DENVER Carmelo Anthony was hammered by J.R. Smith during a spirited 5-on-5 scrimmage at practice 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.
Youre 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 on Wednesday night after his 35-point performance in Denvers 112-107 win over Oklahoma City, which came hours after the New Jersey Nets ended trade talks for the Nuggets star.
Thats not a wise move by the frustrated fans, suggested Kobe Bryant, whose Los Angeles Lakers will visit the Nuggets tonight. 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 hes 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.
Anthonys 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 doesnt 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. Its 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 hell stick around.
Its not rocket science.
What does appear to be rocket science, though, is putting together a trade that will satisfy all parties, especially Anthony, who never gave the Nets or Nuggets an indication one way or the other whether hed sign his extension to facilitate a trade to New Jersey.
Denver native Chauncey Billups, whos been dragged into the Anthony trade talks, said he understands why Nuggets fans are booing Anthony but sympathizes with his teammate.
Melos like a little brother to me, so I hate him going through that, he said.
Anthony, who didnt stop to speak with reporters after practice Thursday, has said the boos dont bother him or affect his game, suggesting hell always have his haters one way or the other.
The jeers in Denver are starting to drown out the cheers for the superstar whos led the Nuggets to seven consecutive 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 dont lose him to free agency this summer without getting anything in return.
Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov canceled his flight to Denver to meet face-to-face Thursday with Anthony and told his team 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 hes 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.
The Nuggets might have to settle for much less from a team that sees Anthony as a rent-a-player for a shot at a championship before losing him as a free agent in a few months.
The Knicks havent had enough to offer the Nuggets, but they appear to be the one team that could lure Anthony into signing his extension to facilitate a trade.
Anthony was born in Brooklyn and has said hed love to play in the Big Apple, so with the Nets done talking, the Knicks can expect a bigger wave of the Melodrama.
Weve got to make sure we stay focused and be prepared. We cant let it affect us, Knicks star Amare Stoudemire said. Weve got to make sure we still play hard every night.
Despite a rash of injuries and Anthonys situation, the Nuggets reached the halfway point 24-17. Coach George Karl talks about having the most talented team hes ever had in Denver, but that could all blow up before the Feb. 24 trade deadline if Anthony is dealt, especially if he takes Billups with him.
Billups would like to stay in Denver, his hometown, but he wasnt exactly thrilled when the Nets pulled out, saying, its not like the trade got called off because Denver said, Were out.
Billups said the first indication he got that the Nuggets might be trying to rebuild was when he heard his name thrown into the Anthony trade talks. He said the Nuggets dont need to crash and burn, however.
We can make a run when healthy, said Billups, who guided Denver to the Western Conference finals two years ago and had them primed to challenge the Lakers for supremacy last season when Kenyon Martin went down with a knee injury and Karl was diagnosed with cancer.
With all of these guys around, with George healthy, I do, I feel like we can make another run, Billups said. But it has to be distraction-free. I dont know how you get there.
AP Sports Writer Chris Duncan contributed to this report.