Melo out

The Baltimore Sun

Carmelo Anthony - and his fans - have been here before.

"Here" is where the Denver Nuggets star and Baltimore hometown hero found himself yesterday, which was breathing a sigh of relief that he had tip-toed through another legal minefield without having his career go "Boom."

"I'm happy that it's over so I get a chance to take care of business," he said after pleading guilty to lesser driving-related offenses in Denver, instead of a more grievous charge of driving under the influence, which prosecutors dropped.

Back in April, Anthony was pulled over for erratic driving and failed a field sobriety test. In court, he pleaded guilty to driving while ability-impaired (which is apparently less severe than DUI) and failure to stay in a single lane. He got one year of probation, 24 hours of community service and a $1,000 dent in his wallet in fines and court costs.

This all happens to follow a speeding offense last month where he was ticketed for doing 60 in a 45 mph zone -- hardly the crime of the century, but in Anthony's case, just one more forehead-slapper.

When all was said and done, Anthony escaped relatively unscathed again. In the courtroom were his coach, George Karl, and the Nuggets' vice president of basketball operations, Mark Warkentien. That was a show of support that reinforced the team's recent promise not to ship Anthony out of town.

As followers of the former Towson Catholic standout's career know, this is hardly the first time that Anthony has found himself in troubles crosshairs.

There was the nightclub brawl when his fiancee LaLa Vazquez reportedly had a drink spit on her. The time when marijuana was found in his backpack at a Denver airport; a friend said it belonged to him. The time another friend, driving Anthony's vehicle, was stopped and found with marijuana. The time he was in a fierce on-court melee, along with his teammates, against the Knicks in New York, and he was suspended for 15 games. And, of course, the time he appeared, perhaps unwittingly, in that infamous Stop Snitching video.

Take each one of those incidents separately and you can make a good argument for why Anthony should be held harmless, especially in light of his good works on behalf of youth both in Baltimore and Denver.

But taken as a dubious body of work, you can also conclude that Anthony needs to do some self-examination about decisions and associates.

The better news for Anthony this week is that he was selected once again as a member of the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team. However, even the first time around with that distinction in 2004 in the Athens Games, Anthony found the experience bitter.

He was a reserve on the U.S. team that lost three games but managed to win a bronze medal, which he said he threw into a lake. During the Olympics, U.S. coach Larry Brown complained about Anthony's attitude and strongly implied he was selfish.

Despite what happened four years ago, Anthony has worked hard to represent his country again, and it seems he will do just that as a starter on the team that's headed for Beijing and includes Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Jason Kidd as the others on the first five.

Some of Anthony's past troubles can be written off to youth -- despite the fact that he has been in the NBA for five seasons, he just turned 24 -- and perhaps a too-strong sense of loyalty to friends. But he is now positioned as a veteran ambassador of his game and his country. More is expected of him now such as showing leadership and not making excuses.

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