Carmelo Anthony at Denver media day
For how much longer the All-Star forward will wear that white, powder blue and gold uniform, though, remains unknown.
"I'm here today. Whatever the future holds, it holds," Anthony said Monday. "I'm leaving my options open right now.
At the end of the season, I'll sit down with my team, I'll sit down with the Nuggets, and we'll talk about it. This has been a long summer. I'm just excited to get back to the court.” -- Carmelo Anthony
"At the end of the season, I'll sit down with my team, I'll sit down with the Nuggets, and we'll talk about it. This has been a long summer. I'm just excited to get back to the court.
"I've never said I wanted to be traded. I never once said anything about trade talk."
The Nuggets have been engaging in talks with teams interested in acquiring Anthony. A potential megadeal with the New Jersey Nets hit a snag over the weekend.
The trade, which would involve Charlotte and Utah and make Anthony a member of the Nets, would cost Denver nearly $10 million, a reality that is a major problem for the Nuggets, a person with knowledge of the negotiations told ESPN.com's Chris Broussard.
"Stan Kroenke is not going to pay that much money to take a step backwards," the source said of the Nuggets' owner. "They'll have to find a way for Denver to take on less money for that deal to happen."
In the proposed deal, which was first reported by ESPN.com on Friday, the Nuggets would receive Utah's Andrei Kirilenko ($17.8 million), New Jersey rookie Derrick Favors ($4.1 million) and two future first-round draft picks for Anthony, who makes $17.1 million. Their payroll would increase by $4.8 million and since they are over the luxury tax, they'd pay another $4.8 million, meaning Denver would pay an extra $9.6 million this season to become a worse team.
While Denver has not totally nixed the deal, the source told Broussard the financial implications make it very unlikely to happen in its current form.
That goes a long way in explaining Denver's hesitancy regarding the trade. Several league sources told Broussard that Bret Bearup, a longtime consultant to Kroenke and his son Josh, has wanted to trade Anthony for quite some time, but the money aspect of this deal has kept even him from signing off on the move.
The swirling rumors have put the Nuggets and Anthony in the awkward position of being together on the eve of training camp.
The Nuggets' new executive vice president of basketball operations, Masai Ujiri, spoke to the media before Anthony, saying he had met with their franchise player but that the details of their talk would remain private.
"But we're going to keep talking," Ujiri said. "Melo is a Nugget now, and we're excited about that."
The Nuggets began entertaining offers for their superstar after he declined to sign a three-year, $65 million extension that's been on the table since June.
"There's been a lot of speculation, a lot of rumors going on this summer about where I'm going to end up, the Nuggets want to trade me, I want to be traded," Anthony said. "That's for my team and front office to discuss. I'm here to focus on basketball and training camp."
Adande: Pending Split Still Apparent
Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets do not seem to be headed in the same direction as camp opens, ESPN.com's J.A. Adande writes. Story
Earlier Monday, J.R. Smith posted "He back!" on Twitter, along with a picture of Anthony.
Smith remained hopeful that Anthony will stay his teammate for a while.
"I'm expecting him to be here. I'm expecting and hoping," Smith said. "I talked to him a couple of days ago and he said he was going to be here today. He's a man of his word so I wasn't surprised when he showed up.
"A lot of hype going around expecting him to leave, so it's tough to watch ESPN every day and trying to see where everyone else is at."
In chatting with Anthony, forward Kenyon Martin simply told him to keep his head up.
"He's got enough people in his ear about basketball," said Martin, who's expected to miss some of the season as he recovers from offseason knee surgery.
When asked if he thought there was any chance Anthony sticks around, Martin retorted: "He's still here, ain't he? He's still got that 1-5 on his chest that says Nuggets above it. I'm his teammate. I ain't worried about that."
Nuggets leader Chauncey Billups isn't pushing or prodding Anthony, either.
"He knows that the city loves him. I don't have to tell him that," Billups said. "He knows that we love playing with him. I don't have to tell him that. He knows everything. I really don't have to recruit Melo."
For coach George Karl, the big selling point is simple: Winning.
"We've won for seven consecutive seasons, we're one of the few teams to make the playoffs for seven consecutive seasons," said Karl, who's back after missing the end of last season while undergoing treatment for throat and neck cancer. "Haven't had the playoff success, but I still think you don't want to go to losing. The worst experience in the NBA is being in a losing situation. I believe we can be a very good basketball team very quickly."
While New Jersey, Charlotte (which would receive Nets point guard Devin Harris in the proposed trade) and Utah (which would take back Charlotte's Boris Diaw and New Jersey's Quinton Ross) waited over the weekend for Denver to accept the deal, the Nuggets spoke with other clubs in search of a better offer.
Instead, Philadelphia suggested a package of rookie Evan Turner, who was the second pick in last summer's draft, the expiring contracts of Jason Kapono ($6.6 million) and Thaddeus Young ($4.6 million), and future draft considerations.
The Sixers' pitch is that the Nuggets would save $3 million in salary -- $6 million considering the luxury tax -- and get back a potential star in Turner plus a young standout in Young. There's a major hurdle to any deal with Philadelphia, though, and that's Anthony's reluctance to sign a contract extension with the Sixers.
Because there has been no indication that Anthony would agree to an extension with Philadelphia or Golden State, the teams have little incentive to part with valuable assets for what could wind up as a costly one-season rental, given that Anthony can become a free agent on July 1, 2011.
The New York Knicks, who are Anthony's team of choice, have continued to pursue Anthony, but Denver is currently cold to all conversations with the Knicks. While the Nuggets aren't enamored with New York's roster, they also believe the Knicks may have done some back-channel recruiting of Anthony over the summer, and are therefore determined not to work with the Knicks except as a last resort, according to sources.
Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Denver officials were clinging to hope that Anthony -- who has had virtually no contact with the organization all summer -- could be convinced to reconsider his desire to be traded once he reports to training camp and starts hearing pro-Nuggets voices again.
"The deal is in neutral," one source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com on Sunday afternoon.
Denver's weekend discussions with other teams have not surprisingly caused frustration among the Nets, Bobcats and Jazz, but one source with knowledge of New Jersey's thinking continued to express hope that the original four-way deal would go through sometime this week.
The source, pointing to the fact that the highly publicized proposed deal would furnish Denver with Favors and two more first-rounders, described the Nets as "believing the deal will happen at some point."
Nets general manager Billy King, speaking Sunday to local reporters, would only address the prospect of acquiring Anthony in general terms.
"I would say that we're exploring everything," King said. "But there's no deal. We have nothing. We have nothing. We're excited about the guys playing. I'll continue to explore and see if we can make the team better. At this point I'm excited about watching our guys practice.
"It's a process. ... Some of them take two years to get to the point when you get the player you want. Some take two weeks. I think you've got to make sure you do it and do it the right way."
Nets head coach Avery Johnson echoed that sentiment tweeting on Monday, "Right now, nothing is alive."
"Everyone is waiting on Denver, not Melo [committing to an extension]," one source close to the trade talks told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan.
Information from The Associated Press, ESPN.com's J.A. Adande, ESPN senior writer Marc Stein and ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard was used in this report.