LOS ANGELES – LeBron James started the trend of superstars teaming up in the prime of their careers. Chris Paul stoked the flames with his infamous wedding toast in July.
On Saturday at All-Star media availability, Anthony’s partners in crime showed up to defend their close friend amid the ever-increasing insanity over his February free-agent decision.
“Carmelo Anthony is his own man, just like I’m my own man,” LeBron said, butting into the latest interrogation of Anthony to take the Heat off his friend. “It's totally different. It's totally different, because one thing about me, when I was going through my situation, I was able to hide a little bit because it was the offseason when it got heavy. This guy's traveling every day, he has to play, he still has to put on a uniform and still represent the Denver Nuggets the right way and still listen to you guys ask him every single day what is he doing, where is he going. And he knows just as much as you guys know.”
Asked if the Melo saga has grown worse than LeBron’s free-agent extravaganza this past summer, James said, “Yeah, because he has to see you guys every day. I didn’t have to see you at all in the offseason.''
James, who along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh chose to sign a three-year extension in 2006 so all three would be free agents at the same time, also defended Anthony’s decision to opt for the added security of a four-year extension at the time.
“There was no wrong answer,” James said. “It’s just a tough situation what he’s going through right now, to have to answer these questions every single day and still try to lead his team to victory every single night and play at a high level. But he's showing right now, averaging 31 points in the month of February, that he can do these things at a high level and still listen to you guys ask him the same damn situation every day.”
Seated shoulder-to-shoulder between James and Paul on the scorer’s table, Anthony shed little new light on his situation Saturday. He once again refused to confirm of deny his Thursday night meeting with Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, but said if he were traded to the Knicks to play for Mike D’Antoni, “That’s a great system he has there.”
Amar’e Stoudemire, Anthony’s would-be teammate and the inspiration for Paul toasting to forming “our own Big Three in New York” at Anthony’s July wedding, said the addition of Anthony “definitely is going to help us as far as going into the postseason. You have two guys who demand double teams and it’s going to be tough to guard us.”
As for the players the Knicks would have to give up in an Anthony trade – some combination of Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton and Landry Fields – Stoudemire said, “That is a lot. I'm not sure what the details are. But with a player of that stature, he definitely helps any ballclub he goes to.”
James even went so far as to break down the dilemma facing the Nuggets, who must decide whether to accept a lesser trade package from the Knicks, sign Anthony to the three-year, $65 million extension that has been on the table for months, or risk losing him in free agency and getting nothing in return. The Nuggets prefer to trade Anthony to the Nets, which would yield a better collection of assets centered around Derrick Favors and multiple first-round picks. But that possibility grew more remote Saturday when a spokeswoman for Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov said the Russian billionaire has not met with Anthony and has no intentions to meet with him during All-Star weekend. Anthony's long-held insistence on signing an extension only with the Knicks if traded finally is gaining the kind of public traction that could bring an end to the Nets' months-long pursuit of the three-time All-Star.
“Me personally, if I’m a GM or if I’m an owner, I wouldn’t want to lose one of the best players in the league, one of the top 10 best players in the league,” James said. “You try to do anything in your power to keep him. I mean, he’s one of the top 10 players that we’ve got in the game today. That’s just my personal opinion. But I’m not a GM. I’m not an owner. I’m just a player.
“What would you do?” James continued. “If you're the owner of the Denver Nuggets or you're the GM of the Denver Nuggets, and you don’t know for sure if Carmelo's going to sign the three-year extension, what would you do? Would you try to get something for him, or would you just let him walk?” • Get something for him, someone replied.
“That's what I think,” James said.
For his part, Paul deflected a question about his own looming free agency in 2012, which depending on the structure of a new collective bargaining agreement could put him in Anthony’s shoes as early as this coming summer. At one point, James interrupted the Anthony questioning, gestured toward Paul, and said, “He would have all the answers. You started this ___ thing.”
All with a toast that made Anthony the toast and the bane of All-Star weekend.