DENVER (AP) — Any other time, Carmelo Anthony’s balky right knee might draw more attention.
Instead, the nagging injury took a back seat to a much bigger and broader question: Does the All-Star still want to be a member of the Denver Nuggets?
Following a four-game road trip, Anthony insisted it was good to be home — even if he has no idea how much longer this may still be home.
Anthony has been the subject of trade speculation since spurning the Nuggets’ three-year, $65 million extension over the summer.
The rumor mill cranked up over the weekend as Anthony played in New York against the Knicks, a team he reportedly has interest in playing for one day.
He downplayed all the reports that surfaced while he was in the Big Apple.
“More of the drama, man,” Anthony told reporters Monday after a maintenance day for the players. “I was there and so it was a hot topic to talk about it. I’m not worrying about it. That’s not my focus right now. My focus is to try to get some wins back home.”
The Nuggets begin a three-game home stand Tuesday night when the Orlando Magic arrive at Pepsi Center. They will also host San Antonio and Minnesota later in the week.
When asked if he wants to remain in a powder blue uniform, Anthony responded, “Of course.”
“If you’re in any place for eight years, that’s going to be home. That’s what you call home,” said Anthony, who has led the Nuggets to the playoffs in each of his seven seasons. “This community has embraced me like I was one of their own. So, of course.
“I just really want to focus on basketball right now — let the business take care of business when that time comes. My goal is to go out there every night on the court and continue doing what I’m doing.”
That’s just fine with Nuggets coach George Karl, whose star is averaging 23.1 points a game this season.
“Melo’s not going to bring my Christmas down,” Karl said. “He’s been a blessing in my career. He’s been a great player for me. We need him to play really well this week for us to have a great week.”
Now if only Anthony’s right knee would cooperate.
He recently missed two games because of the injury, before returning Sunday against the Knicks and scoring 31 points in a 129-125 loss. Anthony said the rest leading up to the game did wonders for an inflamed knee.
“My knee felt extremely better after taking four days off and doing a lot of work and getting my health back to where it’s supposed to be at,” Anthony said.
On Sunday, Anthony made it clear the importance of a contract extension, especially with the collective bargaining agreement expiring next summer. The NBA wants major salary cuts in the next deal.
He declined the Nuggets’ extension in June, saying he wanted to keep his options open. Anthony can become a free agent next summer, but Denver would likely attempt to deal him before the trade deadline in February rather than risk losing him for nothing.
Many believe Anthony could end up with the Knicks or New Jersey Nets, a team that had a potential mega-deal in the works in September before it hit a snag.
Karl doesn’t think the rumors will be a distraction, even as the trade deadline nears.
Still optimistic Anthony might stick around?
“I stay away from that information, that gossip, that Internet action/reaction,” Karl said. “Melo, as long as he’s a Nugget, I’m going to coach him and be happy with him.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.