NEWARK – Mikhail Prokhorov seemingly pulled the New Jersey Nets out of the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes with his press conference 12 days ago, and Nets coach Avery Johnson insists that rumors and speculation are in the team’s rear view mirror. But there were signs at the Prudential Center on Monday that the Nets still want to woo ‘Melo to New Jersey and, eventually, Brooklyn.
And by “signs,” I really mean signs … literally.
On either end of the hallway that leads to the Prudential Center locker rooms, the Nets placed four large signs promoting the Barclays Center. Two were computer renderings of what the arena would look like, one was a recent photo of the arena construction in progress, and the fourth read “Opening in Brooklyn 2012.”
With the signs on either end of the hall and the Denver Nuggets’ locker room in between, Anthony would walk by them a total of eight times during his only visit to Newark this season.
“That was interesting,” Anthony said of the signs after his Nuggets ended their five-game road trip with a 115-99 loss to the Nets.
And no, the signs were not there for any of the Nets’ previous 22 home games.
Anthony danced with the New York media for a little less than 10 minutes before heading back to Denver. And while, at this point, nothing he says should be taken as any absolute indication of anything, his answers to today’s probing questions could arguably provide hope for fans of the Nuggets, Nets and Knicks, depending which way you interpret them.
First, some hope for fans of the Knicks, who’s best hope to land Anthony is to have him play out the season in Denver, opt out of the final year of his contract, and become a free agent this summer.
“The CBA is in the back of my mind, but as far as being afraid to play this out, I’m not. If that’s what it’s going to take, then so be it. I’m with that.”
He’s said previously that signing an extension that would guarantee him $65 million for the three seasons beyond 2011-12 was his priority, but tonight, he seemed to take that back.
“If I sit here and tell you I’m willing to lose $15-20 million, then I’ll be lying to you. But at the same time, this has never been about the money. In my career so far, I think I’ve made enough money. Now I can focus on just trying to win a championship. That’s the only thing that’s on my plate and on my mind right now.”
Nuggets fans will be happy to know that Anthony’s not ruling out the possibility of staying in Denver. When asked about winning a championship “at home” (meaning Brooklyn in the reporter’s mind), Anthony was quick to say that Denver’s his home too.
“I’ve been there eight years. I didn’t even spend eight years in Baltimore.
“I love where I’m at right now in Denver. We’re playing well, but at the end of the day this is a business. The Denver Nuggets have to be cautious. It’s a business. I have to look at it as a business and we just go from there. Whether we make a business decision together and that’s for me to stay in Denver or they say the business decision is to trade you somewhere else, then you’ve got to deal with that.”
Finally, for fans of the Nets, Anthony disputed any reports that said he definitely wouldn’t sign an extension with New Jersey.
“I really don’t know where that came from as far as if I was to come here, that the extension wasn’t going to get signed. I really don’t know who started that. There’s a lot of things that’s being said out there that I don’t know where it came from. Sources, I guess.”
But of course, he made no commitment to definitely signing such an extension should the Nuggets trade him to the Nets. He just said that he was ready to meet with Prokhorov.
“I would have took that meeting. That meeting was going to take place. I can agree to that. But as far as anything else, I really can’t speak on it.”