Carmelo Anthony Believes Nuggets Still 'Disrespected'
Yet Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony still claims his team isn't getting any respect.
"We still feel disrespected,'' Anthony said after the latest dispatching of an NBA heavyweight, 114-105 Sunday over Boston at the Pepsi Center. "We still go out there with a chip on our shoulder. That chip is not going anywhere.''
Wait a minute. Who's disrespecting the Nuggets these days?
"You guys that write,'' Anthony said, referring to the media, although he didn't have any specific examples to offer.
Perhaps the Nuggets (37-19) don't feel disrespected when they face the likes of Sacramento, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Washington, Detroit and the Clippers. They've lost a combined eight times to those losing teams.
But against the other top four outfits in the NBA, mentioned above, the Nuggets are 6-0. If you want to throw in being 3-1 against Utah, they're 9-1 against the league's other top five teams.
"If we didn't have back-to-backs, I think we'll win every game in the NBA,'' said Anthony, referring to the Nuggets often losing to lesser teams on the second game of a back-to-back situation. "If we come out focused like we did (Sunday), like we did against the Lakers (having won two games by an average margin of 19.5 points), like we did against Cleveland the other night (a 118-116 road overtime win Thursday), we're a tough team to play with.''
Apparently, the Nuggets are tougher when they believe they are being disrespected. There is some truth to what Anthony said, although that word is bit strong and it's odd to point solely to the media.
There is a feeling from some top teams the Nuggets might not have joined them yet at the elite level. Earlier this season, Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he still didn't consider the Nuggets a rival despite battling them last season in a tough Western Conference final, won by the Lakers in six games.
Sunday, after watching Denver take a 20-point first-quarter lead and pull away again after Boston tied the score 66-66 in the third quarter, the Celtics (35-19) spoke well about the Nuggets. But there still seemed to be a "but'' following what was said.
"They're good,'' said Boston forward Kevin Garnett. "They score a lot of points. I don't think the thing about the Nuggets has ever been, 'Are they good enough?' It's about the time of the year, obviously that being playoffs, how better can they get?
"That's always been the big question mark when I've ever watched them. I've seen them blow teams out and then, for whatever reason, they'll be totally opposite.''
Until last season, the Nuggets had lost five straight years in the first round of the playoffs, with no series even going to a sixth game. The Nuggets finally broke though last spring, winning two series 4-1 before giving the Lakers quite a battle.
Apparently, it still hasn't been enough. Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who steered his team to the 2008 NBA title, lauded the Nuggets but also let it be known the playoffs are where it counts.
"They're just as good as anybody else,'' Rivers said. "They can win it all. We can win it all. But you don't get a trophy for the regular season.''
Boston guard Ray Allen concurred, saying, "Playoff basketball is a different monster.''
Allen never has been one to throw around too much praise about a George Karl-coached team. While playing for Karl in Milwaukee from 1998-2003, the two often clashed.
Allen was asked after the game if he had any plans to provide well wishes to the Nuggets coach following his recent revelation about being diagnosed with throat cancer. Read what you want into his answer, and consider it came after a tough defeat.
"I hadn't even thought about it yet,'' Allen said.
There are plenty of folks wishing Karl the best after he said last Tuesday he learned in January he has a treatable form of cancer. But Karl wonders if all of this outpouring of support could be a distraction.
Karl said the emotions of his announcement, along with Thursday's big win over Cleveland, played a role in Denver's surprising 107-97 defeat Friday at Washington. But there were no apparent distractions Sunday after Karl got a standing ovation before the game and the Nuggets then blitzed the Celtics 37-19 in the first quarter.
"I don't want to be the story,'' said Karl, whose Nuggets got 26 points from guard Chauncey Billups and 23 from Anthony. "I just want to be part of this challenge and win my battle (against cancer) and hopefully win an NBA championship.''
Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry said last week it remains to be seen how the Nuggets will respond due to Karl's illness. Karl, who began a 6 1/2-week radiation and chemotherapy treatment program last Tuesday, will miss some games and practices the remainder of the regular season.
Anthony has seen a difference in Karl since his revelation. But he believes basketball can be the coach's sanctuary.
"He's more calm,'' said the high-scoring Anthony (who had a season-high eight assists Sunday, saying "some nights I got to be Batman (and) some nights I got to be Robin.")
"You can tell he's thinking about it. Anybody would think about that. That's on his mind all day long. It's funny because he can come in here and kind of get it out of his mind a little bit when he's coaching games and at practice. As long as he's in the gym, he tries to forget about it. But I know it's hard to do.''
One thing, though, Anthony doesn't want to be forgotten on the Nuggets is his belief they're being disrespected.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson