Carmelo Anthony Denies Asking for Trade, Still Pondering Extension
While leaving the Pepsi Center on Monday afternoon after having addressed reporters during media day, the Denver star forward said he feels the same way he did when he talked June 6 with FanHouse about how he wouldn't rush into deciding whether or not to sign a three-year, $64.7 million extension with the Nuggets.
"I'm taking my time,'' Anthony said in Monday's brief interview with FanHouse.
Asked if anything has changed since he said the night of Game 2 of the NBA Finals he might wait until after the season starts or even right up until the June 30, 2011 extension deadline to make up his mind, Anthony said, "No.''
Asked then if all the rumors surrounding Anthony about to dealt imminently are bothering him, Anthony said, "I'm just living, man.''
Reports have run rampant recently about the Nuggets being close to dealing Anthony. One proposed trade has had him possibly going to New Jersey in a four-team deal in which the Nuggets would receive Nets rookie forward Derrick Favors, Utah forward Andrei Kirilenko and a first-round draft choice.
Speaking during media day Monday, his first comments to reporters since Aug. 15, Anthony claimed he never has expressed a desire to be traded.
"I never said I wanted to be traded,'' Anthony said. "I never once said that.''
Anthony, though, wouldn't answer directly as to whether he wants to stay in Denver for the long-term.
"I've been a Nugget for seven years,'' said Anthony, sitting at a podium, wearing his familiar power blue and white No. 15 Denver jersey. "This is where I started my NBA career at. This is where I'm here (Monday). ... I never once said anything about trade talks. There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors going on this summer about where I'm going to end up, the Nuggets want to trade me, I want to be traded. That's for my team and front office to discuss. I'm here to focus on basketball and training camp (starting Tuesday).''
Anthony is under contract this season for $17.15 million and can opt out of a deal next summer that would pay him $18.52 million in 2011-12. If he opts out, though, it's not out of the question he could lose a lot of money if a new collective bargaining agreement severely cuts maximum salary amounts.
But while Anthony seems perfectly content to wait on deciding whether to accept the extension offer, the Nuggets don't want to lose him next summer for nothing. If Anthony has not yet signed an extension by next February's trade deadline, they obviously have to consider dealing him.
There were no indications Monday that Anthony was about to be traded imminently. Nuggets coach George Karl talked about having discussions with Anthony over the next few days. Masai Ujiri, who took over last month as Denver's executive vice president of basketball operations, spoke to Anthony in person for the first time on the job Monday and talked about continuing to have conversations with him.
"(Monday) was my first meeting with him,'' Ujiri, who had talked to Anthony previously on the phone, said in an interview with FanHouse. "We're going to meet with him again. We'll talk. He's going to meet with (Karl), and they'll talk. Let's take this a day at a time. That's fair.''
Ujiri would not reveal specifics about his conversation Monday with Anthony.
"For now, we've talked and we want to keep what we talked about (private),'' Ujiri said. "There's going to be rumors. Teams will always call and ask. Responding, that's my job. But we'll take it a day at a time."
The Nuggets apparently only want to trade Anthony if they feel the situation is hopeless. But team officials were encouraged by how Monday went. They continue to hope Anthony, who has concerns about Denver's long-time ability to compete, can be convinced to stay.
"I think it was encouraging for me,'' said Karl, who will return to practice Tuesday for the first time since missing the final 1 ½ months of last season due to a form of throat cancer, said of Monday. "The analogy I'm making is Kobe Bryant.''
Karl talked about how the Lakers star wanted to be dealt in the summer of 2007. All has been well since the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol on Feb. 1, 2008, and the Lakers have been to three straight NBA Finals, winning the past two.
"I don't know why (Anthony) wants to leave or if he does want to leave,'' Karl said. "My thing is to try to keep him here. We have a positive relationship ... I can make an argument that Denver can be a better destination spot (than some of the cities rumored where Anthony might land). It's a great city. It's a good sports town.''
Karl said it "blew me away'' when all rumors began to heat up about Anthony being on the verge of being traded. He said he has been assured at times by Ujiri not to fret.
"In my experience, I don't think there's been that many deals that have been legit and I don't think we want to trade Melo,'' Karl said. "We're never going to hang up on people. That's not Masai's job. Musai's job is to know what's out there.''
Ujiri has to know what's out there due to Anthony being in no hurry to seriously address an extension offer that has been on the table since June. But at least Anthony did say Monday's conversation with Ujiri was positive.
"I'm here, man,'' Anthony said. "I'm here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds. I'm not going to discuss what me and (Ujiri) talked about. It was a good conversation. Actually, it was a great conversation. I'm here today. Practice starts (Tuesday) and we'll go from there.
"I'm leaving my options open (regarding signing the extension with the Nuggets). Right now, at the end of the season, I'll sit down with my team, sit down with the Nuggets, we'll discuss it and go from there. It's been a long summer for me with all the speculations and rumors.''
Regarding Anthony saying he will evaluate his options after the season, he was asked by FanHouse following the press conference whether it would make it more difficult for the Nuggets if he doesn't give them any kind of answer by February.
"I have no information (on that),'' Anthony said. "You've got to talk to Masai.''
Ujiri wouldn't speculate on whether the Nuggets would feel they would have to trade Anthony if they still don't know by the February trade deadline whether he will accept the extension. The Nuggets also have to evaluate whether they feel they can get a better offer now for Anthony than in February, when they might be more desperate to trade him.
Another factor remains which teams Anthony would immediately agree to sign an extension with, locking him up through 2014-15. Obviously, teams would offer better packages if they knew they would have Anthony for the long-term.
It's believed Anthony would have to agree to sign an extension with the Nets if they were to make that reported four-team deal, which also would include Charlotte and Utah. Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin, who played with the Nets from 2000-04, was asked if he would speak to Anthony about New Jersey.
"You're speaking on a rumor,'' Martin said. "I'm not going to waste my time speaking on a rumor. That's all. Carmelo is a Denver Nugget. He's a Denver Nugget bottom line until anything changes.''
Anthony's teammates sure hope nothing changes any time soon.
"I expect him to be here,'' said guard J.R. Smith. "I'm expecting and hoping he is here ... I think he wants to (stay). But it's a business. We'll find out.''
Forward Al Harrington says he's "optimistic'' Anthony will stay if Denver gets off to a good start this season. He said he was joking with Anthony about the trade rumors and Anthony told him very seriously, "I'm a Nugget.''
"He knows that the city loves him,'' guard Chauncey Billups said of Anthony. "I don't have to tell him that. He knows that we love playing with him. I don't have to tell him that.''
Smith and Billups both admitted, as did Karl, that uncertainty surrounding Anthony could be a distraction as the Nuggets seek to return to their 2008-09 form, when they made it to the Western Conference finals. With Karl out last season, the Nuggets were upset in the first round of the playoffs by Utah.
The Nuggets, with Karl, Smith, Billups, Martin among those all possibly in their last seasons with the team, are seen as a team likely on the decline. That's one reason Anthony might want out, having spoken in June about the whether the Nuggets are a team he "can win with'' being a factor in his ultimate decision.
"The man has until next July to sign an extension,'' Martin said of Anthony's extension deadline, which actually is a day before the start of July. "Why is anybody making it a big deal?''
It can be downplayed now. But if the Nuggets don't have any answer from Anthony by the February trade deadline, they certainly will consider it a big deal.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson