Carmelo Anthony Scores 50 as Trade Rumors Persist
DENVER -- February is the shortest month of the year. But it might be a long one for Masai Ujiri.
Do not envy the Denver executive. He's the guy on the front line when it comes to possibly trading a player who just scored 50 points in a game.
"If I was a G.M., that's a tough trigger to pull,'' Houston forward Shane Battier said after watching Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony tie his career high by hitting the half-century mark in Monday night's 108-103 loss to the Rockets at the Pepsi Center. "I'm glad I'm on the other side of that. That's a tough trigger to pull.''
Ujiri, Denver's executive vice president of basketball operations, has had the trigger at least slightly depressed since the start of the season. When the final buzzer sounded Monday, he had 16 days and 15 1/2 hours until a decision has to be made on Anthony by the Feb. 24 trade deadline.
Ujiri, making the decision along with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke and team president Josh Kroenke, wouldn't comment on specifics. But sources said no deal is imminent for Anthony, who has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million contract extension and can become a free agent this summer.
So the suspense goes on.
"I think it's a tough situation for them but they'll figure it out,'' Rockets coach Rick Adelman said of the Nuggets.
Anthony tied the career high he had previously set Nov. 27, 2009 against New York. Yes, those would be the same Knicks it's believed Anthony wants eventually to join.
Anthony could be dealt to New York by the trade deadline or even between the end of the season and June 30. Or he could wait to sign with the Knicks this summer as a free agent.
Anthony was asked if he could put himself in the shoes of Denver management on what a tough decision it will be. He wasn't in the mood for that after Monday's game.
"I really don't want to talk about that,'' said Anthony, who could play his last Denver home game Thursday against Dallas due to the Nuggets not being back at the Pepsi Center after that until Feb. 22. "I'm not talking about no Nuggets management now.''
Before the game, Anthony answered "no'' when asked by FanHouse if he's aware of any deal being close for him. He also said it was "nothing major'' why he missed the morning shootaround due to personal reasons but wouldn't offer details.
Then he went out and torched the nets by shooting 16-of-24 from the field and 16-of-18 from the foul line. He found time to pull down 11 rebounds and block three shots.
Anthony didn't have an assist. But that was understandable on a night in which center Nene, Denver's third-leading scorer, was out due to a sinus infection and chest congestion and guard Chauncey Billups, the second-leading scorer, was lost for the night late in the first quarter with a knee injury.
"The shot felt good. Just attacking the rim and trying to get some baskets,'' said Anthony, who faced single coverage, much of it from Houston center Chuck Hayes due to Battier playing just 19 minutes because of foul trouble. "The jump shot was falling and opening up guys to the rack. But 50 don't mean nothing. I'd give it back. ... It was tough. We didn't have Chauncey and Nene.''
Billups suffered a left knee strain with 3:03 left in the first quarter and was done for the night. Billups will have an MRI on Tuesday.
"I don't know,'' Billups told FanHouse while leaving the Pepsi Center when asked what happened. "I was just running back. Non-contact, really. They're going to look at it (Tuesday). I don't know (how serious it is). I'll have more information (Tuesday), I'm sure.''
Billups said he felt "sore.'' But overall he said he wasn't too worried because he was able to walk out of the arena.
"Yeah, I'm happy about that,'' Billups said. "I can walk.''
But the Nuggets lost their second straight home game and fell to 30-22. They're seventh in the West, and that has to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to deal Anthony by the trade deadline or perhaps wait until after the season to make a trade. The ultimate roll of the dice would be to sit back and dare Anthony to opt out of his contract by June 30, a move that could cost him tens of millions of dollars if a new collective bargaining agreement seriously curtails salaries.
ESPN.com reported last weekend the Nuggets are in talks about a three-team trade that also includes Minnesota and would send Anthony to New York. However, a source close to the Timberwolves said that team now remains mostly a bystander as the Nuggets and Knicks haggle about an Anthony deal that is not considered close.
At least Anthony didn't hear boos Monday even though the Nuggets lost. He heard plenty after scoring 35 points in a 112-107 home win Jan. 19 over Oklahoma City.
"I don't know. The front office would know,'' Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said when asked about the difficulty of possibly trading Anthony after he had just scored 50. "He had a great game. The fans love him. But at the end of the day, it's a business. So whatever they think is best.''
Lawson, Billups' backup who returned Monday after a one-game absence even though he said he's at about 70 percent with a left knee strain of his own, sure wants Anthony to stick around.
"I'm hoping he stays,'' Lawson said. "He's a great teammate. He commands a lot of attention on the court. So he's a great player. So I hope he stays.''
Stay tuned. February is a short month but there should be no shortage on suspense.