Even With Nets Out of Picture, Carmelo Still Expects to Be Traded
DENVER -- The New Jersey deal is dead. So it was easy for Carmelo Anthony to simply say Wednesday night it was Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov who killed it.
Never mind that sources have said the Denver forward wants to go to New York and never has had any desire to go to New Jersey. Never mind that Anthony spent last weekend talking about how he had no interest in meeting with Prokhorov and how he couldn't understand why the Nets had been coming up in trade rumors.
Prokhorov announced earlier Wednesday that the Nets no longer would pursue trading for Anthony. That sounded like a good company line, and it's the one Anthony used in speaking to the media after he scored 35 points in Denver's 112-107 win over Oklahoma City at the Pepsi Center.
"I'm pretty sure (Prokhorov) was tired of it, going through the back and forth or whatever,'' said Anthony, who claimed he never told New Jersey he wouldn't sign an extension if traded there. "He didn't want to deal with it. ... The things you guys write about him, he probably got tired about it, he probably got fed up about it, and he wanted to move on.''
Anthony at first offered confusing apparent denials of knowing a meeting had been set for Thursday between Anthony and Prokhorov after the Nets had asked for and received permission last Monday from the Nuggets. Then he came clean and admitted there was a meeting that he apparently was ready to attend.
"In the last past couple of days, yes, that meeting has been set up,'' said Anthony, who still believes he will be dealt by the Feb. 24 trade deadline. "They went though the proper channels to set up a meeting. Prokhorov got tired of everything that's going on and he's got to focus on his team...There was a meeting set.''
Anthony said he was willing to talk to Prokhorov.
"Yeah, I mean he's a very interesting man,'' Anthony said. "For me to just be in the room with him and to just have a conversation, I would have loved that.''
Never mind that Prokhorov hardly painted a picture of a player willing to talk with him and other Nets officials. Prokhorov said he never got a "straightforward answer'' from the Nuggets.
"I never met with Carmelo and I never spoke to him," said Prokhorov, whose Nets had been talking with the Nuggets about trading for Anthony since last September. "Maybe he sent me an e-mail, but really I don't use computers."
At least Anthony was able to crack a joke about that. It was the only lighthearted moment of Anthony's post-game press conference, when he got testy at times.
"I never e-mailed him,'' Anthony said. "I don't have his e-mail.''
And never mind that Anthony was saying all of this after last weekend he talked about how he had no interest in meeting with Prokhorov and indicated no interest in the Nets.
"What am I going to meet with (Prokhorov) for?... I don't know where all this Nets stuff came from, man,'' Anthony said last Saturday. "Once the Nets went out there and acquired those five picks (in the first round over the next two years), everybody just put everything together.''
Anthony claimed, though, he never told the Nets he wouldn't sign an extension with them and that he "didn't have any control over Prokhorov canceling the meeting.'' The Nets didn't have any interest in Anthony, who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, if he didn't agree to sign with them a three-year, $64.47 million extension that has been sitting on the table from Denver since last June.
"I never said anything,'' Anthony said about not wanting to sign the extension with the Nets. "I never told anyone anything.''
Anthony was asked if he ever had a desire to go to New Jersey or if in the future he still might have any desire. He sidestepped the question.
"Well, obviously that's a wrap,'' said Anthony, who did say he was "not disappointed'' that a possible Nets deal fell through. "Obviously, (Prokorov) canceled the meeting. I don't think he wants anything to do with this situation right now. I understand, man. ... He's got to focus on his team and his future with that team. So I respect that.''
The Nuggets are looking to trade Anthony because they fear losing him for nothing if he becomes a free agent this summer. Anthony had told Sports Illustrated he expects to be dealt by the trade deadline, and he reiterated that Wednesday.
"I think so,'' he said. "I think so. Unless something changes, I don't know.''
The chances of Anthony re-signing with Denver appear even slimmer than they have been. Previously, he has regularly said that remains an option. But he declined to answer when asked twice Wednesday if re-signing with the Nuggets remains a possibility.
The boos Anthony has heard doesn't help the situation. After the game, Anthony was interviewed on the court following his big scoring night and a huge Denver victory. Boos rained down as he talked.
"I'm a man,'' he said. "I can take (boos). ... At this point, I don't expect any cheers. The boos are the boos. They're going to keep coming.''
Nuggets fans will have one player to give hearty cheers to for at least a bit longer. That would be point guard Chauncey Billups, a Denver native and hometown hero, who was in talks about being dealt to New Jersey along with Anthony in a three-team trade that would have included Detroit.
But Billups didn't express any joy in Wednesday's trade blowing up. He knows there's still time before the trade deadline and that the Nuggets, who will likely buy his $14.2 million contract out after the season for $3.7 million if he's still with the team, had sought to deal him.
"Not really,'' Billups said of being glad a possible Nets trade is dead. "We've still got a month away before the trade deadline is over. I'm sure it'll be something else. We're not out of the woods yet. ... My thing was, of course, everyone was talking about it, saying the deal was off the table, and that's all fine and good. But, like I said, the trade deadline is not today. It's still going to be a lot of speculation, lot of talk, I'm sure there's going to be something else come up. That's how it's going to be for the next month.''
Billups said he's had "good candid conversations'' with Nuggets executives Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri "a couple of times'' recently. But he wouldn't divulge details.
Lost in much of the trade talk Wednesday was the Nuggets getting a big win over a Northwest Division rival and Anthony having his best scoring outing since Dec. 14 against Orlando. It came after two straight 12-point games by Anthony and Nuggets coach George Karl telling FanHouse on Tuesday that Anthony was "very distracted'' Tuesday in practice and his minutes might get cut if that continued.
"I thought Melo was good,'' Karl said. "I didn't expect anything else. Melo always has had a professionalism to him when game time starts. ... (Wednesday) he was special.''
Karl, though, wasn't ready to say any kind of distraction has been taken away on the Nuggets with any possible Nets deal now dead.
"I'm not going to speculate,'' Karl said about the trade talk involving Anthony that has gone on since late last summer. "In my career, I have never gone through such interaction of whatever. I'm sure some of the guys are relieved but, in the same sense, I think we've done a great job of handling it.''
There figures to be plenty of more distractions to come for the Nuggets, who reached the midpoint of the season at 24-17. Sports Illustrated had reported Anthony told Kroenke last August he wanted to be traded to either New York or Chicago. Anthony was asked about those two teams Wednesday, but declined comment.
Anthony did say he doesn't want to be a rental player. That would be a situation in which he's traded to a team for which he doesn't readily agree to sign an extension.
"I don't think so,'' Anthony said of that possible situation in which Houston is believed to be the team most likely to trade for Anthony without a commitment for next season. "I hope not. But you got to ask upstairs.''
Upstairs would be where Kroenke and Ujiri have offices. But Ujiri wouldn't answer much in a chat with reporters Wednesday other than to say he's talked "with plenty of teams'' and he has no ill will toward the Nets for the announcement by Prokhorov.
Judging by his performance against the Thunder, it looked as if Anthony might have come into the game with some relief. But he denied that to be the case.
"I still got to deal with the same stuff over and over,'' Anthony said.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson