas force a "shift'' away from New Jersey on the part of New York, Chicago, Houston and anyone else interested in obtaining Anthony?
Again, though, the Rent-a-‘Melo concept is not a new one … it's just newly reported by media people outside of Dallas. Cuban has said it out loud, on one occasion while visiting with Ben & Skin during a broadcast of the D-League Texas Legends' home opener.
"It just depends on who the guy is and what we'd have to give up,'' Cuban said then. "(But) we'll play rent-a-player, no question about it."
In our DB.com Mavs Podcast here with Rob Mahoney of TheTwoManGame.com, Rob touches on a noteworthy angle about the "newness'' of some of this being about how "sources'' are now revealing these thoughts to media members outside of Dallas, outside of Ben, Skin and Fisher.
That is a valid point; Before, this was a serious-enough issue to be whispered about on a local level. Now … somebody … wants it shouted about on a national level.
Obviously, though that "somebody'' wasn't Cuban. He doesn't seem pleased that ‘Melo-to-the-Mavs is now a more "national'' story than ever. One clear reason for this: He and GM Donnie Nelson have long advocated a "family'' atmosphere with players, and part of that is attempting to not expose them to being included in trade rumors.
That protective bent is especially appropriate right now as the Mavs are 23-5 and confident that they are an elite team as presently constructed.
Dallas management doesn't need Caron Butler and others seeing their names tossed about on "SportsCenter.'' That's bad for 23-5 business.
It's also reason for Cuban to protest loudly and to urge rumor-mongers (including us) to "step away from your crack dealer.
THE MAVS CULTURE: And then, regarding the extension issue and the Chemistry Vibe thing, there is this: We are convinced that Mark Cuban – bursting with confidence, as always, that the "Mavericks culture'' is a persuasive one – believes an immersion in that culture would result in Anthony wanting to eventually re-sign with Dallas.
As one source tells DB.com, using two short-and-sweet examples: "Kidd came back. He loves it here. Chandler's here now. He never wants to leave.''
THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE I: As we've noted frequently, there are obstacles to persuading Denver to deal with Dallas.
One of the largest, as we've written:
As it's been explained to us: Denver's youthful rookie management tandem of GM Masai Ujiri and owner's son Josh Kroenke believes this transaction will loom on their resumes … and they have no interest in seeing Anthony come back to haunt them multiple times per season for the next decade.
THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE II: Another: New Jersey's offer will top Dallas', in terms of what the Nuggets want as rebuilding pieces. Everyone knows Derrick Favors will be involved, and so will multiple No. 1 picks. Troy Murphy is a candidate. We'd written exclusively that Devin Harris might be involved in the conversations, too.
And we're sticking with that part of the story.
Again, to be clear: We think a Dallas offer is worthy. What we've written before:
The most feasible Mav offer is fairly obvious. It would send Caron Butler (who also plays SF, is a multiple time All-Star, and has a team-friendly expiring contract) to fill ‘Melo's place in the Denver lineup and provide the bulk of the needed contract matching for the trade. Then it would add any three of four young talents (Beaubois, Jones, Mahinmi, Ajinca), and with Butler that would satisfy the NBA rules. Add two No. 1 picks, include the option for Denver to take all four kids if they prefer, and it's a sweet deal with no junk.
For Denver, it offers lots of positives. For starters, it would reduce Denver's current payroll (and tax) by $3-to-4 million, and there would be almost no long-term salary commitment for the future, with plenty of opportunity to retain young talents on cheap contracts. With Butler, they would have several ways to get added pluses, first by using him this season to help get the team to the playoffs, with the ability to perhaps sign him to a new deal in the summer, or to offer him in a sign-and-trade to realize different gains.
But we are told BY people inside the Mavericks organization that the Nuggets organization does not agree with our lofty evaluation of that package.
SO WHERE'S THE NEW NEWS?: So what facet of Berger's coverage is new?
"Sources say Jason Kidd is driving force behind team's Melo push,'' Berger writes. And maybe now we are getting somewhere.
Kidd is the Mavs' "recruiting coordinator,'' in a sense. He was involved in the Summer Shopping process as he tried to convince LeBron James to consider the Mavs. He was involved in making certain Dirk Nowitzki re-upped. He is a respected dean in the eyes of virtually every player in the NBA.
So Kidd being involved in in-house discussions with Mavs execs? Sensible. (Know that Dirk would be consulted, too.)
Now, what about Kidd calling ‘Melo? Different deal. Gotta watch out for tampering there … though after what Miami did with LeBron and what the Knicks have done with Chris Paul and with ‘Melo, the NBA's tampering rules are now laughable.
The last time I talked to Kidd about this was at training camp, when through me, he blasted a report that had him coaching ‘Melo away from going to New Jersey, Kidd's old stomping grounds.
"Bullshit,'' he told me. "I don't even have Carmelo's phone number.''
I believed him.
But I'm sure Kidd can get ‘Melo's number. You know, if he ever needs it.
SOMETHING ELSE TO PISS CUBAN OFF: Berger writes, "Owner Mark Cuban is said to be not only willing to take a chance on Anthony, but eager to steal him from the Nets, who are owned by his billionaire rival, Mikhail Prokhorov.''
With all due respect to Ken, we find this to be … outrageous. The Mavs are considering a trade because their owner has a "rivalry'' with another owner who has been in the league for all of three months?
We're working on the assumption that Cuban's recent playful jab as the Russian owner – Tony Cubes called him a "p----‘' – is errantly finding its way into the reporter's thoughts.
Cuban and Prokhorov are friends. The Mavs want ‘Melo so they can win a championship, not so the Nets don't.
MORE ‘CHEMISTRY VIBE': What about the idea that a new player with ‘Melo's profile would upset Dallas' "Chemistry Vibe''? Is Cuban wise to be reluctant to tinker with something working so well?
There are risks. … Dallas could take a step backwards, at least temporarily, if it makes changes. But this would represent the grand-slam home run the organization has been forever swinging for. KIDDIRK create instant chemistry with almost everyone due to their talents, unselfishness, personality and leadership. Adding ‘Melo would be a gigantic offensive positive. While he sometimes lacks effort as a defender, he would likely buy into the same Rick Carlisle formula that has inspired players like Nowitzki and Jason Terry to become better defenders. Anthony/Nowitzki would provide Dallas the star power to truly better anybody.
But most of that isn't "new'' … it's just being newly reported – and if you believe Mark Cuban, "newly'' and "inaccurately'' reported.