NEWARK, N.J. -- Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe the Nets had been planning for weeks to display photos of the Barclays Center construction in a back hallway of the Prudential Center, a hallway that just happens to be the path that visiting players take on their way to the locker room. That it happened when the Denver Nuggets were in town, well, that was nothing more than a delicious irony.
"That was interesting," Carmelo Anthony said with a chuckle. "That was interesting."
Indeed, it seems even if New Jersey's basketball operations staff has abandoned the pursuit of Anthony -- and multiple sources continue to insist that they have -- minority owner Bruce Ratner's group continues to fuel the flames. It figures. The Barclays Center has been Ratner's Hell's Angels, an interminably long project that has encountered countless roadblocks along the way. Now that the finish line is within reach, sponsors must be wooed, season-ticket packages sold. Those jobs get exponentially easier with a superstar like Anthony on board.
But that's not going to happen. Not now, probably not ever. Ratner's team may not have believed Mikhail Prokhorov when he said the Nets were out of the Anthony sweepstakes. But Anthony did.
"He took a real strong stance holding that press conference straight off the plane," Anthony said. "Obviously he feels strongly this wasn't going to happen."
And that's what made Anthony's only visit to Newark this season so anticlimactic. If Denver had played here, say, three weeks ago, the buzz about 'Melo's arrival would have been palpable. It would have meant something that New Jersey took an easy 115-99 win with core players Brook Lopez (27 points) and Travis Outlaw (21) playing well. It would have mattered that Anthony put up 37 points.
But even though the media contingent on Monday was larger than usual ("What is this, the Finals?" Anthony Carter said as he left the locker room.) 'Melo's postgame Q&A session lacked much luster.
Questions were stale. Answers were recycled and vague.
Would you have signed an extension with New Jersey?
"I really don't know where that came from about how if I was going to come here that extension wasn't going to get signed," Anthony said. "I don't know who started that. There are a lot of things that have been said out there that I don't know where it came from. As far as the extension, if that trade would have gone through, who knows what would have happened."
Will you risk losing a boatload of cash by leaving the $65-million extension on the table playing out the season?
"If I sit here and tell you I'm willing to lose $15 to $20 million, I'd be lying to you," Anthony said. "But at the same time, this has never been about money. In my career so far, I've made enough money."
Do you think you will still be a Nugget after the trade deadline?
"I haven't really thought about whether I'll be gone or whether I'll be here the whole season," Anthony said. "I think Prokhorov took a lot off the minds of the Nets and the Nuggets. Now everybody can go out there and just play and see what the next step is from here."
Of course, there will be a next step. Anthony might be traded. He might stay in Denver, a prospect Nuggets coach George Karl is warming to more and more by the day. It isn't over. But it is over for New Jersey, which has moved on. The Nets are still looking at deals, but they have shifted much of their focus to the draft, where they will have five first-round picks to restock the roster with over the next two years.
The Nets' problem isn't whether Anthony will sign an extension or whether the Nuggets will close a deal without making them swallow every fat contract on their books.
It's whether Kyrie Irving is an NBA point guard or Jared Sullinger is athletic enough to make it as a power forward.
Anthony is Denver's problem. He's Houston's, Chicago's and New York's problem, too. They are the ones that now have to overload their hard drives with trade scenarios and decide if one player really is worth gutting the franchise.
It's a tough call but one New Jersey no longer has to make. For them, the Carmelo Anthony chapter has been written. Monday night was merely punctuation.