NEWARK, N.J. – On his way in and out of the Prudential Center Monday night, Carmelo Anthony walked past a series of strategically placed renderings of the Nets’ future home in Brooklyn. The imagery only fueled speculation that the Nets aren’t finished pursuing the Nuggets’ three-time All-Star.
Who knows? Maybe those posters were part of the presentation the Nets never had a chance to make to Anthony, who made his only trip – as a visiting player – to the temporary home that could’ve been his.
"That was interesting,” Anthony said with a smile after the Nets beat the Nuggets 115-99. “I mean, that was interesting.”
Anthony’s reaction to the Nets’ Brooklyn mind tricks was about as far as he pushed the story forward when it comes to where he will be finding a long-term home. The closest Anthony came to making news was when he was asked to clarify whether he’s afraid of risking millions by playing out the season in Denver and becoming a free agent under a new collective bargaining agreement.
“The CBA is in the back of my mind,” Anthony said. “But as far as being afraid to play this out, I’m not. If that’s what it’s going to take, then so be it. I’m with that. I know in the back of my mind what the CBA is up for, what we’re up for dealing with the lockout, things like that. So as long as I know that, my decision will be my decision.”
Asked if he’d be willing to take the risk of passing on the extension and facing the unknown of post-lockout free agency, Anthony said, “Yeah, I mean whether it’s playing this year out and then going back to the drawing table, sitting down with Denver and trying to figure it out, or whether it’s to move on, I’m with that.”
So is Nuggets coach George Karl, who said before the game that he continues to believe – as he did in training camp – that the best outcome for all involved is for Anthony to remain in Denver.
“My job and my thought is that he’s going to be with us,” Karl said. “It is my desire and that would be probably the best thing for us as a basketball team.”
That outcome, however, is largely in the hands of Denver executives Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke, who were with the team but kept a low profile amid a throng of media here to chronicle Anthony’s visit. Both of them are banking on the qualifier that came next from Anthony, about whether there is a limit to how much money he’s willing to sacrifice to get to the team of his choice.
“If I sit here and tell you I’m willing to lose $15 or $20 million, then I’d be lying to you,” Anthony said. “But at the same time, this has never been about the money. In my career so far, I think I’ve made enough money. Now I can focus on just trying to win a championship. That’s the only thing that’s on my plate and on my mind right now.”
Anthony reflected on the news conference held Jan. 19 in which Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov put a very public end to the Nets’ pursuit of Anthony. He reiterated that he would’ve accepted a meeting with the Nets’ brass if Prokhorov hadn’t canceled it, but wouldn’t reveal whether he would’ve agreed to an extension as part of a trade.
“As far as the extension, if that trade were to go through, who knows what would’ve happened?” Anthony said. “I can’t answer that because it didn’t go through.”
Nothing has changed for Anthony, who all along has only considered signing a three-year, $65 million extension with the Knicks or Nuggets – though a person familiar with the strategy being employed by his agents at Creative Artists Agency recently told CBSSports.com that CAA has been consistent since the summer in advising the Nuggets that he won’t re-sign with them. As for Anthony himself, he refuted a previously published report that Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire had recently texted him urging him to join forces in New York.
“I read that, that he supposedly texted me or something like that,” Anthony said. “I didn’t get it. I didn’t get that text.”
Aside from stating his willingness to play this game of chicken with the Nuggets past the Feb. 24 deadline, perhaps Anthony’s most revealing comment was one that won’t get many headlines. The Nuggets’ executives, particularly Ujiri, who were in constant contact with Anthony throughout the protracted trade talks with the Nets, have been quiet lately.
“I haven’t really talked to those two guys about anything as of late,” Anthony said. “Prokhorov put an end to it. That’s all I can say about it. When something starts going on, I’m pretty sure Masai and Josh will come to me and let me know what’s going on.”
All that was going on Monday night, as Anthony walked past those Brooklyn posters one more time with his with his manager, Robert “Bay” Frazier, was that he was heading back to Denver with the Nuggets. Whether he’ll be there three more weeks or three more months is the next plot twist.
“I have to look at it as a business and we just go from there,” Anthony said. “If we make a business decision together, and that’s for me to stay in Denver, or they say the business decision is to trade you somewhere else, then you’ve got to deal with that.”