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News » 'Tis season to shine like NBA all-star for Nene


'Tis season to shine like NBA all-star for Nene


'Tis season to shine like NBA all-star for Nene In the past decade, only one Western Conference team did what the Nuggets are trying to do this season. The stars aligned above, fittingly, for the Suns in 2005, and three of their players competed in the NBA All-Star Game.

As for Denver, if Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups play as well as they did last last season, they will be headed to Dallas. But who's the third?

"Shaq is gone, Yao is out," Nuggets coach George Karl said. "This is the year of opportunity for Nene."

For the past couple of years, Karl has mentioned that Nene could someday be an all-star. This season might be his best chance. With Shaquille O'Neal in Cleveland and Houston's Yao Ming out with a foot injury, the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Nene is on the shortlist of the West's elite

centers, along with the Lakers' Pau Gasol and the Suns' Amare Stoudemire, who technically is a power forward, as is Minnesota's Al Jefferson. Also, Emeka Okafor has joined New Orleans, bringing his 13.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game to the Hornets.

As for the 27-year-old Nene, all signs point to him joining Denver's all-star constellation. He's coming off his best season as a pro and gained valuable postseason experience in helping the Nuggets advance to the Western Conference finals, averaging 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds. He also finished second in the NBA in shooting (60.4 percent).

"Nene has a rather complete game for a post player," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Monday. "He doesn't need a lot of shots and he gets points with those shots, and he plays aggressively, and with intensity. Those two things are impressive."

During preseason camp, Nene has been working on his footwork, and his jump shot, much like fellow post players Kenyon Martin and Chris Ander-

sen. All of them love the idea of shooting from outside the paint, whether or not Karl loves the idea.

"I let the game come to me. I don't try to force it," Nene said.

It's a cerebral approach, especially when you have Anthony, Billups and the explosive J.R. Smith on the court. But this is the area where Nene can improve, according to Karl.

"I think a lot of veteran players have a way of pacing themselves," Karl said. "Nene needs to take a bigger piece of the responsibility. Sometimes players think that sounds good, but it's not as easy to do. Nene and I need to work as a team to figure out getting him more touches, better touches, better options, and I think you'll see us do that."

Denver's offense is often "flow and random," according to Karl. "Just playing Basketball with spacing and good decisions. ? And sometimes big guys get lost in that. It's a system that can be dominated by the guards. We have options and situations, but it seems like the reward system, as the season goes on, doesn't reward him. It's my making it a priority and him taking responsibility with efficiency and effectiveness."

On defense, Nene is a mauler when manning up. But Karl wants him to protect the basket more, as he does with Martin.

During the Nuggets' preseason game Saturday against Partizan Belgrade, fans saw glimpses of Nene at his focused best, and worst. In the first quarter, Nene picked up three fouls. But in the third quarter, there was Nene, Usain-bolting down the court in transition. He received a pass and dunked over Strahinja Milosevic, who had to travel back to Belgrade with the memory of Nene's No. 31 pressing against his face.

"I don't think there's any question, he's good enough to be an all-star," Karl said. "I keep yelling at him to be a leader."

Footnote. The Nuggets waived forward Keith Brumbaugh on Monday, the day they traveled to Asia for two preseason games. The Nuggets' roster now has 16 players.

Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or bhochman@denverpost.com Nice going, Nene

Nuggets center Nene is entering his eighth NBA season, following his best overall showing in 2008-09. A look at where his numbers last season rank with his career numbers:

Category....Stat....Career....

Points....14.6....Highest....

Rebounds.... 7.8....Highest....

Blocked shots.... 1.3....Highest....

Shooting pct......604....Highest....

Games.... 77....Second (tie)....

Benjamin Hochman, The Denver Post


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 7, 2009

 

 
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