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Anthony is the talk of All-Star weekend
In an NBA season defined by drama and doubt, it was appropriate that both set the tone for the most highly pondered topic at the kickoff of this year’s NBA All-Star Game: the ever-elusive fate of Carmelo Anthony.
A report Friday in The Bergen (New Jersey) Record said the Nets had agreed to a deal with the Denver Nuggets to ship the All-Star to the Eastern Conference, contingent on Anthony agreeing to a new contract. And Anthony himself said he wants his destination wrapped up by the end of the weekend.
But he said he had no plans as of yet to meet with New Jersey officials in Los Angeles to discuss signing the three-year extension worth $65 million, a prerequisite for any deal getting done.
“I really don’t know where that came from in terms of me meeting with the owner or whatever, New Jersey,” Anthony told reporters. “There’s no meetings for me to meet with New Jersey or anything like this.”
Still, the much-hyped and sought-after star made it clear he’s ready to make the same transition LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade made last summer — from talk of the gossip mill to toast of, most likely, a new town.
“I haven’t gotten no sleep in a week,” Anthony said. “I want to get it done. I would love to have something on the table. I would love to have a legit offer on the table where they can sit down and say, ‘'Melo, this is what we have, let’s try to figure it out.’
“I’m just ready for this whole thing to be over with.”
This is the new state of the NBA: pondering the possible pooling of talent in places like Miami, Los Angeles, New York and New Jersey. For the time being, it’s Carmelo who is the biggest prize to be dished out before next week’s trade deadline.
Even amid so much star power — LeBron in his shockingly red sweater, Wade moving past a gasping throng of tourists, Kobe Bryant’s table swallowed whole by media — it was Anthony who claimed the bulk of the limelight.
Right now, it’s his destination that has the potential to further realign the axis of power in the NBA, like LeBron and Wade before him and, before them, Kobe.
Even other players were caught up in the ’Melo mania.
New York Knicks All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire was asked whether he thought his team's current situation might be a stronger draw for Anthony than the Nets’.
His answer: Absolutely.
“From a New York Knicks franchise (perspective), I think we made a great step when I signed with the Knicks to pretty much build,” Stoudemire said. “And so I think ’Melo noticed it, he sees it. We’re really trying to win a championship, and I think that’s why he’s more intrigued to play for the Knicks as opposed to Jersey.”
He added: “I think we’d be a step closer (with him).”
It’s good he felt that way.
Because shortly after saying so, another report hit the league’s collective consciousness. The New York Daily News’ Frank Isola reported Knicks owner James Dolan met with Anthony on Thursday night in Los Angeles and that the Knicks’ and Nuggets’ owners and general managers had a scheduled conference call planned for Friday afternoon to discuss a possible deal.
Without a doubt, the Carmelo drama was an appropriate appetizer for this weekend’s festivities.
As the NBA has continued to climb into the consciousness of more Americans, it’s been helped in part by the dual nature of what it’s offered the past year: a focus on good basketball, yes, but also a healthy slice of speculation on who’s going where next year.
For sports fans, it’s a potent combination. Great play on the court, meaningful intrigue off of it.
Last year, the season was as much about whether LeBron James and the Cavaliers would bring a championship to Cleveland as about where LeBron would end up afterward. This year is largely about how Miami’s Big Three will factor into everyone else’s championship hopes and whether the Los Angeles Lakers can three-peat.
But it’s also been about where Anthony will be playing this year or next and, to a lesser extent, whether guys like Orlando’s Dwight Howard will flock to places like Los Angeles when their contracts are up.
Who knows? Maybe all this talk about Carmelo will translate one year from now into speculation about whether he and Stoudemire playing together in New York have enough firepower between them to will the Knicks to a title.
For now, it’s all guesswork. But based on the myriad reports out there, and Anthony’s own comments, it’s not a bad move to bet on the Knicks.
“New York already has something there with Amar’e,” Anthony said. “I think that city is looking forward to bringing back great basketball ... So if that’s my destination, it’s something I can bring.”
A short time later, Anthony stood up and headed out of the ballroom in which he’d been answering questions to prepare to compete Sunday as an All-Star for the Denver Nuggets.
But no one really cares about that. What they want to know is: Whom will he be representing at next year’s game?
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