For the first time in a long time, Denver Nuggets basketball
fans have reason to get excited about tonight’s start of the NBA
Last year marked the Nuggets’ arrival on the scene, after the
team won 43 games and earned a spot in the playoffs. What made it
more amazing was that the team had won only 17 games the year
before. Key acquisitions and one superstar in the summer draft
allowed for one of the most remarkable turnarounds in NBA history,
a turnaround the Nuggets hope to build off this year.
Carmelo Anthony, the second-year star from Syracuse, is the
franchise’s cornerstone player. Despite an off-season marred by
difficulties, most expect the 20-year-old to overcome the
adversity. After averaging 21 points per game last year, Anthony
appears prepared to put up similar numbers again.
“Last year, Carmelo showed maturity as a player from the first
half to the second half of the season,” said Marc Spears, a Denver
Post NBA writer. “This year during the preseason he was moving well
without the ball and has become a more potent passer. This team
knows ‘Melo’ is their main guy.”
This year Anthony can rely on an exceptional supporting cast.
Andre Miller is the starting guard with a knack for finding the
open man with timely passes, while Earl Boykins comes off the bench
and runs faster with the basketball than some wild animals move
across open plains.
The Nuggets also boast a frontcourt that is deep and unmatched
by most teams in the league. Last year, the team was led by center
Marcus Camby in rebounding (10.1 per game) and emotion. Camby, an
often-injured player in past years, missed only 10 games last
season and provided an energy that other players fed off during the
This year, Camby has good company in former first overall draft
pick Kenyon Martin. Martin, acquired in an off-season trade with
New Jersey and signed to a lucrative long-term contract, is one
reason this team is prepared to make a move in the Western
Conference. He is known as an emotional player with great defensive
skills and athletic ability, and he can change a game’s momentum
with his thunderous dunks.
“Martin brings an intensity this team was missing last year,”
Spears said. “The team is extremely excited about the added element
he brings to the table, and he should become a fan favorite very
The Nuggets have a few strong players coming off the bench as
well. Boykins and Brazilian star Nene are capable of starting on
many NBA teams. The addition of Martin allowed for moving Nene to
the bench, but he should still see plenty of minutes on the court
and continue to become the star the team has seen flashes of.
However, Anthony, Miller and Boykins are the only point guards on
the roster and the Nuggets will suffer if any of them fall to
At the shooting guard position, Voshon Lenard is the returning
starter who has been notorious as what Krieger describes as a
“streak shooter” who can “completely carry the team or completely
disappear” in a game.” Tomasson said the addition of Martin will
create open looks for Leonard on three-point shots. Lenard will be
counted on to consistently make them, as he is the only viable
shooting threat the Nuggets have.
Denver is led by third-year head coach Jeff Bzdelik, who had a
guaranteed one-year contract extension take effect as a result of
guiding the team to the playoffs, but many wonder if he will be
back next year.
Headlines have been made about the dissention between Bzdelik
and Denver GM Kiki Vandeweghe, and Rocky Mountain News sports
columnist Dave Krieger said it stems from the two having different
philosophies. Krieger said with all the hype, if the Nuggets cannot
achieve the lofty goals, Bzdelik is essentially being set up to
fail and could be fired.
The Nuggets are set to open the season in Los Angeles tonight
against a new-look Lakers team without Shaquille O’Neal and Phil
Jackson. The home opener is on Thursday against Minnesota, the team
that beat the Nuggets in the playoffs last season.
“What I see is a team that I feel like they can win on any given
night,” Spears said. “This team can compete, and they are extremely
excited about the season ahead.”