Posted Oct 26 2010 2:38PM
DENVER (AP) -- After a summer filled with rampant rumors that had Carmelo Anthony heading to New Jersey and then New York, the Nuggets All-Star remains in a powder-blue uniform for the season opener.
He pretty much figured it would play out just like this.
"From day one, despite everything that was being said, I always believed I was going to be there for the first game," said Anthony, whose team hosts the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.
His teammates had a slightly different take.
Once Anthony spurned a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets in June, it looked as if he was on his way out the door.
No way would Anthony be around for the opener, right?
"I definitely had doubts," point guard Chauncey Billups said. "But the further along it went, the further I took myself out of it. I'm not going to stress myself, worrying about what's going to happen. I don't know what's going to happen. Nobody knows what's going to happen.
"He's here right now and we look to rock and roll early in the season."
And so coach George Karl will have his star back on the court.
But for how long still remains uncertain.
The Nuggets have until the February trade deadline to deal Anthony or risk losing him through free agency next summer, when he would be the headliner of the 2011 class.
A bidding war for his services isn't exactly an attractive proposition, especially after watching LeBron James bolt Cleveland and Chris Bosh leave Toronto for South Beach over the summer, leaving only embittered fans in their wake.
The Nuggets would prefer to avoid that type of situation.
Denver was close to sending Anthony to the New Jersey Nets a month ago, but the deal fell apart when the Nuggets' new management team of general manager Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke wanted a sweeter package of players for Anthony.
The Knicks reportedly jumped into the Anthony sweepstakes, trying to assemble a deal that would land him in the Big Apple.
For now, he's still with the Nuggets.
And he couldn't have picked a better team to open up against, given that the Jazz eliminated the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
"I think the NBA was reading my mind. They granted my wish," said Anthony, who has led Denver to the postseason in each of his seven seasons. "I wanted Utah the first game. I know there's going to be a lot of excitement. They got us out in the playoffs last year. We kept that in mind."
Despite the circumstances, Anthony said this opener feels like any other. There's no wondering how the fans may greet him as he saunters onto the Pepsi Center floor, no added emotion that this could possibly be his final opener in a Nuggets jersey.
It's simply business as usual.
"I have no worries, man," Anthony said. "Life is good."
Life without Melo could still very much be on the horizon for Denver.
Anthony put his Denver-area mansion on the market this year and at his celebrity-filled New York wedding to TV personality La La Vazquez this summer, there was that now famous toast by New Orleans point guard Chris Paul about reuniting with Anthony in New York to form a super team along with Amare Stoudemire to counter Miami's trio of Dwayne Wade, James and Bosh.
Karl has been trying to sell his standout player on sticking around.
Apparently, it's not an easy sell.
But Karl said there's still one trump card he hasn't really played - the extra incentive of suiting up for a winner. The Nuggets were in the Western Conference finals just two seasons ago.
"I think winning some games will help that and that's where we're at," said Karl, who's back on the bench after beating cancer for a second time. "It's time to prove to the world that we're OK and we're going to be a good team."
Even with all the swirling speculation, Anthony has kept his mind on basketball, not the buzz. Kept his attitude positive, instead of pouting.
The situation hasn't been a disruption.
"He's been extremely professional," Karl said. "I think because of our injuries we need our stud to be special and I think he knows that."
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