George Karl's Advice to Carmelo to Keep Fans Happy: 'Sign the Extension'
"Sign the extension,'' Karl said Friday.
The small forward was booed when shown on the video board during a mixed martial arts event Thursday night in suburban Denver. That's because Anthony has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million extension offer that is on the table, which could lead to him being dealt by the February trade deadline.
How the fans treat a hesitant Anthony while he's in a Nuggets jersey won't first be known until Denver plays its first preseason game next Friday against Portland at the Pepsi Center.
"I think the fans have always been respectful here, and they want us to be the best basketball team,'' Karl said when asked what might happen with Anthony next Friday. "I think all cities want their players to be loyal to the city. So I think you're probably going to see both. So there's going to be some 'Melo love and some 'Melo hangup.''
Karl on Thursday met with Anthony. While Anthony said Thursday that Karl didn't try to put the hard sell on him, Karl said he did speak of the virtues of Denver and the Nuggets.
"In general, I thought it was a very positive conversation,'' Karl said. "It's kind of what I said in my press conference (earlier this week). I said to him, 'I think this is the best team for you from what I know of the situation. And I think it's a great city. Why can't this be the city that creates the great team? Next year we will have a salary-cap situation that will be the first time positive for five or six years.''
So does Karl feel better at the end of the week about keeping Anthony than he did at the start of the week?
"I don't have that information,'' Karl said. "I don't know if I want that information.''
Regardless, Karl continues to be pleased with his relationship with Anthony.
"We have a good rapport,'' Karl said. "We have a good interchange on most anything, from betting on the Steelers (Karl's team) and the Ravens (Anthony's team), to talking about Carolina (Karl's alma mater) and Syracuse (where Anthony went) to talking about our kids.''
As for another player who also has had his name is trade rumors, Karl would have no problem seeing guard J.R. Smith last the entire season with the Nuggets if he's on his best behavior. Earlier this week, Denver executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri told FanHouse he's confident Smith will be with the Nuggets all season.
"I'm fine with J.R. when he's playing the right way and playing with a good attitude,'' Karl said. "When he throws out that deflating, depression, negative energy that sometimes he can bring to the team, I don't think we're going to tolerate that this year.''
But Karl has been pleased with Smith so far in training camp.
"I'm hoping that he's better than he ever has been (this season),'' Karl said. "He's coming in in good shape. I'll have to check my notes, but J.R. has probably (had) solid practices (the last) three consecutive ones. That's not what I remember in J.R. There's always good and then bad. But he seems like he's got a little bit more focus and more command of what I want. ... He's still a very important part of our success.''
Karl also lauded the showing of forward Shelden Williams, calling him "a top-five player in camp so far.'' But does that mean Williams will be one of the top five on the court when the starting lineup is introduced on opening night?
"I haven't made that determination,'' Karl said.
Still, Williams, whom guard Chauncey Billups said he's "very impressed by,'' might be the leading candidate to start at power forward barring Denver making a move by the Oct. 27 opener against Utah. Power forwards Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen are out due to knee injuries, Karl said he prefers to bring Al Harrington off the bench and Karl never has been much of a fan of Renaldo Balkman, who played sparingly last season.
"I try to come in and work hard every day to try to put myself in that position,'' Williams, signed by the Nuggets last July as a free agent, said of starting. "I can only do what I'm able to do. All the other stuff is out of my hands.''
Of course, Denver fans are a lot more worried about their small forward than their power forward. And it soon will be seen how they treat Anthony in his preseason debut.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson