DENVER — Carmelo Anthony was hammered by J.R. Smith during a spirited 5 on 5 scrimmage at practice on Thursday. When he stepped to the line, his Denver Nuggets teammates began booing and jeering and scoffing the All-Star forward — just like the home crowd has been doing lately.
"You're a bum, Carmelo!" Smith taunted as Anthony laughed and calmly swished all three free throws.
Anthony was booed during a postgame TV interview at the Pepsi Center Wednesday night following his 35-point performance in Denver's 112-107 win over Oklahoma City, which came hours after the New York Nets ended trade talks for the Nuggets star.
That's not a wise move by the frustrated fans, suggested Kobe Bryant, whose Los Angeles Lakers visit the Nuggets on Friday night. He suggested that if Anthony were at all torn about leaving Denver or staying put, the catcalls might just push him over the edge and on his way.
Bryant said he's only been booed at home once in his 15 years with the Lakers and that was in the 2007-08 opener after saying during that offseason that he wanted to be traded. He said the fans came around when they saw him playing hard.
Anthony's been playing hard, too, but the drama has been playing out since last summer, when Anthony declined to sign a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets.
Bryant played with Anthony at the 2008 Olympics and said his friend doesn't necessarily want the bright lights of Broadway but just a shot at a title.
"It has nothing to do with a bigger market," Bryant said. "It's about winning. If you want to keep a player here, make the right decisions, make the right choices, personnel. Get a team around a guy that will help you win and there will be no problems. If Denver will make the right decisions, bring in the right personnel, then he'll stick around.
"It's not rocket science."
What appears to be rocket science, though, is putting together a trade that will satisfy all parties, especially Anthony, who never gave the Nets nor Nuggets an indication one way or the other whether he'd sign his extension to facilitate a trade to New Jersey.
Denver native Chauncey Billups, who's been dragged into the Anthony trade talks, said he understands why Nuggets fans are booing Anthony but sympathizes with his teammate.
"Melo's like a little brother to me, so I hate him going through that," he said.
Anthony, who didn't stop to speak with reporters after practice Thursday, has said the boos don't bother him or affect his game, suggesting he'll always have his haters one way or the other.
The jeers in Denver are starting to drown out the cheers for the superstar who's led the Nuggets to seven straight playoff berths but has left the extension without his signature, leading general manager Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke to seek a trading partner so they don't lose him to free agency this summer without any getting anything in return.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov canceled his flight to Denver to meet face-to-face Thursday with Anthony and told the team on Wednesday to end trade talks with the Nuggets, saying he was unhappy with how it played out in public, that it took too long, got too expensive and cost his team games.
Ujiri said Wednesday night he's in discussions with "plenty of teams" about Anthony and that he held no animosity toward the Nets for pulling the plug on a proposed trade that would have netted the Nuggets a couple of first-round picks and rookie power forward Derrick Favors.
With the Nets out of the picture, at least for now, the Knicks are expected to get back into the mix with other possibilities including the Bulls, Mavericks and Rockets.
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