Teams' official radio stations tend to give players from affiliated squads the powder-puff treatment in interviews. But FM 104.3/The Fan afternoon hosts Irv Brown and Joe Williams proved intermittently, and unexpectedly, tough during a July 9 phoner with Denver Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony. The highlight? When Brown, a longtime basketball referee, suggested that Anthony couldn't be stopped if he concentrated more on establishing position down low, kicking the ball out and then re-posting, Melo responded by challenging Brown (jokingly, I think) to a mano-a-mano matchup on the block. To that, an exasperated Irv declared, "I'm 73 years old!"
Anthony clearly wasn't expecting Brown and Williams to scatter significant inquiries into their otherwise chatty conversation. After all, he was calling in to promote his signature basketball camp, not respond to criticism. But Williams came at him anyway, noting that each day the hosts hear from Nuggets boosters who feel "the defense sucks."
Anthony reacted by getting more defensive than he usually does on the court, insisting that the fifty wins the ballers racked up in 2007-2008 constituted a successful season despite the Los Angeles Lakers' sweep of the Nugs in the first round of the playoff. He also pointed out that the Nuggets have a onetime defensive player of the year in Marcus Camby, a tenacious force in Eduardo Najera and a "pretty good" defender in Kenyon Martin. To his credit, however, he didn't include himself in the first-rate-defender roster and acknowledged that while the defensive play can be good at times, it's been inconsistent -- and he speculated that a lack of focus might be the reason.
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Instead of declaring victory and moving on, Williams pushed further, mentioning the superior defense displayed in the NBA finals by the Boston Celtics, who shut down the very same Lakers collective that dismantled the Nuggets. But rather than take the bait and promise to strive for similar defensive intensity -- since, as in this case, such play often leads to championships -- Anthony simply declared that it was "the Celtics' time." And when Brown and Williams asked how the Nuggets could rise to the next level with what appears to be essentially the same lineup (not to mention the same coach, George Karl) that came up short last year, Melo proved equally evasive, giving a series of non-answers that suggested he was more concerned about the upcoming Olympics in Beijing than he was about the NBA season.
That's fine for now. But after the medals are doled out, Anthony needs to get serious about the Nuggets. After all, even those who would be expected to treat him deferentially have hard questions these days -- and the people he'll be playing this fall won't be 73 years old. -- Michael Roberts