The stars are shining, and Anthony has that mellow feeling |

The stars are shining, and Anthony has that mellow feeling

the associated press
Summit County, CO Colorado

DENVER ” Nothing like an All-Star invitation to mellow Melo.

“Once I got the news, it was like a relief for me,” Carmelo Anthony said. “I got a chance to just go out there and focus and have fun. I feel like I have more pep to my step out there.”

Anthony, the league’s leading scorer, wasn’t surprised by the snub from fans, who selected the starters for Sunday’s All-Star game in Las Vegas. After all, he’d been suspended five weeks for fighting.

He was genuinely surprised and hurt, however, when he was spurned by the Western Conference coaches, who chose the reserves.

He wondered if that one regrettable moment had tarnished the good things he’d done lately to ditch his immature image ” starring for the U.S. team at the world championships last summer and giving money to build a gym at Syracuse and a youth center in Baltimore.

Maybe all that goodwill was wiped out by his sucker punch of Knicks guard Mardy Collins, followed by his quick retreat across the court.

“The first couple of games when I first heard the news, it was in the back of my mind, lingering,” Anthony said, referring to the snub by coaches. “I asked myself what I was doing out there, or what I wasn’t doing, or am I doing too much or too little?”

He responded by assuming even more of the burden to carry the hodgepodge Denver Nuggets, who have yet to jell because of trades, suspensions, injuries and illness.

That didn’t work out so well. Despite earning his first career triple-double, Anthony couldn’t lift the Nuggets, who were without Allen Iverson (ankle) and Marcus Camby (flu). They kept losing to lesser teams who better understood teamwork.

After an overtime loss to Charlotte last week in which he threw an airball at the end of regulation, a disconsolate Anthony sat in his leather chair and stared into his locker while still in uniform for nearly an hour after the game.

A stream of coaches and teammates approached to console him. Anthony said nothing, lost in thought, wallowing in misfortune.

The next day, commissioner David Stern, who had suspended Anthony for fighting, chose him as an injury-replacement selection.

And just like that, Melo was Melo again.

“I think the stress is his body and his nature right now is a little more relaxed, a little more just into having fun and enjoying the game rather than worrying about everything,” coach George Karl said.

Anthony agrees.

“Since Camby and A.I. have been out, I have realized I don’t really need to score 35 points for us to win,” Anthony explained after the Nuggets’ third straight win Monday night. “If I go out there and get eight or nine rebounds and six or seven assists, and still do what I do when I get the ball, then it’s easier for me and easier for my teammates. We can win a lot of games.”

Anthony also earned Western Conference player of the week honors Monday, an award he won twice before his suspension.

“I don’t know how I got it. It’s been a crazy week,” Anthony said. “It’s an honor for me to get that. I’m proud that I got it and I’m just happy to be in a situation where I can get the achievements and awards.”

He’s also happy he doesn’t have to leave the arena two hours before tip-off to watch his teammates on TV, as he did during his 35-day ban.

Camby returned to the lineup Monday night and Iverson, who is skipping the All-Star game to rest his sprained right ankle, hopes to return when play resumes Feb. 20.

The Nuggets believe that if Anthony can continue to play unselfish basketball when the A-listers all get on the court together, the team can make some noise come the playoffs.

“We are getting it together now. Once we have everyone back and have A.I. healthy, then we can be one of the top teams in the West,” Anthony said.

In the meantime, he can’t wait to show fans and coaches that it shouldn’t have taken the commissioner’s generosity to get him to Las Vegas.

“Regardless of how I got there, whether it was voted or being a replacement, I’m going to have a good time,” Anthony said. “My first All-Star game. In Vegas. Can’t get better than that.”

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