- Associated Press - Monday, February 28, 2011

That Big Three in Miami is already becoming old news, giving way to another trio that can reshape the league.

Speculation shifts quickly in the NBA. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hadn’t even played their first game together in Miami before the focus changed to Carmelo Anthony.

The Melodrama finally ended last week and immediately kicked off an apparent Deronathon _ the long journey until Deron Williams can become a free agent.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul join him as the potential headliners of the 2012 class. Even before Anthony was traded to New York and Williams was dealt to New Jersey the next day, the three All-Stars were already facing questions about their plans.

They shouldn’t answer.

That’s the advice from players who were part of last year’s free agency frenzy. They believe Anthony’s saga was worse and think the one involving next year’s group could even top that.

Wade said if he could go back, he’d have done what James did _ answer no questions during the season. So his message for his Olympic teammates is pretty simple.

“Probably not to keep talking about it,” Wade said.

Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley was even more direct.

“The thing that bugs me the most, I don’t understand why you talk about these things when you’re not a free agent. Carmelo should have came out like Albert Pujols and said, ‘Hey listen, we’re not going to talk about this any more. I play for the Denver Nuggets, and whatever happens, happens,’” Barkley said during the All-Star break. “You should never talk about the job you’re going to have in the future.”

But the questions will be unavoidable. For Williams, they began the minute he arrived in New Jersey. He said during his news conference it was too soon to think about committing to the Nets long term.

Paul is sure to draw just as much media attention as Anthony on Wednesday, with New Orleans making its lone visit to Madison Square Garden. He’s long been considered the next piece that comes to New York _ unless it’s Williams or Howard.

That’s the legacy of last summer, when James, Wade and Bosh set in motion the idea of super teams through free agency.

“I think at first it was the unknown, but now everyone gets to see that quote-unquote star players in this league can go try to team up, so now everyone wants to talk about where they can go and who they can team up with,” Wade said. “Now it’s something that’s become reality.”

The questions started some two years early for last year’s class. James at first seemed to like the attention, but tired of the talk and the effect it was having on the Cavs. He announced in November 2009 he wouldn’t take any more free agency questions until the season was over.

“It gets to the point where you’re answering for a certain amount of time and then you would say, ‘All right, I’m done,” said Amare Stoudemire, the focus of trade talk around the deadline two straight years before leaving Phoenix for New York in July.

“And once you say you’re done, then your team can refocus. Even though the talk will still be out there, but the team can refocus on the actual goal of the year instead of answering questions all season.”

The buzz around the Hornets’ point guard started in September with reports Paul planned to ask out. Howard expressed his frustration three weeks ago with theories he would look to flee Orlando for bigger markets in Los Angeles or New York.

Players can control the story _ or at least contain it _ by simply refusing to participate in it, the route that Anthony declined.

Even after his trade to New York, he took to his Twitter account last week to fire back when Nuggets coach George Karl was critical of his defensive play.

Bosh went through that, too. After enduring all the questions from the media _ not to mention fans on the streets of Toronto _ he was barely gone when Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo told a radio station that his franchise player had “checked out” late in the season.

“I would not want to go through it again and the only advice I could give them is just stay strong, just keep playing basketball,” Bosh said. “As much as you can, don’t let it affect you and just be prepared for anything that comes out there.

“People are going to say, ‘Oh, he’s checked out, he’s not paying attention, he’s given up on his team.’ They’re going to try to find some kind of way to just throw you off your game. You just have to just stay the trail, keep practicing, keep working and just be prepared to talk about it every time you speak with the media.”

The on-deck free agents say they learned from watching their predecessors, but their situations will bring new challenges. Perhaps even questions about franchise tags, which owners may push for as way to keep this trio from leaving.

“I would just tell them make statements about it, talk about it early,” Wade said. “But once it gets into the season, leave it alone, because you can’t control it. You don’t want it to get too crazy where it’s not about the team, it’s all about you and what you’re going to do. So leave it alone after November.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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