Carmelo staying in Denver, but maybe not for long

Denver will soon be back on the phones, writes Sam Smith. The Nuggets have way more leverage than they seem to think, as Carmelo Anthony has to have that contract extension and really doesn’t want to play it out and then take perhaps $30 million less from

Carmelo Anthony

"The issue for Anthony has been competitiveness," writes Smith. "He (and his celebrity wife) want to be in a larger media center, New York or L.A., which pretty much eliminates just about every small and mid-sized market. But Anthony also recognizes with his pals all gathering in Miami that winning will produce the biggest notoriety."

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So it sounds like it’s going pretty good in Denver for Carmelo Anthony.

We know the trade to New Jersey that was “done” was undone and Anthony—‘Who me?’—never asked for any trade. And if you believe that one… No big deal. Players do all the time. Or did until NBA commissioner David Stern began to threaten locusts descending on their crops if they ever did again.

Then training camp begins and Kenyon Martin says since he’s not getting any contract extension, he doesn’t see why he should work very hard to get ready for the season.

“Ain't nobody in a hurry to give me (an extension). So I'm not going to be in a hurry to come back and risk it,” Martin, who had knee surgery four months ago, told Denver media. “Think about it. Ain't nobody in a hurry to give me a contract, so why would I be in a hurry to rush back and risk further injury? It makes all the sense in the world. I've thought about it.”

Give Martin this: He’s not worried about saying the right thing. Perhaps we ought to be commending him for refusing the hypocrisy of politically correct. Heck, for all we know, he may be a Tea Party candidate for Congress. He’s sure mad and given he only makes $16.5 million this season, you can sympathize with his defiance of the Nuggets big business establishment. “The Man’s” keepin’ him down again.

Of course, this is the great teammate who threatened to sit out the playoffs because he was mad about a prank played on him by a teammate last season, something about popcorn in his car.

Then J.R. Smith weighed in. We know for sure he’s an incurable goofball since even the Nuggets were trying all summer to dump him. So Smith issued a tweet that read, “God, please give me strength not to respond to bitter people because they want to be like me.”

I guess I can admire his self-confidence, but do you really want to share that? Again, kudos for refusing to yield to politically correctness.

There’s Chauncey Billups likely facing a final season with an almost certain buyout after this season, Chris Anderson out also after knee surgery and wobbly kneed Al Harrington in with the $33 million deal Martin felt he should have, and you know Al isn’t passing the ball much.

So you figure that leaves Anthony even less ‘Melo than before.

This all means Denver will soon be back on the phones. They have way more leverage than they seem to think as Anthony has to have that contract extension and really doesn’t want to play it out and then take perhaps $30 million less from the Knicks. So he’ll likely be traded.

I still believe the Nets have the best package for the Nuggets, especially with a possible valuable 2012 Warriors pick and if they give up their own in 2011 as the Nets shouldn’t be very good even with Anthony. Which probably is the issue, and why Anthony has been pushing even more for the Bulls.

The Bulls aren’t going to trade them Joakim Noah, and I agree with that mentality. Noah could be traded with a signed extension, but the commitment the Bulls means, essentially, that Noah is an untouchable. He’s not going anywhere. So the issue is where Anthony would agree to sign.

Here’s what it looks like to me:

1. Nets: The same deal with Derrick Favors, who has looked good already, a pick or two as Denver now supposedly is demanding two 1’s and an expiring deal in Troy Murphy. I haven’t quite understood the desire to move Devin Harris in that multi-team proposal, but there remain rumblings about Harris having packed it in much too quickly last season.

2. Clippers: They’ve been in talks all summer as well with Chris Kaman, rookie Al-Farouq Aminu and picks, which could include a valuable Minnesota No. 1 in 2012. The Nuggets don’t seem interested in Kaman, who doesn’t have an expiring deal, so perhaps it comes down to whether the Clippers would throw in Eric Gordon. So far no.

The issue for Anthony has been competitiveness. He (and his celebrity wife) want to be in a larger media center, New York or L.A., which pretty much eliminates just about every small and mid-sized market. But Anthony also recognizes with his pals all gathering in Miami that winning will produce the biggest notoriety. It’s why most “experts” believed LeBron was going to the Bulls, because they could get well under the cap and retain Derrick Rose and Noah. Denver doesn’t particularly want to deal with the Bulls, though the Bulls do have one nice addition, the Charlotte pick from the Tyrus Thomas deal. It has some lottery protections which eventually disappear. It could in five years be one of the top picks in the draft. Maybe it’s not worth giving for schizophrenic Rudy Fernandez, but if you can get Anthony that’s different. But could Denver afford to wait so long and view that as a positive?

It’s likely a stare down for now with Denver most likely willing to deal with the Nets and Anthony not quite seeing rings there other than those given him by the new owner. What the Bulls have going for them is the gathering dysfunction on the Nuggets roster. Anthony was booed at an appearance the other day, and local columnists have been writing those “Get him out” columns that hastened Jay Cutler’s departure. The West remains a “Love it or Leave it” stronghold.

So maybe Denver finally gives in and takes Luol Deng and some picks. But here’s the new problem for the Bulls. With Carlos Boozer hurt already, it would seem they have to hang onto Taj Gibson. And maybe the Bulls now don’t want to give up the 2011 pick. After all, things are not starting out so well. So figure the Bulls even a longer shot than before. It probably would take the Bulls moving Deng effectively for nothing, an expiring contract, say someone like the Pacers’ Mike Dunleavy or Sacramento’s Samuel Dalembert or even the Knicks’ Eddy Curry and move them on to Denver, which doesn’t want long contracts. They have been notoriously frugal and dumped Marcus Camby for nothing to save money. And then offer some picks, maybe James Johnson and Omer Asik. Little chance Denver goes for that. Maybe after December when players signed this summer can be traded, but if I were Anthony, I’d forget about Chicago.

LeBron’s public relations issues continue

-- Reason No. 47 to hate the Miami Heat came last week with LeBron James’ latest lame comment, this time in a rather innocuous answer on CNN that race may have played a role in the negative reaction toward his free agency departure from Cleveland. You know you’ve stepped in it when you inject race in conversations since race always is an issue in the U.S. and often plays a role, the NBA has a majority of black players and white fans at games and it’s certain to turn commentators at Fox and MSNBC apoplectic. Generally, we all agree James’ “Decision” TV show was the disaster that led to much of the criticism with its stick it to Cleveland theme and using the Boys and Girls club kids as props. I’ve got no problem with James’ decision since as a free agent he was entitled to it. I thought he’d stay in Cleveland, but it certainly was his right under the rules the players and the league agreed to. And he certainly gave plenty of notice that “his talents” were in play.

Yes, there was this notion of a lack of fair play with he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh ganging up. But Pat Riley pulled it off, and he deserves credit for that. Once the games begin and ESPN again shows every James basket and pass on its highlight shows, much of the anger is likely to pass. You’d hope James would stop taking p.r. advice from Kenyon Martin, but that’s his choice.

And I will add I think this is going to make James (and the Heat) even better as one thing that drove those 1995-96 Bulls was Michael Jordan’s anger about those saying he was washed up after his shaky return to basketball and the playoff elimination to Orlando with Shaq and Horace. Jordan refusing to give up on any game was the reason the Bulls won 72. James was also bashed for supposedly giving up on the playoffs last spring, and with this cascade of condemnation, you can see him having a point to prove. Will it mean 70 wins or more? I don’t think so. But I also didn’t think that Bulls team had a chance.

The disappointing part, though, for me in all this is it again raises a racial blemish on the NBA, which is the most colorblind place I’ve ever known. Perhaps it’s the ultimate end result that incompetents of any race can achieve exalted positions. That’s what I call equality.

Just kidding, and I’m not suggesting a lack of competence among any of these guys, many of whom are my friends and excellent coaches and executives. The point is you just don’t get jobs in the NBA because you are white. This season, the most criticism I’ve gotten about a Bulls player is that they would give a chance to Brian Scalabrine instead of someone more talented. When Vinny Del Negro got the Bulls job, there was criticism around the NBA that he wasn’t experienced enough. The consensus was the then other top choice, Dwane Casey, was more deserving.

You can fail with a team in the NBA whether black or white and be rehired, like Billy King recently back with the Nets. King is a solid guy, but the notion in sports had been if you are black you get one shot. Lionel Hollins replaced a heavily criticized Marc Iavaroni in Memphis. Larry Bird would always tell you his smartest teammate was Dennis Johnson and he wished Kevin McHale cared and thought more.

I remember taking a trip with parents to Florida in the 1950s and seeing separate water fountains and riding on a bus with separate seating sections. At that age, I didn’t understand what was going on. I’m proud to have come of age in an era when we refused to accept any such thing. Likewise, I’m proud to work in an NBA that rewards according to competency, at least on the subjective level and not the racial level. Blacks are fired now for being incapable. Not for being black. I suppose that’s progress.

I’m not so naive to think racism still doesn’t exist and affects much in America because, as I like to borrow from the Seinfeld show, “People, they’re the worst.”

But what I was most disappointed about with James was the suggestion that he was a victim because he was black and not stupid. He clearly was stupid, but that’s curable. And that’s, frankly, more common in the NBA. I’m proud to work in an environment where we can more revel in our stupidity.

Chemistry challenges in Boston

-- Now talk about your chemistry challenges. Danny Ainge has proven an aggressor in the front office just as he was as a player, and he may have outdone himself this time adding Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, who should be entertaining to watch if starting center Kendrick Perkins returns to full health during the season. Nate Robinson returns and with a contract instead of a job interview. Rajon Rondo already declared himself the league’s best point guard, not that anyone is asking (wonder why I never heard Magic or Oscar say that?) and then there’s Delonte West in a return. He has to sit out first for being arrested with a virtual arsenal of weapons—9mm Beretta pistol, .357 Magnum and a Remington 870 in a guitar case—that made Gilbert Arenas look like he was playing with firecrackers. West has battled much publicized emotional problems, and it was unique to see him in the Cavs’ locker room last season, where team staff stood guard to prevent media from speaking to him and West generally sat there staring and not talking to anyone. How he was able to play seemed amazing. And then came this internet rumor he was dating LeBron’s mother (who was 17 when LeBron was born) and this upset LeBron and it was why he seemed to lose focus and interest during the playoffs with the Celtics. So West shows up at Celtics camp and he was asked about the dating the mom rumor and sort of denied it: “Not at all (true),’’ he told Boston media. “I come from an era where you don’t say nothing bad about someone’s parent, so not at all.’’ Big Baby Davis, predictably, did some complaining about what his role would be with all these new guys, though the Celtics were most raving that Kevin Garnett is back, back I tell you! Anyway, with Doc Rivers going into his final contract season, if he can navigate that locker room, he’ll be in line to replace Phil Jackson and double his salary. … Last season, Jonathan Bender. Now Shawne Williams. You’ve got to give it to Knicks GM Donnie Walsh for being loyal. Could Steve Stipanovich be next? … Think how great it would have been in Toronto if they had lost Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or LeBron James instead of just Chris Bosh. Said GM Bryan Colangelo to Toronto reporters as camp opened: “The worst thing that could have happened is us coming back to camp with the same miserable faces. Without a star-centric system, there’s no one to defer to—no one in the locker room that Jay [Triano, the Raptors head coach] or the players have to defer to. We can have a fresh approach to coaching, management. We can do some things, here, without that one person in the centre of the circle. When you have a guy scoring 24 points and getting 10 or 11 rebounds a game, somebody’s [now] going to get those opportunities. And that’s another thing: Not to knock Chris … but he did tend to hold on to the ball. Sometimes time would lapse off the clock and Andrea was expected to be away from the basket to open up the lane for Chris.” Colangelo’s spin talents are being wasted as they seem to be buying this in Toronto. Perhaps it’s time for a stint in the White House.

No. 2 pick Turner struggling to find his way

-- Interestingly, in the 76ers’ camp No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner is having difficulty being a shooting guard given he’s been so accustomed to playing with the ball. Jrue Holiday has supposedly been a revelation at point guard, forcing Turner into a backup position. The issue will be playing Andre Iguodala at shooting guard while asking him not to shoot and play more like he did for USA Basketball as a defender and slasher. The 76ers are quietly pleased about the throw in part of the deal involving Willie Green and Darius Songaila, Iowa State rookie Craig Brackins, a 6-10 shooter whom they believe can surprise. … Longtime Bulls assistant John Bach did some mentoring for Doug Collins at the 76ers’ camp. Bach was Collins’ top assistant when Collins was Bulls coach and helped coach Collins when Bach was assistant on the 1972 U.S. Olympic team. “His wisdom is priceless,” said Collins. “It was great having him around.” … Two guys to watch this season are rookies from last season virtually forgotten, Tyler Hansbrough and 2009 No. 1 pick Blake Griffin. I’ve got Griffin for rookie of the year. Again. Hansbrough has been cleared to play after a mysterious ear infection cost him most of last season. The Bulls were angling to select him in that draft before the Pacers picked him.

Life without Boozer; don’t forget the Bucks

-- The Bulls are measuring themselves by trying to figure out if they can beat Miami, at least when Boozer returns. They don’t play Miami until Jan. 15, but Boozer could miss two games against Boston if he’s not back by Dec. 3. The Bulls open the preseason Tuesday against Milwaukee, which is measuring itself (favorably) against the Bulls. And with Boozer now out—assuming Andrew Bogut stays healthy, which he rarely does—the Bucks probably now are the Central favorites. Said Brandon Jennings to local media: "I do think we are better than any team in the Central Division because of the talent we have. The Bulls got better with Boozer, but I think right now we are probably the favorite to win the Central Division, not to say we are going to win it. But I feel like we can." Added John Salmons: "The Bucks have a great chance to win the division. Chicago, definitely. They have added some pieces. I think we have a great shot. We don't have any reason to think we shouldn't win the division." Hey, forget the Bulls, says Corey Maggette, who likely will miss the season opener after summer ankle surgery: "Seeing this talent here, you have to put us in the (league championship) category, you have to.” But the Bucks also have loaded up with size (likely for Bogut insurance) and seem the most physical team in the Central with Andrew Bogut, Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, Jon Brockman from Sacramento and 6-11 rookie Larry Sanders and 300-pound plus rookie not so Tiny Gallon. … Best owner in the NBA? The Bradley Center board says U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl. "If we didn't have Herb Kohl, it would be a real challenge to keep an NBA team here," board chairman Marc Marotta said last week because of the inability to build a new arena or remodel the current one. He suggested a new owner would immediately be threatening to move without changes the Bradley Center cannot afford to make. “Every year, he is writing out a big check," Marotta said. "I would not be surprised if it was in the eight figures that he lost." … Maybe it’s Antawn Jamison who’s bad luck as in one season his teams experienced the Gilbert Arenas gun incident and LeBron James departure, effectively crippling two franchises. … They’re not getting over this quickly in Cleveland. In a recent Cleveland Plain Dealer column regarding LeBron’s bio, columnist Bill Livingston listed Relationship as “In a committed one with myself,” religious views, “Messianic,” and a favorite quotation from George Costanza: "My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter, I was raised to give up. It's one of the few things I do well,” and that he “friended” Roberto Duran on Facebook.

Hinrich returns to the UC

-- Gilbert Arenas’ latest act is being somber and Zombie-like, and you know this isn’t going to go well. Coach Flip Saunders said he may play a lot of three guard with Kirk Hinrich and you know poor Kirk will be guarding the huge threes, never one of his strengths. The Bulls play their first home exhibition Friday against the Wizards on what is not yet Kirk Hinrich Night. No talk yet if the Bulls will run a highlight package of Hinrich’s fouls. And for those wondering, Hinrich is ineligible to be traded to the Bulls for one year. … The Magic is likely to move Rashard Lewis back to small forward, especially for matchups with the Heat and Chris Bosh at power forward. Brandon Bass, who came on late, should get more time there. Coach Stan Van Gundy’s first message to his team: “Talent doesn’t win championships. Teams do.” Stan also should be looking slimmer this season as the league is now requiring coaches to wear collared shirts and no more of the Van Gundy/Nellie mock turtleneck that made Nelson look like a beached seal. OK, even without it he did, but it should help Van Gundy.

NBA news and notes

-- How pathetic was it to have live TV coverage of Miami’s training camp which no one was allowed to watch and visitors had to have a guard escort them to the restroom. I assume not go in, but it is Pat Riley. It reminded me of being at the zoo, where everyone peers in at the animals and the animals peer out quizzically, as if thinking, “What the heck are they looking at? We’re not doing anything.” … How about this point guard competition: D.J. Augustin, Shaun Livingston, Javaris Crittenton and Sherron Collins. That Charlotte pick the Bulls got is looking better and better. … Rookie Charlotte coach Monty Williams says he wants Aaron Gray to run faster: “Not that he is getting up and down the floor slowly,” Williams told New Orleans media. “But for us to be effective and him, he's got to be able to move from one end of the floor to the other quicker.” Yeah, good luck with that. … Another former Bull, Jannero Pargo, is likely backing up Chris Paul, who is one of Pargo’s closest friends and Pargo a lot of talking for Paul with local media when Paul isn’t available. Hey, it got Tim McCarver a heck of a career for Steve Carlton. Sorry if you’re not old enough for the reference. … Lots of unhappy guys trying to get their extensions before the new CBA with Aaron Brooks in Houston expressing disappointment at the Rockets’ no extension policy, Jamal Crawford in Atlanta saying he’s not sure he’ll remain with Atlanta as a result, Tony Parker with no offer, Zach Randolph looking for big money with no offer forthcoming, Al Horford unsure he’ll get an extension even as the Hawks intimate they may offer one, Jeff Green in Oklahoma City not being approached and, of course, Martin with Denver. … Bobby Simmons is trying to hook on with the Spurs without a guaranteed deal. … Pretty positive reports from Griz camp on 2009 bust Hashem Thabeet, who described himself last season to the Memphis Commercial as “a deer in a flashlight.” The Grizzlies have had former All-Star center Bob Lanier, who now works for the NBA, working with Thabeet. … Elijah Millsap, brother of Paul, has a chance to stick with the Thunder which Marcus Landry could be playing with brother Carl in Sacramento. … Michael Beasley said he relaxes by playing nine holes of golf every day. I’m guessing now in Minnesota he’s pretty much done with that routine.

-- That was quite a media day soliloquy as camp opened from Rudy Fernandez, who said his game doesn’t fit the NBA and fits Europe and he intends to return as soon as possible. Said Rudy: "I don't want a trade, I prefer to go home with my family and play in Europe. I don't want to hear about New York or about Chicago. I want to hear (I'm going) back to Europe." He said his heart no longer is in playing in the NBA. So could this be for real or a way for the Trail Blazers to stop holding out for so much and let him go? He’d sure get playing time with the Bulls with Ronnie Brewer slow to get going in camp. … They’ve probably got Greg Oden talking to himself again as he had to reiterate to reporters he isn’t a bust, though both he and Joel Pryzbilla won’t be ready for the opener after their surgeries and Marcus Camby isn’t practicing yet. "Is there any proof that I'm a bust?" Oden said to local reporters. "All there is proof of is that I have bad luck with injuries.” Perhaps more interesting was Oden went to great lengths to explain how much he’s cut down (virtually stopped) drinking and partying with several teammates saying they’d also heard he’d finally stopped drinking. Party town Portland? Who knew? We thought all they did was run and walk around in those sleeveless down vests. … I’m not sure this will work as the Suns want Hakim Warrick to take the Amar’e Stoudemire role while coach Alvin Gentry called Stoudemire the game’s best pick and roll player. Does Warrick know the roll part? … Phil Jackson is going for his fourth three-peat as a coach. Does he have to pay Pat Riley, who copyrighted the term? ... Ron Artest goes back to No. 15, his original Bulls number. No. 37 from last season was for Michael Jackson's "Thriller" being atop album-sales charts for 37 consecutive weeks. And that guy needs a psychiatrist?

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