New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, through his spokeswoman, has publicly restated last month's proclamation that his team is done chasing a trade for Carmelo Anthony.
"Mikhail has not changed his mind," Ellen Pinchuk told The Associated Press in an e-mail Thursday.
But sources close to the situation told ESPN.com the Denver Nuggets -- after widespread reports Wednesday said the Nets have indeed rejoined the New York Knicks in trying to trade for Anthony -- are operating under the assumption that Prokhorov and Anthony finally will meet face-to-face at All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles and making renewed progress toward a deal with the Nets.
Anthony, speaking Friday at a NBA Cares Day of Service event in Los Angeles, said "no meeting at all" is scheduled with the Nets. Calling it "news to me," Anthony said: "If I was to meet with that guy [Prokhorov] to be honest I really don't know what I would say."
Anthony added: "I know this is the All-Star week but it's also a big week for me as far as having some knowledge about my situation."
He said he would like to have "something up in stone before I leave here this weekend" and he might "not get any more sleep for the next four or five days."
Asked whether he wants to meet directly with his suitors before making a deal, Anthony said: "I think, with anything in business, you want to sit and look in a person's eyes. Whether it's Prokhorov or it's [Knicks owner James] Dolan, whether it's [Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry] Buss, the third team that just came out last week. Whoever it is, you want to sit and have eye contact with them and get a feel for 'em."
This is the third time since September the Nuggets and Nets have reached an advanced stage in negotiations for an Anthony trade, but the New York Daily News reported in Friday's editions that Anthony will also meet face-to-face with Dolan in Los Angeles. It's an open secret around the league that the Knicks are Anthony's preferred destination.
A source told ESPN's Ric Bucher on Friday that Anthony would sign the extension with New Jersey if the Knicks can't make a deal.
The Nuggets would encourage Anthony's meeting with Prokhorov, sources said, because trading with New Jersey has always appealed more to the Nuggets than dealing with the Knicks, since Denver is known to covet Nets rookie Derrick Favors more than any other player who's been made available to them in a saga that dates to mid-September.
Sources say the Nuggets, furthermore, remain well aware that New Jersey will not consent to an Anthony trade, no matter what is agreed upon between the teams, unless Anthony agrees to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the Nets as part of the swap.
The Bergen Record, citing sources, reported on its website Friday that the Nets and Nuggets have reached a "tentative agreement" on an Anthony deal, but reiterated that any deal remains contingent on Anthony signing the extension.
If Anthony says yes, the Record reported that the Nets will get Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Melvin Ely and Renaldo Balkman from the Nuggets.
In turn, the Nets would send Favors, Devin Harris, Troy Murphy, Ben Uzoh and four first-round picks to Denver.
Yahoo! Sports reported the same names would be involved in the deal on Thursday night.
But sources told ESPN.com on Thursday night not all of those picks would wind up in Denver's hands. At least one of the first-rounders is earmarked to be packaged with Murphy to a third team -- either in this trade or in a separate deal -- because the Nuggets have maintained for months that they're unwilling to absorb Murphy's $12 million expiring contract for luxury-tax reasons. The Nets and Nuggets have engaged numerous teams this season -- including Minnesota, Cleveland and Detroit -- in an attempt to find a landing spot, other than Denver, for Murphy.
The Daily News reported Friday the Knicks' schedule sitdown with Anthony would be similar to the ones that Creative Artists Agency -- which represents Anthony and LeBron James -- set up for James last summer in Cleveland.
Before Prokhorov so forcefully announced on Jan. 19 he was pulling the Nets out of the Anthony chase, New Jersey was pressing hard to secure a face-to-face meeting with the All-Star forward so the Russian billionaire and Nets minority owner Jay-Z could directly sell Anthony on the team's future in Brooklyn and address Anthony's presumed reluctance to sign the extension.
Sources told ESPN.com Thursday night that Prokhorov, despite Pinchuk's statement, has been negotiating directly with Nuggets ownership this week while awaiting confirmation of a meeting where the Nets finally might be able to lobby Anthony to abandon his longstanding determination to be a Knick.
The trading deadline is 3 p.m. ET Thursday.
The Knicks have been reluctant for months to part with promising youngsters such as Danilo Gallinari and rookie swingman Landry Fields, believing that gutting their roster to get Anthony makes little long-term sense. Yet one source close to the situation echoed the rising belief that team president and general manager Donnie Walsh might have no choice if Knicks owner James Dolan, as many observers anticipate, takes a Melo-at-all-costs stance.
"Don't forget Donnie is still trying to get a contract extension," said the source, suggesting that finding a way to acquire Anthony now, whatever the Knicks give up, might be the clincher for Walsh to get his own extension.
Yet it's believed that Anthony once and for all can squash New Jersey's interest if he tells Prokhorov himself that he doesn't want to sign the extension with the Nets. Prokhorov longs to have a full-fledged star in place before the franchise's planned move to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season, but New Jersey can't give up assets such as Favors and multiple draft picks without knowing it has Anthony locked up for the long term.
Sources said that New York and New Jersey, entering All-Star Weekend, were the only two teams seriously engaged with the Nuggets in Anthony talks.
One source said that the Dallas Mavericks -- long considered at the top of the list of teams willing to gamble on trading for Anthony without his signature on a contract extension -- have been sufficiently convinced that Anthony remains determined to ultimately be a Knick. The source said the Mavs have thus decided there's no way they could include prized young guard Roddy Beaubois in a trade with Denver because keeping Anthony beyond this season will be so difficult.
The Nets have remained quietly confident all season -- despite the collapse of multi-team near-deals for Anthony in September (involving Charlotte and Utah) and January (Detroit) -- that Anthony eventually would agree to extend with them after meeting with Prokhorov and Jay-Z.
The Nets also have to sell Anthony on their plans going forward, particularly how they plan to add a top-flight teammate such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard.
ESPN.com reported Wednesday that Anthony, meanwhile, has grown frustrated with New York's inability to complete the trade and corresponding reports that the Knicks are hesitant to surrender Gallinari and/or Fields for him.
Representatives at CAA pushed for the meeting between Anthony and Dolan, sources said. They also said Anthony wants to know how badly the Knicks want him, as well as how the franchise plans to build around him, such as whether it will have the money to add a top player in summer 2012. ESPN.com reported earlier this week that Anthony's frustration stems from the fact that it appears Knicks officials have taken his desire to play for them for granted.
Sources close to Anthony have long maintained that the 26-year-old wants to wind up in New York so much that he'd be willing to opt out of the final year of his current contract and become a free agent this summer, even if that meant potentially losing millions of dollars under the terms of the next collective bargaining agreement.
But Anthony's willingness to leave significant money on the table has seemed to wane as the Thursday trade deadline draws near.
ESPN.com also reported Wednesday that Denver likes Wilson Chandler, Gallinari, Fields and Timofey Mozgov and wants two, if not three, of those players as well as Knicks point guard Raymond Felton in exchange for Billups.
There have been numerous reports that such a deal also would include a first-round pick from Minnesota going to Denver -- with the Timberwolves acquiring Anthony Randolph from the Knicks -- but New York is clearly reluctant to part with so much of Amare Stoudemire's supporting cast.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. Chris Broussard is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.