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News » Nuggets need Nene to excel


Nuggets need Nene to excel


Nuggets need Nene to excel There are 54 ways the Nuggets could wither under the weight of unreasonable expectations and maybe one good reason to believe they could blossom into a legitimate NBA championship contender.

Is this the year Nene grows up and becomes an all-star center?

"I know it is easier to stand out as a center in this league," Nene told me during training camp.

Nene can be the No. 1 center in the Western Conference. It is the only way Denver can be the No. 1 team in the West.

Coming off a season in which he produced personal bests in points (14.6), rebounds (7.8) and minutes (32.6) per game, is this the year when the 27-year-old Nene finally elevates what has been a star-crossed career into undeniable star power?

If the Nuggets are going to hold off Portland to win the division title, much less beat the 54 regular-season victories of their dream 2008-09 season, they must see Nene improve.

Here's the belief of Denver front-

office executive Rex Chapman: "Nene is quicker than all the centers. He's more athletic than all the centers. We've had centers in the West who have gotten hurt or defected to the East. It's a great situation for Nene."

The top centers in the Western Conference all-star voting a year ago were Houston's Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal of Phoenix.

The injured Yao will consider himself fortunate if he gets back on the court this season. O'Neal has moved to Cleveland. The opportunity for Nene to remake his image as a power forward masquerading as a center into a pivot man who rules the West is immense.

"When I played Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal in back-to-back games, it was hard. That is when I wanted to say: I am a power forward," Nene said.

"I am a power forward. But I play center. The thing is, I have the strength to deal with the big dudes and the quickness to play forward."

While making no personnel moves that made headline news during the offseason, the Nuggets spun the situation in a way that could disappoint fans and set up coach George Karl for failure: This is a team whose core talent is on the rise.

Bunk.

One of these years, Carmelo Anthony will be appreciated as the best player to ever wear a Nuggets uniform, with no apologies necessary to Hall of Famer Dan Issel. To fantasize about Melo ever developing the truly transcendent talent we marvel at when LeBron James or Kobe Bryant play, however, is an

unreasonable dream that will never come true.

All Chauncey Billups did was change a franchise's culture, save the Basketball soul of Karl and capture this city's heart like no pro athlete since John Elway. But, at age 33, Billups' best miracles have already been worked.

There is a risky, understandable temptation to pick your jaw from the floor when J.R. Smith scores 45 points in a game and believe he will one day take the Nuggets to the NBA's promised land. Of course, this is roughly the same thing that happened when Denver fans mistook Jay Cutler's rocket launcher of an arm for the true field generalship of a franchise quarterback. Players like Smith sell tickets. They don't lead teams to championships.

As Kenyon Martin revealed way back in his time with New Jersey, he can be a force, so long as he's not required to be more than the third or fourth option on a team. Just because the Nuggets gave Chris Andersen a raise doesn't mean he will raise his game beyond what he did in a career year. The shrewdest pick in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft might well prove to be Ty Lawson, yet it also remains to be seen how many meaningful minutes are given to a rookie point guard at the expense of Anthony Carter, a Karl favorite.

The bottom line? I see a Denver team that has already maximized its potential, with one notable exception.

"When you see the NBA trophy right there, but you can't quite get it? That's hard. We need to make that last step in the playoffs," Nene said.

There's only one way these Nuggets take giant steps in the battle against the Lakers, Spurs, Cavaliers, Celtics and Magic for NBA supremacy.

Nene must step up. Big time.

Mark Kiszla: 303-954-1053 or mkiszla@denverpost.com


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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 28, 2009

 

 
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