Melo-Drama heats up as trade deadline approaches

Last summer LeBron James gave us ”The Decision.”

Ever since, the NBA has been inundated with All-Star Carmelo

Anthony’s ”Indecision.”

The Denver Nuggets’ traveling circus rolled into the All-Star

break with their superstar still in powder blue, a $65 million

extension gathering dust for a ninth straight month and pro

basketball fans incessantly theorizing on talk shows and Twitter

about where Melo will end up after the Feb. 24 trade deadline.

Each day brings fresh rumors and reports but no resolution.

He’s staying in Denver for the long haul or at least through

season’s end.

He’s off for a cameo appearance in Dallas or Houston.

Or L.A.

It always seems to come back to New York, his desired

destination, or New Jersey, which has the most attractive package

of picks and players to offer – if only they could convince

Melo.

Anthony acknowledged after his 38-point performance in Milwaukee

on Wednesday night that he has no idea what will happen as trade

talks surely intensify this All-Star weekend.

”I’m waiting to see just like (everybody else),” he said.

Last month, the Nets pulled out of a blockbuster three-team deal

that included more than a dozen players. But Russian billionaire

owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King are expected

to be in Los Angeles for the All-Star festivities and might get the

chance to talk with Anthony there.

If they could persuade Anthony to sign his extension that’s been

on the table since June, he’d be guaranteed $83 million through

2015. Beginning next year, he’d get to play in his native Brooklyn,

where the Nets would love to put Anthony’s giant image on their new

arena.

If Anthony has his heart set on taking his game to Madison

Square Garden, though, he could decline to sign anything for

anybody until the Knicks offer him a contract next summer when he’d

be the headliner of the 2011 free agent class, much like James was

last year.

However, Anthony might make about half as much money in that

scenario because owners are making pay restrictions the cornerstone

of a new collective bargaining agreement they’ll try to hash out

this offseason.

Maybe that’s why word got out last week that the Nuggets had

gauged the Lakers’ interest in swapping Anthony for center Andrew

Bynum. Or why Anthony said publicly for the first time that he’d

seriously consider signing his extension with the Nuggets if he’s

not dealt by the deadline.

If the Knicks can sweeten the pot to the Nuggets’ liking,

Anthony would get to play Broadway without having to take a pay

cut.

The specter of a possible franchise tag in the next CBA could

throw a wrench into things, too. If a team such as the Mavericks or

Rockets acquires Anthony as a ”rent-a-player” for the remainder

of the season, they might be able to also slap a one-year franchise

tag on him to keep him from teaming up with Amare Stoudemire until

2012-13.

While the Melo-drama is sure to dominate chatter at the All-Star

game, owners are keeping a keen eye on what happens, too.

Utah’s Deron Williams, New Orleans’ Chris Paul and Orlando’s

Dwight Howard could follow Anthony’s lead and produce their own

season-long spectacles next season as they approach unrestricted

free agency.

At Anthony’s New York wedding to TV personality LaLa Vazquez

last summer, Paul made a toast about uniting with Melo in Gotham to

form a super-team along with Stoudemire to counter the Miami Heat’s

terrific trio of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

With the trade talk engulfing them, the Nuggets have struggled

to remain relevant this season, going just 10-18 on the road.

They’ve been hit hard by injuries and the constant chatter about

Anthony has worn on them. At 32-25, they reside in seventh place in

the Western Conference standings.

Anthony’s eye-of-the-hurricane game hasn’t suffered any. He

averaged 23.8 points in November, 24.5 in December, 23.8 in January

and 31 in February.

Last week, Anthony patted himself on the back for how he’s

played in the midst of all this uncertainty.

”I think it takes a strong-willed person, a strong-minded

person to deal with the stuff that I deal with and still go out

there and go to work every day and perform,” Anthony said. ”I

take my hat off to myself for dealing with all this stuff that’s

going on out there, and still be able to go out there and play at

the highest level.”

The Nuggets have one more game before the trade deadline, on

Tuesday night against Memphis at the Pepsi Center. If he’s still

with the Nuggets, both sides will have 48 hours to make a

decision.

”I know something will have to happen, whether I sign the

extension or whether the Nuggets move me or whatever,” Anthony

said. ”But, it’s just something is going to happen. So I try not

to stress myself out about it.”

Nuggets coach George Karl is holding out hope he won’t be saying

goodbye to his star soon.

”What’s funny is I think Melo, the organization and me want the

same thing,” Karl said. ”I think he sometimes just thinks he can

be better somewhere else. As a competitor I tell him, ‘I think

you’re wrong, Melo.’ I think the best place to be is in Denver.

We’ll have (salary cap) space, we’ll have the ability to make

maneuvers in our roster for the first time in four or five years

next year.

”But, unfortunately, (with) free agency, we’re at the point

where we’re at the whim of what’s going to happen.”

Karl said he’s confident the Nuggets will make a playoff run

with whatever roster he has on Feb. 25.

”I trust my team,” Karl said. ”We’re good enough to make

things happen with or without him. Probably be easier with him,

though.”

AP Sports Writer Colin Fly and AP freelancer Joseph C. De Baca

contributed.