Denver star still puzzled over second-half benching

Updated: March 14, 2005, 9:13 PM ET
Associated Press

DENVER -- Denver coach George Karl on Monday downplayed his decision to bench star Carmelo Anthony for the final 17 minutes and 45 seconds of a loss to Phoenix.

Carmelo Anthony
Small Forward
Denver Nuggets
55 20.0 5.8 2.8 .405 .791

"For me, at the five-minute mark of the third quarter, I didn't know how to win a game," Karl said. "Then, when I got a team out there that showed me they could win a game, I decided to stay with them.

"It was probably more their good play than Carmelo's average play that caused me to stay with the crew that was on the court."

The Suns snapped Denver's eight-game winning streak Sunday with a 106-101 victory. Anthony scored only nine points on 2-for-10 shooting and was benched after missing a shot and then watching Phoenix convert a layup.

Karl said neither the play nor Anthony's off night entered into his decision. Anthony said he spent a lot of time thinking about his benching.

"I watched the film just now and still couldn't pinpoint it," he said after a brief practice. Both Karl and Anthony said more was made of the matter than needed.

"It's not a big deal," Anthony said. "Just because this happened last night doesn't mean that something has been going on between me and coach Karl."

Karl surmised that the situation came down to a young player learning to earn his minutes and his opportunity in the game.

"Unfortunately we give a lot of opportunity to some young players, but a good team doesn't," Karl said. "A good team plays the game at a high standard and when you're not playing at that standard and someone else is, you go with someone else."

Karl said he expected Anthony to be back in the starting lineup Wednesday when the team hosts Charlotte.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press