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News » NUGGETS Players step it up back at home

NUGGETS Players step it up back at home

NUGGETS Players step it up back at home Moments after the Nuggets' practice Tuesday, forward Joey Graham sprawled across the gym wall, trying to catch his breath, like a boxer on the ropes.

Carmelo Anthony, jersey off, explained that "I fought my way through this one."

And coach George Karl described Tuesday's practice as if it were the "fourth game in five nights."

After an eventful and exhausting week in Asia, the Nuggets returned to Denver - and the altitude.

"A lot of guys were kind of sick today, but practice was practice, and I thought everybody did well," guard Anthony Carter said.

The Nuggets don't have another preseason game until Sunday at Portland, but jet lag doesn't mean lagging at practice; the Nuggets will go hard while Karl implements more facets of the playbook. Tuesday was post defense. The coach was pleased with the effort, saying there was a bounce to his beleaguered team, and that if Tuesday was indeed a fourth game in five nights, Denver probably would have won.

On Tuesday, numerous Nuggets spoke of the second exhibition game in Beijing, which was a brilliant team effort following a debacle in Taiwan.

"We wanted to come out and redeem ourselves," said Anthony, who knows a little something about getting redemption in Beijing. "The first game, regardless of what it was with jet leg, lack of rest, we didn't play the way we know how to play. We got back into our own mentality, playing Denver Nugget Basketball."

In that second game, a 128-112 win against the Pacers, Anthony scored an incredible 45 points in 24 minutes while rebounding and defending with pride, and Nene tallied 21 points in 24 minutes.

Denver has four more preseason games, and Karl explained that the team is going to approach these four with more of a regular-season mentality than the previous four. No, he's not going to play, say, Chauncey Billups 40 minutes, but Karl definitely will play starters longer and work his rotation crisper.

This, of course, is a little tricky for Karl because he has two rotations - one when J.R. Smith is in there and the other when Smith is out (because the shooting guard is suspended for the team's first seven games, due to his jail time in a reckless driving case).

While it's possible Arron Afflalo will start some of those games at shooting guard, Karl said that's "not written in stone," and depending on whether an opponent has a smaller backcourt, perhaps he'll start Carter with Billups, or if the opponent has bigger guards, then Afflalo or Graham could get the start and some extended minutes.

Though the ultimate goal is to have Smith as the starting shooting guard, Karl said Tuesday that Smith will likely come off the bench in his first 15 to 20 games, easing him into the season. Smith is a weapon off the bench and, even though he hasn't had the glamour of a starter, he basically played starters' minutes last season (27.7 per game) and was usually on the court in crunch time.

Smith is a work-in-progress defensively, and Karl said, "Even though we have offensive explosiveness, we still need to start the game, dictate the game and control the game with our defense."

Benjamin Hochman: 303-954-1294 or

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: October 15, 2009


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