- Nick Friedell, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Carmelo Anthony made a name for himself on the basketball court, but after seeing his performance with the media after Denver's shootaround at the United Center on Monday afternoon, you get the sense that he could also succeed as a politician.
The Nuggets superstar skillfully deflected several questions during a wide-ranging, seven-minute session with the press. It wasn't that he didn't give answers, it was just that he didn't respond in a way that left no doubts about where he wanted to play next.
One minute he admitted that he would consider staying in Denver if they played well this year, then, a few moments later, acknowledged how much fun it would be to play with Derrick Rose in Chicago.
One second he talked about how he tries not to think about playing in Chicago, because he's not a free agent, and a few seconds later he discusses how Chicago is a "top three" basketball city and he always loves playing here because of the tradition Michael Jordan helped create.
One moment he's talking about how cool it is to know that an entire city's fan base wants you to "represent" them, and the next second he says that he has no idea how he'll be received tonight at the United Center, and isn't really thinking about it.
In short, Melo, like most politicians, is playing to all fields. He wants to be wanted, but he doesn't want to offend anyone. He wants people to know that he is ready for a change, but he doesn't want to upset the people in Denver who have supported him since he broke into the league. Basically, he's trying to please everyone, but for probably the first time in his professional career, he knows he can't.
If you're reading between the lines, as you so often do with this Anthony story, it just doesn't seem like he wants to stay in Denver, no matter what he says. Actions speak louder than words, and by not signing the three-year $65 million extension that the Nuggets have had on the table for months, Anthony has essentially booked his ticket out of town.
But if you're holding out hope that Anthony ends up in Chicago, that's still a serious longshot. Sure, he said all the right things; he'd love playing with Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. They play in a great city and, as Anthony put it, "there's a lot of excitement out here," because of all the hoopla which surrounded the free-agency period this summer."
However, doesn't that sound a lot like what we heard earlier this summer at various times from LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh? Everybody loves Chicago, and they'd probably be happy if they ended up here, but the Windy City, as it pertains to luring marquee free agents, is always the bridesmaid ... never the bride.
I don't think anything will change when it comes to Anthony. From the beginning, I've always believed that he wanted to end up in New York with the Knicks. He has an affinity for the city and would love to form his own star-studded triumvirate alongside Amare Stoudemire and a Chris Paul-esque player to be named later. New York is the perfect match for what Anthony seems to be looking for; he can star under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden every night, while his wife, La La Vazquez, pursues her entertainment dreams in the biggest media market there is.
Anthony said he is completely focused on basketball and wasn't even focused on the "business" side of things at the moment. But, like most of his other statements on this day, he contradicted that statement with his actions. If his decision has nothing to do with business, then why didn't he just sign with Denver a while ago and be done with it?
Now more than ever, I believe Anthony wants out of Denver. He's ready for a change and he's ready for a new challenge. I just don't think Chicago gives him everything he is looking for at the moment.
Obviously, as the weeks slide by, things could change. Although it's still highly unlikely, Denver could panic and decide to take back Luol Deng's contract and a host of other things in a deal for their franchise star. It could happen, and Anthony could sign the extension with the Bulls, I just doubt it will.
It's my belief that Anthony is willing to do whatever it takes to help make a trade to New York possible, even if that means slogging through an entire season of media speculation sessions like the one that he endured Monday morning.
Like any good politician, Anthony knows he has a serious public relations battle to wage in order to get what he wants. As long as he continues to put on a happy face, as his agents play hardball behind the scenes, the guess here is that he ultimately will figure out a way to get everything that he is looking for.
15dMatt Walks, ESPN.com