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Leaning On Anthony
SALT LAKE CITY — After carrying an NBA franchise and the basketball dreams of a city on his shoulders for seven long years, Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony is beginning to show the strain.
How much more of this can Melo take?
In a 117-106 loss to Utah that put the Nuggets on the brink of elimination from the playoffs, Denver looked like the same frustrating franchise it has been for most of Anthony’s career.
If Melo can’t do it, nobody can.
“I’m trying, I’m trying to beat them. I’m trying to do everything I can in my power to beat the Jazz,” Anthony said Sunday. “But, at the end of the day, I need some help. I’m not sitting here pointing fingers or nothing. As a unit, we’ve got to do this together. I can’t do this by myself.”
The strain of having to do it all for a Nuggets team that doesn’t have the right stuff erupted late in the first half, when Anthony loudly chastised teammate Chris Andersen on the bench for taking an ill-advised outside jump shot that clanked.
“I’m in a battle. I don’t have time to worry about people’s feelings right now,” Anthony said. “I’m trying to win.”
Denver appears to be a team that knows it is done. You can’t blame Anthony, averaging 34.5 points per game in this series against Utah.
“I’ve got a feeling Melo is going to have a big night,” Nuggets vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman predicted as players warmed up prior to Game 4.
Anthony did not disappoint. He scored 39 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Interim coach Adrian Dantley, however, took the opportunity after a bitter defeat to bash Anthony for his nine turnovers. It was another reminder why A.D. is not George Karl.
Couldn’t those mistakes be in part attributed to the fact Utah knew the lone place the Nuggets could put the basketball for reliable scoring was in the hands of Anthony?
“I’m not if I’m reliant on him. He’s taking the same amount of shots and same amount of touches he would get if Coach Karl was coaching,” Dantley said. “We need him at times to score. It doesn’t have anything to do with touches for him getting nine turnovers. He’s got to read the defense a lot better.”
Anthony has come to the slow realization it’s impossible to win an NBA championship by himself.
“In the playoffs, especially Utah, they’re not going to let me beat them. It’s just not going to happen,” Anthony said.
The speculation on whether LeBron James will leave Cleveland for big money and brighter lights after this season has been a constant buzz in ears throughout the NBA for what seems forever.
James, however, has tangible reasons to believe it’s possible to win a championship with the Cavaliers. He doesn’t need a New York zip code for Madison Avenue executives to shower him with endorsement love.
When the Nuggets made a run to the Western Conference finals a year ago, Denver seemed like home to Anthony. But, in fewer than 12 months, all those good basketball vibes have gone away.
Can anybody really say the Nuggets have a brighter future as a challenger to the Lakers than Oklahoma City or Portland? Point guard Chauncey Billups will turn 34 years old before the opening tip of next season. The knees of power forward Kenyon Martin show high mileage. We must wonder if Nene will ever develop the personality traits to be a dominating center.
While Anthony is under contract with the Nuggets through 2012, it’s conceivable he could gain his freedom in a year, although it would come at the steep price of terminating the final, $18.5 million year of his deal.
But if you’re New York Knicks executive Donnie Walsh, prospective Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov or rapper Jay-Z, and the goal is to make pro hoops relevant again in the Big Apple, the target to aim at should be Anthony.
Melo wants to be as big a brand name in basketball as Kobe or LeBron.
Anthony knows the lone way he can do it is to win a championship.
He must begin to wonder: Can the Nuggets, who have never been to the NBA Finals, ever make his dreams come true?