This is Carmelo’s chance to get away from reality

MACAO -- Of course, everyone knows your U.S. basketball player is under tremendous pressure, yada, yada, etc.

What pressure?

A great weight may, indeed, drop on each of them, say, if they ever find themselves behind in a second half in Beijing. Until then, these are 12 NBA stars having the time of their lives.

In their day jobs, pressure is a way of life. This is an interlude with 11 teammates, just like them.


A year ago with Kobe Bryant vowing never to put on a Lakers uniform again, his time with the U.S. team gave him a chance to have fun again as he and Jason Kidd wished out loud about getting the chance to play together in real life.

Bryant’s situation has changed so dramatically, he doesn’t need a refuge from reality. This is more like the maraschino cherry atop the sundae of his bright future.

If no one has Bryant’s flair for highlights and lowlights, this summer’s Kobe is Denver’s Carmelo Anthony, who nose-dived so badly along with the Nuggets that there was speculation they would trade him.

Anthony, easygoing and pleasant, if painfully young with a gift for pratfalls, was still the Nuggets’ future at 24. It just didn’t look as sparkly after the Lakers swept them in the first round, not to mention Anthony’s DUI case, which prompted the Nuggets to suspend him for the first two games next season.

The Nuggets assured Anthony that he wouldn’t be traded. Signaling his displeasure at being dangled, he asked them to make an announcement, but they held off.

“He’s just frustrated with the rumors, but NBA teams usually don’t make public statements about trade rumors,” Anthony’s agent, Calvin Samuels, told the Rocky Mountain News. “He just wants them to go public, but that’s not their policy.”

OK, who’s ready for summer?

“When you’re with your own team, when you’re winning, everything’s good,” Anthony said here Wednesday. “When you’re losing, not so much that it’s your fault, but everything comes back on you.


“Whereas this team has 12 guys,” he said of the Olympic squad. “We’re all going to take the blame if we lose, so nobody says it’s my fault or points fingers. We win or lose together.

“There’s 11 other guys -- on their own team they have those same pressures, so they know what I go through and I know what they go through.”

However, while Anthony was off having fun, the Nuggets were sending Marcus Camby and his $11-million salary to the Clippers, avoiding a luxury tax hit at the cost of 10 rebounds and 3.6 blocks a game.

“I was salty,” Anthony said. “I was kind of mad at the way they went about it. Camby and me, we were two of the main guys who started that whole Denver thing over again. . . . To see a guy like that go is really crazy.”


Until Aug. 24, however, Anthony has all the support any NBA star could wish for.

In the wake of reports that Sacramento’s Ron Artest was headed for Houston, Bryant, sitting next to Anthony before practice, said the Lakers’ small forwards were fine.

“Could be worse,” Bryant added for Anthony’s benefit. “Could be the Nuggets.”

“Say it again louder!” Anthony said, laughing. “Say it again loud and proud!”


“They’re going to talk bad about you, and then when you win, it’s all good,” Bryant said, laughing. “The heck with that! You come to the Lakers for a bag of peanuts.”

Yes, the pressure is immense. Somewhere, sometime, but not here now.