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Carmelo Anthony trade: Knicks drama revolves around Melo deal -- and are Lakers opting out?

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Tension over a possible Carmelo Anthony trade keeps increasing. Denials from team sources that the L.A. Lakers are discussing a Melo swap have been followed by the sort of organizational silence that tends to fuel speculation. Meanwhile, suggestions that the Knicks are balking at an Anthony deal have been countered by reports that talks continue.

The latter info is embedded in a New York Times article about the future of Donnie Walsh, the Knicks general manager. Walsh's contract expires on June 30, and the Knicks must pick up his option by the end of April. In the meantime, most observers believe former Nuggets exec Mark Warkentien will be groomed as the Knicks' next GM, with his first mission to find a way to bring Melo to NYC.

But Walsh tells the Times that "I hired Warkentien... I hired him because he's a good basketball man and I can work with him. And he's been after me for a job for two years."

Adds the Times' Howard Beck: "The Knicks continue to quietly pursue Anthony."

Confirmation of this last fact is just as important as the Walsh-Warkentien dynamic. Walsh may believe he'll be able to remain captain of the ship for a while longer if Warkentien is in the fold -- the idea being that owner James Dolan will be reassured to see that a transitional plan is in place. And that scheme will only be enhanced if Warkentien and Walsh are able to obtain Melo's services without gutting a squad that's shown dramatic improvement following the acquisition of Amare Stoudemire.

Given these clues, the Knicks continue to have the inside track on Anthony in spite of Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's recent comments about his willingness to rent a superstar without assurance of a long-term contract extension. If the Lakers want to get into this game, they'd better hurry.

More from our Sports archive: "Carmelo Anthony trade: Did Amare Stoudemire, NY Knicks kill 4-way deal featuring NJ Nets?"

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