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West: Melo trade good, but results may take time

By BRIAN MAHONEY
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 24, 2011; 5:57 AM

NEW YORK -- Jerry West believes the Carmelo Anthony trade was good for the Knicks and Nuggets, though neither may know how beneficial for a while.

Knicks fans may be questioning that as their team continues to falter. The highs and lows they feel are just part of sports, though. For West, they became a health risk.

Watching the teams he assembled as one of the NBA's best executives caused too much stress for someone battling a heart condition. He could handle the anxiety and any pain as a Hall of Fame player, but not once he no longer had any control over the outcome.

"When it affects you the way it affects me, and it affects moods, mood swings, lack of sleep, I feel enormous stress and pressure," West said in a phone interview. "I didn't feel that as a player. I did not feel that. I just felt these different palpitations where sometimes it felt that your heart was beating completely out of your chest and every once in a while you get a little lightheaded.

"That wasn't what I felt as an executive. I felt this frustration, anxiety."

West was in New York on Wednesday to discuss his fight against atrial fibrillation and to encourage people to get facts about the disease early. He wasn't diagnosed until long after his playing days, but said medical advances have made early detection far easier now.

He also got to check in on the Knicks, who fell to 7-10 since acquiring Anthony and 35-36 for the season with a 111-99 loss to the Orlando Magic.

They've fallen to seventh place in the Eastern Conference while watching Denver go 11-4 since dealing its superstar, but West said it's too early for the panic surrounding the Knicks.

"You can't judge a trade by that, and it also gives them building blocks," West said before the game. "They got not only Carmelo, they got a tremendous player in Chauncey Billups. He's really good and so they got two really good players out of it, but they haven't played together that long so I don't say it's patience, I think to me it's understandable that they wouldn't come in and burn the house down as far as winning games."

West constructed champion Lakers teams in the 1980s and 2000s, then built a contending team in Memphis before retiring in 2007, so he knows about making difficult deals, and understands the results may not come quickly.

"Regardless of how people try to read trades - Denver is playing well, they certainly have more depth now than they had before - but the reality of a trade like this, you're not going to be able to judge this until next year or two years from now," he said. "Which team is going to prosper the most, which team is going to make progress to the ultimate goal of any franchise, and that's to win championships."

Because he was on the East Coast, West was unable to see the Lakers' triple-overtime victory over Phoenix on Tuesday. He likely wouldn't have watched it even if he were still running the Lakers.

"I would probably be out in the parking lot ready to kill a player when he made a terrible mistake, and the same player makes the winning basket and you feel good about him again," West said. "It brings up all kind of different emotions when you have this arrhythmia problem I have and also the things I've had to do to cope with it, and those kinds of moments were the ones that were set it off even more so."

AFib is the most common form of heart arrhythmia, affecting an estimated 2.5 million Americans. It causes a rapid or irregular heart rhythm and can lead to stroke or heart failure, along with other conditions. There may not be pain like West experiences, making it unknown to many sufferers.

"I feel the symptoms, where a lot of people never feel it and that's where it's most dangerous," he said, "because it can be fatal if you don't get treated and if you don't do the right things to help battle this disease."

West only disclosed his condition two years ago, but he wants others to be aware and discuss it sooner. There is a website,http://www.AFStat.com, which includes an evaluator that allows people to see if they might be at risk, as well as information on medical costs and a place where visitors can share their stories.

"I didn't know I had it until I was an executive, but I had it when I was a player and that's what has made I think my participation in this campaign even more fun for me, because I get to tell my story as an athlete, also as an executive," West said.

© 2011 The Associated Press