Anthony heard boos mixed in among some cheers while scoring 28 points Tuesday in a 132-98 beating of the hopeless Suns in a half-empty Pepsi Center. He said the boos didn't bother him, but he was taking the high road. He clearly notices the catcalls and he isn't used to it. "It doesn't bother me as long as I go out there and continue being the player that I am,'' he said. "Doing what I do.''
Anthony encouraged negative reactions by settling for eight points in a home loss Sunday to the Hornets. He followed that with a listless 1-for-4 display in the opening quarter against Phoenix, which ran out to a 32-18 advantage. Thereafter the Suns would be outscored 94-42 as Anthony rediscovered his jumper and the Nuggets attacked the basket as if they were the old Harlem Globetrotters against a defense resemblant of the Washington Generals.
Anthony finished with 28 points (on 17 shots) and 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. Shooting guard Arron Afflalo threw in a career-best 31 points and nine rebounds in 39 minutes to help Denver end a three-game losing streak.
Even though a minority of boos greeted Anthony at various times, all of his field goals and other winning plays were celebrated as always. The overwhelming sense of this frigid Tuesday evening was that the fans -- on this night, at least -- have checked out on the 21-16 Nuggets as they booed and cheered Anthony for their own amusement. He could not have felt during this game that he was being run out of town -- on the contrary, there was more a half-hearted admission from the audience that his eventual departure has already been accepted.
Anthony was in a good mood until he was asked after the game whether his wife, Lala Vasquez, was influencing his decision to refuse a three-year extension from the Nuggets and remain in Denver. Anthony insisted he was in charge of his own career decisions. "You can write this in bold,'' he said. "Lala has nothing to do with me staying here or me leaving. Please keep her out of it, thank you."
As frustrated and uncertain as the Nuggets surely feel amid the ongoing rumors of a blockbuster trade that would send Anthony to New Jersey, they could take heart in realizing that the Suns are in much worse shape. They were utterly defenseless over the final three quarters, and afterwards coach Alvin Gentry had no choice but to agree they had reached the low point of the Steve Nash era. "You dig yourself back out of it,'' he said. "You either pull yourself out of it by competing like crazy, or you don't.''
Both Gentry and Nash insisted this was a time for playing and not talking. But not so for the Nuggets -- they will continue to negotiate trades to deliver assets before Anthony can walk as a free agent this summer. In the meantime, a long-awaited appearance Thursday by LeBron James' Heat has been rendered something of an afterthought -- a distraction to the real ongoing story of the Nuggets and their franchise star.