Suns visit Nuggets amid trade rumors
By KATE HEDLIN
The Denver Nuggets' current homestand could be the last for Carmelo Anthony with the team.
With a potential trade in the works, Anthony will try to bounce back from one of his worst performances when the Nuggets host the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night, trying to avoid losing four straight for the first time in almost four years.
Anthony's departure from Denver (20-16) has seemed inevitable ever since the star declined to sign a contract extension over the summer. However, talks really heated up over the weekend with a deal reportedly in the works to send Anthony to New Jersey as part of a three-team trade with Detroit.
"I'm here," Anthony said Monday. "Until something happens, I'm a Denver Nugget."
Anthony said he's not distracted by the rumors, but his last performance might suggest otherwise. He scored eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in a 96-87 loss to New Orleans on Sunday and was booed when he re-entered the game in the fourth quarter.
"I hear it. Does it affect me? No," Anthony said. "It hurt a little bit knowing that it's here coming from my home fans. But other than that, I try to go out there and play hard every night, do what I've got to do. If they like it, they like it. If they want to boo, then they want to boo."
It was the first time since 2005 that Anthony has played more than 15 minutes and failed to score in double figures.
Chauncey Billups, who would also be headed to New Jersey if the speculated deal goes through, had 13 points, shooting 2 of 12. He didn't practice Monday because he wasn't feeling well, according to the team.
The loss was Denver's third straight and 10th in the last 17 games. The Nuggets, who haven't lost four in a row since Feb. 14-24, 2007, have averaged 94.0 points over their current losing streak and are shooting 30.4 percent from 3-point range in that stretch.
Denver has three games remaining on its homestand before traveling to San Antonio on Sunday. Anthony said he believes that despite reports that a deal is imminent, he'll be with the team for a while.
"That's my feeling. I don't think so. I don't want to elaborate on that anymore. That's just my own personal feeling," Anthony said.
The Nuggets didn't need Anthony to beat the Suns 138-133 on Nov. 28. He played less than three minutes in that game due to illness, but Billups had 25 points and J.R. Smith scored a team-high 30 to make up for his absence.
Denver had lost its previous four games against Phoenix, including a 100-94 defeat on the road Nov. 15.
The inconsistent Suns (15-20) will try to take advantage of the drama in Denver as they look to win their second straight. Phoenix snapped a three-game losing streak with a 108-100 win over Cleveland on Sunday, improving to 14-8 when the team reaches the century mark in scoring.
The Suns averaged 93.0 points in their previous four games, but they went 13 of 28 from 3-point range Sunday as five players scored at least 15 points. Steve Nash had 20 points and 17 assists while Jared Dudley scored 21 points.
"We needed to get a win," Dudley said. "I don't care who it was against - the Lakers, the Clippers. It didn't matter."
While Phoenix has had trouble scoring recently, that hasn't been the case against Denver over the last six years. Only once in the last 24 meetings have the Suns failed to reach 100 points.
Updated January 11, 2011