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Star of the show (cont.)

Posted: Thursday April 26, 2007 3:05PM; Updated: Thursday April 26, 2007 6:06PM
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Nuggets may lack staying power

Center Marcus Camby is one of five Nuggets players on the books for at least $8.8 million next season.
Center Marcus Camby is one of five Nuggets players on the books for at least $8.8 million next season.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
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The next two games in Denver will say a lot about the Spurs' championship hopes. They need to win one of them, obviously, but more intriguing will be whether they exert control over their surroundings. Their elder stars get excited by the idea of silencing an enemy building: The question is whether their will can be converted into disciplined, tempo-dominating performances at both ends. In which case their ensuing series with Phoenix is going to dwarf anything seen this season.

The sad question of this series is whether the Nuggets will ever be able to fulfill the potential they've shown over the first two games. Nene's recovery from knee surgery, Carmelo Anthony's suspension and Allen Iverson's midseason arrival prevented Denver from uniting its talent until the final weeks of the regular season.

This has the makings of a terrific team over the course of next year. The problem is that the Nuggets have collected more expensive contracts than they can afford. Iverson, Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby and Nene are on the books next year for $63 million, which alone bumps Denver up against the current luxury tax. Overall the Nuggets have 10 players signed for next season at a cost of $76 million, which means that they must either unload salary or else take on an unsavory tax bill.

The Suns will be in the same kind of position, but at least they've been able to see their roster peak over the past three seasons. The Nuggets may not be able to afford similar growth over the years ahead.

Accounting for the Celtics' big problem

News item: The Boston Celtics announce that they've removed Sebastian Telfair's nameplate from his locker after he was arrested on a gun possession charge while driving with a suspended license in Yonkers, N.Y.

So what will the Celtics do next if Paul Pierce decides to go tearing through the Ted Williams Tunnel at 77 mph with someone else's gun under his seat? Are they going to remove his nameplate and throw it in the trash?

Every team in the league would love to make an example of its problem players as the Celtics have done with Telfair. One of the reasons they don't is that it establishes a standard of punishment that cannot be sustained. The Celtics can afford to be aggressive with Telfair because he has no role in their future, he has one year left at just $2.6 million, and his presence is a constant reminder that they made the worst trade of the year to acquire him.

By waiving him, they may feel they're currying favor with commissioner David Stern, who has wanted to crack down on handgun possession by his players but hasn't quite known how to do it. Can they turn this into a test case that will enable the league to terminate player contracts?

The problem the Celtics have created is that they may look weak in the future if they fail to come down just as hard on other players who are accused of doing wrong.

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