PLAYERS: F-C Nen�, F Linas Kleiza, G Chucky Atkins*, F Eduardo Najera, F-C
Steven Hunter* *New acquisition ?2005-06 statistics
(6th in West) Points scored: 105.4 (3rd in NBA) Points allowed: 103.7 (26th)
Coach: George Karl (fourth season with Nuggets)
Before the start
of the Nuggets' preseason opener in Denver, Carmelo Anthony looked around at
all the players and coaches in the locker room and a smile came over his face.
"This is my fifth year, and I've never had everybody healthy and set from
the start," he said. "We were always adjusting to new players and
coaches, but that's not the case this year."
Having his team
ready to go couldn't have come at a better time for Anthony. After a
roller-coaster 2006-07 season that included a 15-game suspension for his role
in an on-court brawl in New York, the exhilarating trade for Allen Iverson last
December, but then a swift exit from the playoffs, Melo has a fresh outlook for
this year. "I'm a new person with a new attitude," said Anthony, who
finished second to Kobe Bryant for the league scoring title with a 28.9
average. "I don't know why. I just woke up one day and felt this way. I'm
happier than I've ever been."
newfound serenity may stem from his talented supporting cast, which includes
former scoring champion Iverson, top NBA shot blocker Marcus Camby, Defensive
Player of the Year J.R. Smith and former All-Star Kenyon Martin, who missed
most of last season following microfracture surgery on his right knee. There
are still the questions of whether Anthony and Iverson can be as effective for
an entire season together as they were on separate teams and whether Denver can
get past the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets haven't gotten over that
hump in their last five trips to the postseason.
The more mellow
Melo is happy to be the underdog. "We don't need anybody talking about
us," he says. "We're going to prove what type of team we are. We're
going to surprise people."
team's scout sizes up the Nuggets
mounting on this franchise. In four years the Nuggets have won four playoff
games, and now they're a heavy tax team with the third-highest payroll in the
league. How do you continue paying that money for a team that can't win a
playoff series? . . . You can tell from Carmelo Anthony's appearances for the
national team each summer that he's serious about trying to get better. He's
their best player, but is he a real leader? . . . I see Allen Iverson slowing.
It takes him a lot of dribbles to get to the rim. When small guards lose a
step, they tend to lose their game too. . . . If they get Kenyon Martin back at
full speed, it will be an interesting development. He is a very strong post
defender, and he's quick with his moves. But Martin also creates drama and
could be more trouble than he's worth. . . . Eduardo Najera is probably the
most reliable frontcourt player. He's very intelligent, but his body is wearing
down. . . To be successful in the playoffs, they have to get lucky and avoid a
disciplined team like San Antonio.