Monday, Nov. 8, 2010
By Aggrey Sam
Give Carmelo Anthony credit. He didn't completely duck the issue. Surrounded by a swarm of local media Monday morning after Denver's shootaround at Moody Bible Institute, the Nuggets superstar deftly handled questions about his future with his present team, as well as his thoughts on Chicago.
"Maybe if I was a free agent, I would let my mind wander, but I can't do that right now, so I've got to focus on being a Nugget, playing Nuggets basketball. It wouldn't be right if I let my mind wander and think about if I was here in Chicago," said Anthony after the Nuggets shootaround Monday at Moody Bible Institute. "Of course, it's one of the top cities. You want to know a number? Top three."
"Anybody--I don't want to say this the wrong way--but anybody would love to play with a guy like Derrick Rose. A young point guard--young star--gets the ball up and down the court, who's improved his game every year," he added. "You've got a young big man in Joakim Noah. You've got Carlos Boozer, who right now is hurt. But they've got a good team right now."
"They're playing fast. They're playing good right now. I know they've got Boozer hurt; he's supposed to be coming back soon. Derrick Rose is having an outstanding start of the season right now. I'm sure they're excited to be playing for Coach Tom Thibodeau."
Most obviously missing in that equation is Anthony's opinion of Luol Deng, who just happens to play the same position. Anthony characterized Deng as a "hard worker" and a "defender," but a combination of logic and reading between the lines would give the impression that he wouldn't expect Deng to be a member of the Bulls if Chicago became his new residence.
"I am on the opposing team, so I'm pretty sure they won't cheer for me too much, but we'll see. I'm not looking forward to that, though," said Anthony about his prediction on how the United Center crowd receives him Monday evening. "I'm not a real big egotistical type of guy, but it's always good to know that people want you and people would love for you to represent their city, so that was a plus to all the rumors and all the talk that's going on this summer, to know that a city and the fans in that city would want me to represent that."
With the start Denver has gotten off to this season and a positive vibe around the team--no doubt aided by the return to the sidelines of head coach George Karl after his second bout with cancer--Anthony didn't want too much focus to be on his personal situation instead of the team.
"Once I'm inside these walls, it's all about basketball...anything that's being said outside these walls, it is what it is," said Anthony. "Of course what MJ brought to the city, just the city itself--being a big city--the fans out here and just the historic value of basketball here."
"I'm not even thinking about business right now. I'm all about basketball right now, at this very moment," continued Anthony, who indicated that he'd give more consideration to signing the three-year, 65-million contract extension Denver offered if the Nuggets were contenders once again. "Once I came in for media day and sat the team down and told them, 'look, regardless of what's being said, we're here to play basketball. we're going to focus on what's going on right now, which is winning basketball games,' I think everybody locked in after that."
"I wanted to let them know that regardless of what's being said out there, I'm with you guys right now."
For Denver head coach George Karl's part, he's treating his star player no differently than before. With his return to health--Karl is noticeably slimmer, but no less charismatic--he plans to try to get Denver back to the contending ways they experienced two seasons ago, when they put a significant scare into the eventual champion Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. If that occurs, Anthony would have to be a big reason.
"Anthony has been great. I only deal with him basically about basketball. He's had a great camp, he's worked hard. He probably isn't 100 percent on having good practices, but he's been pretty close," said Karl. "You see him play in the games--we're 4-2 with a lot of injuries--so, when you have injuries, the responsibility of winning a game falls on your big-time players a lot more."
A source familiar with Anthony's situation--as well as last season's similar circus surrounding LeBron James--confirmed to CSNChicago.com that not only is Anthony handling the constant speculation better than James did, but he's focused on the Nuggets achieving as much team success while he remains in Denver, however long that happens to be.
"He's a load. He scores so many different ways. That's what I think makes him so hard to guard. He can really shoot the ball, he's very effective in the pick-and-roll, he can post up, he's unselfish, he's very dangerous in transition. He just puts a lot of pressure on your defense," said Thibodeau about Anthony after Sunday's Bulls practice. "For every 100 trades that gets talked about, one happens--maybe not even one--so it's all part of the business. I don't think you even worry about it. You always hear different things. Trades are part of the game. Just focus on what you need to do here."
While they may or may not ever join sides, it seems that both Thibodeau and Anthony have similar-minded approaches to the speculation engulfing the superstar's situation.
"I want the team to do well, so that's why I go out there and do what I've got to do, get everybody on the same page so we can win basketball games. I think my attitude would be totally different if I was here and we were 0-6 right now," said Anthony. "I'm in a good state right now. We're winning basketball games and I'm happy."
Still, he can't stop a city's collective mind from wandering.
Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.coms Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.