NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony sees the New Jersey Nets’ pullout of trade talks as a speed bump on his way out of the Mile High City and not necessarily a detour.
The Denver Nuggets All-Star forward said Wednesday night that he still thinks he’ll be traded by the Feb. 24 deadline and that he doesn’t foresee himself going to a contender simply as a rent-a-player for the final two months of the season.
He also demurred when asked after the Nuggets’ 112-107 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder if he still felt staying in Denver long-term was a possibility.
“I’m not answering any more questions about an extension, about being traded,” he said. “I’m focused on being here right now. Until anything happens, you guys will see me upstairs in practice, playing hard, doing what I got to do, focusing.
“And, then, when anything happens, all you guys will have a big story to write about.”
Anthony scored 35 points, hours after Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov announced he would no longer pursue the All-Star forward in a megadeal that had been the buzz of the NBA for weeks.
After the game, Anthony told the team’s TV network while being both cheered and jeered: “It was personal. … In spite of everything that is going on, I’m still here. … I’m still a Denver Nugget.”
Despite his dominating performance, Anthony said there was no weight lifted from his shoulders in light of Prokhorov’s pulling the plug.
“No. I’ve still got to deal with the same stuff over and over,” Anthony said. “Whatever he felt was the problem, he put an end to it. Whether it was miscommunication or whatever it was, I’m pretty sure he was tired of going through the back and forth or whatever and he just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
Chauncey Billups and Nene each added 16 points for the Nuggets, who grabbed the lead for good early in the fourth quarter of a game that was close all the way. Russell Westbrook recorded his fifth straight double-double with 28 points and 10 assists for the Thunder, and Kevin Durant chipped in 22 points.
Durant was impressed by Anthony’s aggression — it was his first 30-point game since Dec. 14.
“He was clearing his mind,” Durant said. “It’s a place of refuge, especially with the situation, just come out on the court and just play and let his mind be free.”
After months of talks aimed at bringing Anthony from Denver to New Jersey, the Nets’ new owner announced that his team was ending the drawn-out trade talks with the Nuggets. Prokhorov said the talks had become too public, taken too long and had hurt his team, so he instructed his team to walk away from the proposed deal that featured as many as 15 players and three teams.
Prokhorov also canceled a planned meeting with Anthony on Thursday and said there was no chance that the trade would be resurrected.
Anthony said he would have liked to sit down with Prokhorov: “Yeah, he’s a very interesting man, so for me to just be in the room with him and just have a conversation with him, I would have loved that.”
But, he added that he’s not disappointed the meeting was canceled.
“I’ve still got games to play,” Anthony said. “I’m not thinking about that.”
Hours after Prokhorov’s comments, the Nets snapped a six-game skid with a win over Utah. The Nuggets had a much harder time putting away the Thunder, whom they trailed 86-85 after three quarters.
Denver general manager Masai Ujiri declined to answer questions about the Nets’ decision to scuttle negotiations on the megadeal, beyond saying the Nuggets have been in talks “with plenty of teams” regarding Anthony and insisting he harbored no ill will toward the Nets.
Nuggets coach George Karl said the latest twist in this saga won’t curtail the drama surrounding the Nuggets and Anthony, whose name has been brought up in trade talk ever since he declined to sign a three-year, $65 million extension last summer.
“It’s going to be a huge story … until there’s a final chapter written on it,” Karl insisted.
The Nets’ entire courtship of Anthony might have been an exercise in futility, because Anthony never indicated whether or not he would sign his extension to facilitate a trade to New Jersey.
Asked if he’d ever consider the Nets down the road, Anthony said: “Obviously, that’s a wrap. He canceled the meeting. I don’t think he wanted anything to do with this situation right now. And I understand. It’s a lot for everybody. So, he’s got to focus on his team and his future. So, I respect that.”
Tired of talking about the trade that didn’t happen, Anthony tried to turn the focus onto basketball.
“We did a great job on Kevin Durant, though, just making him see two people out there,” he said.
Anthony also insisted he’s not bothered by getting booed at home and said the jeers weren’t entirely unexpected even after a big win.
“At this point,” Anthony said, “I don’t expect any cheers.”
Billups’ name was dragged into the talks on the megadeal just two years after he got his wish and was traded by Detroit to his hometown Nuggets. But he wasn’t exactly relieved Wednesday night.
“Not really. We’ve still got a month away before the trade deadline is over. I’m sure it’ll be something else,” Billups said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”
There were reports Wednesday that Anthony’s representatives had let the Nuggets know that the 26-year-old forward was interested in playing for the Chicago Bulls. Houston and the New York Knicks also have been mentioned in trade talks involving Anthony, who had long maintained staying put was an option, too.
But he declined the chance to reiterate that stance Wednesday night.
“I’ve always said I would be here, being a professional, playing basketball, doing what I got to do,” Anthony said, growing ever more irritated. “So, until something happens — if something happens — then you guys will be looking for me after practice every day, trying to get the same answers. Thank you.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.