Support for Carmelo Anthony to Stay in Denver Dwindles
DENVER -- A guy held up a sign Thursday night at the Pepsi Center that read, "Trade ANthony To Cavs,'' with letters lined up to form "TNT.''
Get it? TNT was broadcasting Denver's 130-102 rout of Miami.
Under that slogan, it read, "Karma,'' a reference to former Cleveland and current "Heatle'' LeBron James' Tweet earlier in the week when the Cavaliers were getting throttled 112-57 by the Lakers.
Well, we do know Anthony won't be traded by Saturday to Cleveland. He guarantees he'll be playing for the Nuggets that night against them.
"I'll be here against Cleveland, too,'' the forward, who is on the trading block, said after the rout over the Heat, a game James missed due to a sprained left ankle. "I'll be in San Antonio Sunday (with Denver). You keep asking me after every game, and I'll let you know.''
It's been that way for Anthony, who is getting very close to his vow from last Sunday that he wouldn't be traded this week. He's offering short-term guarantees to Nuggets fans but certainly nothing long-term.
Anthony has not signed a three-year, $64.47 million contract extension and could become a free agent this summer. Each day, it's sounding more and more as if the Cavaliers have a better shot at the NBA title than Anthony re-signing with the Nuggets.
"I haven't been hearing it lately,''Anthony said when asked what strong voices he's been hearing lately to stay in Denver. "But it's all good. I try to stay strong for myself. I got to do what's best for me.''
Anthony said the world eventually will know what's best for Anthony. He said it won't be popular in some quarters, making one wonder if that's a hint for his fans in Denver. One wouldn't think Anthony would be too worried about upsetting the masses in New Jersey or New York, his two most likely destinations.
"You're going to have some people that understand, you're going to have some people that don't,'' Anthony said of eventually coming clean about his mindset. "But that's life. Everybody is not going to like what you do in life.''
Perhaps the only hope for Nuggets fans who want to see Anthony stick around to salvage this season is for the three-time All-Star to be on board and have the Nuggets trade him between after the season and June 30. The only way that could happen is for Anthony to either agree to sign an extension for a trade or if Anthony agrees to not opt out of his $18.52 million contract for next season.
By waiting until after the Feb. 24 trade deadline, the Nuggets would run the risk of Anthony opting out and losing him for nothing. But Anthony might be reluctant to do that due to possible serious salary cutbacks in a new collective bargaining agreement, so it could be a risk worth taking.
"I don't know,'' Anthony said when asked if he'd be willing to be involved in a scenario in which he doesn't get traded until after the season. "I haven't been in contact with Masai (Ujiri) or Josh (Kroenke) as of late. I've just been going out there and playing basketball and focusing on that.''
Anthony said earlier in the week he expected to meet with Kroenke, the Nuggets president, and Ujiri, the executive vice president of basketball operations. But it hasn't happened yet.
There were media reports Thursday that a three-team trade, which would send Anthony to New Jersey and would also involve Detroit, once again was close. However, sources close to the Nuggets said Thursday night no deal was imminent.
Anthony must agree to sign an extension with the Nets for them to pull off that trade, but has been no indication yet he is willing to do that. It remains to be seen if Anthony is willing to hold out for the possibility of being traded to New York, believed to be his first choice.
As for why he hasn't signed an extension with Denver, Anthony continued to be vague.
"I have my own reasons,'' he said. "I could sit here and talk about all that.''
But, no, he didn't.
Anthony is in his eighth season in Denver. He got sentimental talking about his tenure in the city, but didn't mention anything about the future.''
"It means a lot,'' Anthony said. "I spent more years here than I spent in Baltimore. I moved to Baltimore when I was nine (from Brooklyn, N.Y.). I left when I went to Oak Hill when I was 16. Denver is my home for things that I was able to do playing in this city, especially (2003-04 as a rookie), after that team only won 17 games (in 2002-03) for me to come, I'm not saying I did it myself, to almost turn that whole situation and to make the playoffs. And ever since then we've been to the postseason.''
The Nuggets (22-16) are seventh in the Western Conference playoff race despite numerous injuries. Guard Chauncey Billups, who could be dealt to New Jersey along with Anthony, believes the team has the talent to go as far as it did two years ago, when the Nuggets made the Western Conference finals.
But distractions have been hampering the Nuggets. They lost three games by an average margin of 14.0 points but have regrouped to rout Phoenix 132-98 on Tuesday and then Miami.
"I'm pretty sure they think about it," Anthony said his situation distracting his teammates. "If they tell you that they don't, they'd be lying.''
Everything is going on with Anthony while the Nuggets are playing games, although a cynic might suggest he's playing games with them. At least Miami's titanic trio of James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade were able to take care of their business last summer after they become free agents.
"It's a different situation than anyone that I know has been going through,'' Wade said. "It's unfortunate that he has to deal with it. The biggest thing is to continue to be who he is and continue to be professional and play basketball. That's all he can do, those two hours on the basketball court. That's the only time he gets to forget about everything and be the Melo that everyone has grown to love.''
They're loving Anthony a lot less in Denver these days. He even heard some boos Thursday while the Nuggets were dismantling one of the NBA's best teams and Anthony was busy scoring an efficient 21 points in 30 minutes.
Stay tuned to see if Saturday against Cleveland might mark Anthony's final Denver home game. He has yet to offer a guarantee he'll be around for the one after that. That would be Wednesday against the gang led by Kevin Durant, the guy who has been loyal to Oklahoma City.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson