Carmelo trade drama shadows All-Star Game

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LOS ANGELES - They sat three across on the scorers' table at the NBA Jam Session Center court, engulfed in a growing horde of reporters and cameras, and spoke as if they were sitting on a couch in one of the plush lounges at the tony JW Marriott Hotel across the street.

The focus was on the most-talked-about player here at All-Star Weekend, Carmelo Anthony, and as the question came once again about trade rumors involving Anthony and reports about meetings with team owners and everything else, Anthony pointed to Chris Paul, seated to his right, and said, "Y'all gotta talk to my representative right here, Chris Paul."

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LeBron James, seated to Anthony's left, interrupted and said, "He would have all the answers." He then said to Paul, "You started this -- thing!"

Paul, the man who made the well-known toast at Anthony's wedding last summer about teaming with Anthony to join Amar'e Stoudemire in New York and forming their own Big Three, shook his head. "Don't put this on me!" he said.

It was a moment of much-needed levity in what has been an exhausting situation that even Anthony himself has dubbed "the Melo- drama."

James starred in his own episode last summer. He set up what basically was a six-team free-agency recruitment period July 1-2 in Cleveland that was akin to speed dating and culminated it with the much-maligned ESPN special, "The Decision," during which he announced his intention to sign with the Miami Heat.

Anthony won't have his own show, but in a way, All-Star Weekend has almost been overshadowed by his unsettled situation with the trade deadline approaching Thursday.

"It's totally different," James said, "because one thing about me, when I was going through my situation, I was able to hide a little bit because it was the offseason when it got heavy. This guy's traveling every day, he has to play, he still has to put on a uniform and still represent the Denver Nuggets the right way and still listen to you guys ask him every single day what is he doing, where is he going, and he knows just as much as you guys know."

But while Paul may have started it all with the toast, James could be the one who created this environment in the NBA, with teams forced to trade stars before they can opt out for free agency so they don't lose them for nothing.

It's Anthony's turn this year, and already the talk has started about Paul (Hornets), Deron Williams (Jazz) and Dwight Howard (Magic), the All-Stars who have opt-outs in 2012.

"I don't even think about that," Paul said. "That's 2012. There's a whole other season to play."

While Anthony was being asked about the Knicks and Nets for the umpteenth time, Williams, who also was among the group, jokingly asked Anthony if he'd consider Utah.

Anthony quickly shot back, "Would you consider Utah?"

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