DENVER — Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t come out and say he wants out of Denver. His inaction has indicated otherwise.
Anthony hasn’t signed a $65 million extension that’s been on the table since June, leading the Nuggets to engage in trade talks for their superstar forward who has led them to the playoffs in each of his seven seasons.
The All-Star fidgeted in his seat during media day Monday and talked around questions concerning his future with the team.
“I’m here, man. I’m here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds,” Anthony said. “Practice starts tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”
Anthony arrived wearing his white, powder blue and gold uniform. But just how much longer he may be donning that jersey didn’t get any clearer. He said he planned to be “committed 100 percent” when training camp began Tuesday.
“There’s been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors going on this summer about where I’m going to end up, the Nuggets want to trade me, I want to be traded,” Anthony said. “That’s for my team and front office to discuss. I’m here to focus on basketball and training camp.”
The Nuggets have been engaging in talks with teams interested in acquiring Anthony. A potential mega-deal with New Jersey hit a snag over the weekend, putting the Nuggets and Anthony in the awkward position of being together with camp set to start.
The new management team of executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and president Josh Kroenke began entertaining offers for their star when he let the three-year, $65 million contract sit without his signature.
Asked if signing the extension still remained a possibility, Anthony said, “Right now, I’m leaving my options open.”
“At the end of the season, I’ll sit down with my team, sit down with the Nuggets, we’ll discuss it and go from there,” said Anthony, who showed up at the news conference wearing no shoes.
He also insisted he’s never requested a trade.
“I never once said that,” Anthony said.
When Ujiri came on board in late August, he maintained that keeping Anthony in a Nuggets uniform for the long-term remained at the top of his to-do list. But he said Monday was the first time he and Anthony had spoken face to face.
Before that, they had only spoken by phone.
“Obviously, me and Melo have talked and he’s told me exactly how he feels. I’ve told him how I feel,” Ujiri said. “We’re going to continue talking about it.”
Ujiri wouldn’t say whether he’s still chatting with other teams about trades. Or if it remains a possibility to hold onto Anthony and potentially deal him at the trade deadline in February.
If the Nuggets don’t deal him by then, they risk losing him without compensation. By trading him away, they could get a young player in return plus draft picks and veterans with expiring contracts that would give them maneuverability after this season to reshape their roster.
“I’m not going to talk about time frames,” Ujiri said. “Melo is a Nugget and I’m excited he’s here and we’ll go from there.”
Denver has quite a list of potential free agents at the end of the season, including Kenyon Martin and head coach George Karl.
Karl expressed a strong desire to stick around.
“I would like to retire in Denver,” said Karl, who’s back on the bench after missing the end of last season while undergoing treatment for throat and neck cancer. “We’re just going to have to go out there and win games and let winning take care of what happens.”
Anthony would definitely help in that department. He averaged 28.2 points last season in leading the Nuggets to their second straight Northwest Division title.
“I don’t know why he wants to leave or if he does want to leave. My thing is to try to keep him here. We have a positive relationship,” Karl said. “Four years ago, Kobe Bryant said he wanted out and then six weeks later he loved his team and they went on to win two championships. Maybe I’ll give Phil [Jackson] a call and he can tell me what he did.”
On Monday morning, teammate J.R. Smith posted “He back!” on Twitter, along with a picture of Anthony in the locker room.
Smith remained hopeful that Anthony will stay his teammate for a while.
“I’m expecting him to be here. I’m expecting and hoping,” Smith said. “I talked to him a couple of days ago and he said he was going to be here today. He’s a man of his word so I wasn’t surprised when he showed up.”
In conversations with Anthony, Martin has given him simple advice: Keep his head up.
“He’s got enough people in his ear about basketball,” said Martin, who’s expected to miss time as he recovers from offseason knee surgery.
When asked if he thought there was any chance Anthony sticks around, Martin retorted: “He’s still here, ain’t he? He’s still got that 1-5 on his chest that says Nuggets above it. I’m his teammate. I ain’t worried about that.”
Nuggets leader Chauncey Billups isn’t pushing or prodding Anthony, either.
“He knows that the city loves him. I don’t have to tell him that,” Billups said. “He knows that we love playing with him. I don’t have to tell him that. He knows everything. I really don’t have to recruit Melo.
“I really can’t affect it in any way. Because of that, I’ve kind of taken myself out of it and worried about the team and what we can do.”