Carmelo Anthony is a good guy.
Just ask him.
"Since the season started, I've been trying to do my best to try to make things right, try to prove to people that I'm not the type of person that everybody's portraying," the Denver Nuggets' second-year star told reporters recently.
"I'm not a thug. I'm not a gangster. I'm a basketball player, but at the same time, I'm a gentleman. I do good stuff. It just so happens this (DVD) came out. I thought I was taking steps forwards, but this put me two steps backwards."
The Syracuse University product, who visits Toronto to face the Raptors on Friday, has been putting out personal fires all season. The most recent Anthony controversy occurred last week after he made an appearance on an underground DVD that shows him next to an alleged drug dealer in his hometown of Baltimore. In the video, one man warns that people who warn police about drug deals "get a hole in their head."
Anthony's poster-boy image has changed just a bit since he led Syracuse to an NCAA championship last year. First, he was part of the train wreck that was the bronze-medal American winning team at the Olympics. Then came a nightclub fight with a rapper in September. And later, he was charged with possessing less than a half-ounce of marijuana -- the charge was eventually dropped when one of Anthony's friends said he put the weed in the Nuggets forward's bag.
What's more, there are rumours Michael Jordan is not happy that Anthony is the face of Nike's Jumpman 23 shoes.
At least Anthony acknowledges he hasn't been an angel. He told the Baltimore Sun that sprucing up his image is "big on my plate."
On the court, Anthony also has endured some problems. He shook his head on the bench and stayed away from team huddles after he was pulled from a lopsided loss against fellow second-year phenom LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last week.
But not all is terrible in Anthony's world. He bounced back against the Miami Heat with a 28-point performance in a big win. He led the Nuggets with 19.8 points per game heading into a game against the Orlando Magic last night.
"It takes a strong person to deal with all this stuff, to be the same person," Anthony said. "Even though all this stuff is going on, I'm still the same person. Nothing has changed, and I realize that. Nothing in this world will be able to take away my family, my identity and this game of basketball, which is something that I love to play."
Maybe coach Larry Brown taught some valuable lessons to the players on that disappointing U.S. Olympic team.
James, Amare Stoudemire of the Phoenix Suns and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat -- three members of the Athens squad -- are third, fourth and sixth in NBA scoring this season, respectively.
BREAK UP THE CLIPPERS
Hope for the Raptors comes in the form of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Underachieving NBA organizations actually can prosper.
The Clippers went into last night with the same record (10-7) as those glamour-boy Lakers. The Clippers' recent five-game winning streak was their longest since 1995-96. Their 9-6 November was the best since the team's final year as the Buffalo Braves in 1978.
"When we start facing the upper-echelon teams, people are ready to write us off," the Clippers' Elton Brand told the Los Angeles Times. "We don't mind. According to some people, we shouldn't have won the games we've already won."
- Tracy McGrady is having flashbacks to his Raptors' days in Houston. The Rockets are off to a 7-11 start. Some suggest the Rockets have been hesitant because they are afraid to make mistakes under coach Jeff Van Gundy. "Oh, absolutely," McGrady told the Houston Chronicle. "I was in a stage like this before back in Toronto. I was so worried about making a mistake that every time I did make a mistake, I looked over my shoulder to see if someone was subbing in for me. It's the same situation here."
PROPS TO NASH
- Cleveland Cavaliers coach Paul Silas is a member of Canadian Steve Nash's fan club. "This whole team feeds off him," Silas told the East Valley Tribune when asked about the red-hot Phoenix Suns point guard. "As he goes this whole team goes. He just changed the whole complexion of the team."
- New York Knicks guard Allan Houston, who hopes to make his season debut tonight in Memphis after nursing a knee injury, is using 1996 Olympic gold-medal winning high jumper Charles Austin as his personal trainer. "A lot of people don't understand where Allan was physically when we started," Austin told the New York Daily News. "Allan was hurting pretty bad ... Now he's a lot better, faster and much stronger than people think."