Nov 012004
 
Authors: Adam Ebner

For the first time in a long time, Denver Nuggets basketball

fans have reason to get excited about tonight’s start of the NBA

season.

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

playoff run.

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

quick.”

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

injuries.

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.”

 Posted by at 6:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.