Friend to claim marijuana was his

DENVER -- Carmelo Anthony was cited for marijuana possession
while boarding the team plane last week, though the Denver Nuggets
star says the bag was left in his backpack by a friend.

Anthony, 20, was issued a summons last Friday at Denver
International Airport while the Nuggets were waiting to board a
flight to Milwaukee for a preseason game.

"I am innocent of this charge because I did not use or
intentionally possess marijuana. I had no idea that there was
marijuana in my backpack," Anthony read from a statement before
Thursday's exhibition game in Los Angeles against the Clippers. "I
sincerely regret any embarrassment this unfortunate incident has
had on my family, supporters and the Denver Nuggets organization.
They have always stood by me, and that means the world to me."

Anthony's attorney, Daniel Recht, said that the marijuana was
left there by an out-of-town friend who borrowed the backpack last

"The friend obviously uses marijuana and left a small amount in
the backpack when he returned it to Carmelo," Recht said.
"Carmelo had no idea there was any marijuana in the backpack."

Anthony was charged with possessing less than 1 ounce of
marijuana, a petty offense with a maximum $100 fine and no jail

Recht said Anthony's friend, James Cunningham of St. Louis, has
signed an affidavit taking responsibility for leaving the marijuana
in the backpack. Cunningham often stays with Anthony when he's in
Denver on business.

Recht said he has met with a city attorney and believes the
citation against his client could be dismissed as soon as Friday.

"I am perfectly confident that the city attorney will be fair
and it is my belief that he will in fact dismiss the case against
Carmelo Anthony," Recht said.

Nuggets general manager Kiki Vandeweghe doesn't want Anthony to
be treated differently because he is a professional athlete.

"Our position is that the city attorney has always been
extremely fair, and I think that Carmelo -- we want him treated like
everybody else," Vandeweghe. "We want all the facts to come to
light, which I think that most or all of them have."

Recht also said he received a letter from Vandeweghe verifying
Anthony passed four random drug tests last season and another just
two weeks ago. The letter also said tests from U.S. Olympic
Committee at the Athens Games this summer came back negative.

"He was devastated to learn there was marijuana left in the
backpack," Recht said.

Frank Moya, Cunningham's attorney, said he was skeptical before
speaking with Cunningham but believed his story after spending "a
lot of time" with him and "putting him under the scope."

"He felt awful, and he felt he needed to try to protect against
someone else paying for his mistake," Moya said.

The charismatic Anthony led Syracuse to an NCAA title as a
freshman in 2003, then was the third overall pick in the draft. He
helped the Nuggets to one of the biggest turnarounds in NBA
history, from the league's worst record at 17-65 to reaching the
playoffs last year for the first time since 1995.

There also have been some growing pains.

Anthony refused to go back into a game last season after his
teammates complained about his shot selection and he was relegated
to the bench at the Athens Games after U.S. coach Larry Brown
called him a selfish player.

Anthony also was involved in a scuffle at a New York bar after
someone reportedly spit on his girlfriend, MTV host La La Vasquez.
He said the incident was blown out of proportion.