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Publish Date: 3/15/2005

Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, left, is guarded by the Spurs’ Bruce Bowen on Saturday. Anthony has a worse shooting percentage (.405) this season than in his rookie season (.426).AP/Bob Owen

Out of focus

DENVER — George Karl sat on the sidelines of the practice court, having a long talk with Nuggets guard Earl Boykins.

Meanwhile, Carmelo Anthony was down in the locker room watching tape of Denver’s 106-101 loss to Phoenix on Sunday. Anthony was searching for a reason why he sat out the last 17 minutes, 45 seconds of the game, but he couldn’t find the answer.

“I spent a lot of time thinking about why. I just came from watching some film and I still can’t figure out what was the reason,” Anthony said Monday. “I spent all night thinking about it. I can’t pinpoint it. I watched the film just now and I still couldn’t pinpoint it.

“I always want to be in the game in a situation like last night. Coach’s decision was he felt the five out on the court were on a roll and he didn’t want to mess that rotation up. Things like that happen all the time.”

Karl didn’t have to look at the film to know why he didn’t play Anthony in the late stages of the game. He went with his gut, and what he thought was working against Phoenix.

“Any time I make decisions in basketball games, it’s usually for two or three reasons,” he said. “For me (Sunday) night, at the 5-minute mark of the third quarter, I didn’t know how to win a game. And then when I got a team out there that showed me how to win a game, I just had to stay with them. It was probably more of their good play than Carmelo’s average play that caused me to stay with the crew that was on the court.”

This is the second time since Karl took over on Jan. 27 that Anthony was on the bench at crunch time. The first time was in Memphis on Feb. 25, and the Nuggets rallied to win in overtime, 97-94.

Anthony scored 12 points in 28 minutes that night, and he was upset after that game. But after Sunday’s game — and on Monday — he seemed more interested in finding a reason why he sat instead of publicly chastising Karl.

“Whatever he did, it was his decision,” said Anthony, who scored nine points on 2 of 10 shooting against the Suns. “I don’t think it was so much of a big deal last night that I didn’t get back in the game. We still lost the game. I don’t think it was that big of a controversy.

“I’ll talk to him, but like I said it’s not that big of a deal. The only thing I can do is keep going out there. I’ve been playing good, so I’ll keep going out there and continue doing what I’m doing out on the court.”

Karl indicated his decision was based on Anthony’s performance Sunday, not over a long period of time, and that he’ll always make decisions based on how to win each game.

“You don’t coach Carmelo. You coach the team,” he said. “I think my job is to coach the team and not manage an individual situation in a game. Now with two or three days off, you manage the individual. A big game against Phoenix, and I said I was kind of searching.”

Anthony’s poor shooting night might have been a factor, considering it came right after he was 4-for-17 from the field against San Antonio on Saturday night.

“He’s a young player that’s going to learn that you earn your minutes and earn your opportunity in the game of basketball,” Karl said. “Unfortunately, we give a lot of opportunities to young players, but a good team doesn’t. A good team plays the game at a high standard, and when you’re not playing to that standard and someone else is, you go with someone else. Wednesday night he’s back in the starting lineup; Wednesday night he’s probably priority A or B and hopefully he’ll bounce back and play great.

“Carmelo is a good kid. He’s got great basketball skills. The consistency and the professionalism and the commitment on a daily basis and a daily game basis, it’s not him. It’s just rookies. It’s just young players are kind of shocked by how hard it is to play 82 games of basketball with a focused, committed, intense, demand themselves to give the discipline for that.”

In the meantime, Anthony will try to figure out why he was on the bench at the end of Sunday’s game.

“I still don’t understand why, but we’ve got to put this game behind us,” he said.

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