The Nuggets Beat with Aaron Lopez

Nuggets Beat 2009-10 Entries: DEC. 2009 | JAN. 2010 | FEB. 2010 | MARCH 2010 | APRIL 2010 | MAY 2010

Nuggets, Anthony settle into routine
submitted by Aaron Lopez 9-30-10

Over a casual post-practice lunch this week, Nuggets teammates Carmelo Anthony and Arron Afflalo alternately swiped each other’s chicken strips and playfully debated Afflalo’s ability to hit a 90 mph fastball.

“You can’t touch 90,” Anthony said.

So much for the assumption that training camp would be awkward with Anthony on the court and in the locker room. After weeks of speculation about the All-Star’s future in Denver, the craziness has given way to something unexpected.


In the two days since local and national media descended on the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets have settled into the routine of getting better on the basketball court and bonding in the locker room.

Coach George Karl remains optimistic that Anthony will decided that Denver is the best place to pursue an NBA title, and he commended the 26-year-old forward for his leadership and professionalism in the first two days of practice.

“I think Melo likes this team, likes his teammates,” Karl said. “He likes being coached by us. I think there are a lot of likes. The five or six hours that we’ve had with him (over two days), he’s been very good.”

Anthony’s will to win certainly hasn’t changed. He flung his headband in frustration at one point during an end-of-practice scrimmage Wednesday, and he wasn’t happy when the game ended in a tie.

“I think my competitive spirit went up,” he said. “See that, 28-28? I might not go to sleep tonight. I don’t like that George ended the practice on a tie. I didn’t have a chance to make the last shot.”

While meeting with reporters for a third straight day, Anthony also repeated his preference to keep his options open and said he has no problem playing for Denver this season. He is under contract for 2010-11 but can opt out of his contract and become a free agent on July 1, 2011. (A reported three-year, $65 million extension also remains on the table.)

“If it comes down to it at the end of the season and I haven’t signed the extension, like I said, keep my options open, then we’ll sit down,” Anthony said.

He sat down with Karl on Thursday before practice and described it as a "cool" meeting.

"We reflected back on last season and he told me what he was looking for this upcoming season," Anthony said. "We talked about training camp. It was a good convo to have. He didn't try to work me over. He just wanted me to focus in and told me he was looking for my leadership skills and what I've been doing so far in training camp. He's been satisfied with it."

With 22 NBA seasons under his belt, Karl has seen just about everything when it comes to rumors about player movement. He remains hopeful that Anthony stays in Denver for the long haul.

“I think we can be damn good with him (on the roster),” Karl said. “If he wants to leave, he probably wants to leave because of free agency and building a team. I think our place is as good as any place to do that.”

Coby Karl agrees to contract to play in Spain
submitted by Aaron Lopez 9-23-10

Coby Karl’s basketball journey is headed back overseas.

Karl, the son of Nuggets coach George Karl, said Thursday he has agreed to a one-year contract with CB Granada of the Spanish ACB, one of the world’s top professional leagues.

Karl, a 27-year-old combo guard, signed with the Nuggets on April 11 but did not appear in any regular-season or playoff games. After averaging 14 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists for Denver’s summer league team in Las Vegas, he was waived on Aug. 15.

“I don’t think it’s by any means having the (NBA) dream end,” he said. “I think it’s a process and a step. It’s been frustrating at times, but I’m very happy with where I am as player right now. I’m getting better and I still think there will be an opportunity in the future.”

After going undrafted out of Boise State in 2007, Karl has bounced between the NBA, the NBA Development League and the Spanish ACB. He has averaged 2.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 24 career games with the Los Angeles Lakers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.

Karl has shown that he has the skills and basketball IQ to play in the NBA – he had 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for Golden State on Feb. 2 – but he’s never been given a chance to play consistent minutes.

“You’re never going to change people’s minds that have impressions. It just takes one guy to like you,” he said. “It’s a game that you have to have patience and wait for the opportunity.”

After validating his talent in summer-league play, Karl returned to Denver to work on his perimeter shot and improve his overall game. Unable to find a suitable opportunity at an NBA training camp, he opted for the guaranteed contract in Spain, where the experience and exposure are invaluable while competing against NBA-caliber players such as Ricky Rubio, Jorge Garbajosa and Juan Carlos Navarro.

“I think Coby has done a great job with his career,” George Karl said. “I’m very proud of him. I wish I could see him play here in the NBA, but I think more realistic is he’ll play a lot of minutes in Spain. In the last couple years, the game of basketball hasn’t given back to him what I think he’s deserved, and maybe he’ll find that in Spain.”

Harrington optimistic on Melo's return to Denver
submitted by Aaron Lopez 9-10-10

Add Al Harrington to the list of people who believe Carmelo Anthony is going to remain in a Nuggets uniform.

Harrington doesn’t claim to have any inside information on his new teammate, but he said Anthony’s perspective on a long-term future with the Nuggets might change once he returns to Denver and spends some time around his teammates before training camp.

“I still feel he’s going to play here,” Harrington said Friday. “I think he’s just got to get back here. It’s one thing when you’re away from it, but when you com back and you realize how much people love you and how much people appreciate you, maybe it’ll change his mind.

“When you’re in New York and in L.A., you can’t feel it. That’s what I’m banking on. Just get him here in camp, see the guys and see the type of talent we have and just go from there.”

Anthony is under contract with the Nuggets for the 2010-11 season and the team has proffered a three-year, $65 million extension that would take him through 2014-15. Anthony has not said publicly that he wants out of Denver, but there has been widespread speculation to the contrary.

In an attempt to bolster their frontcourt and take some scoring pressure off Anthony, the Nuggets signed Harrington as a free agent on July 15. The 30-year-old power forward averaged 17.7 points and 5.8 rebounds with the New York Knicks in 2009-10 and has averaged at least 16.5 points in five of the past six years.

With starting power forward Kenyon Martin recovering from knee surgery, Harrington knows he will have to take on more responsibility at both ends of the floor, particularly early in the season.

“Kenyon’s done a great job and he’s a great player and great for this team,” Harrington said. “But for Melo to have a guy like myself that’s going to be sitting out there that people have to pay attention to, I think that’s going to give him a little more freedom. I think it’ll be more of a balanced attacked and make us that much more dangerous.”

Karl sees another potential 50-win season
submitted by Aaron Lopez 8-31-10

After winning at least 50 games for a franchise-record three straight seasons, coach George Karl believes the Nuggets can extend that streak in 2010-11.

Forwards Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen may miss some time early in the season while recovering from knee injuries, but Denver returns its entire playing rotation from last year and brought in talented forward Al Harrington for added scoring and rebounding.

“We haven’t lost any players. We actually picked up a pretty good player," Karl said Tuesday. "We love Ty (Lawson) and Arron (Afflalo). They’ve worked their (tails) off all summer long. I don’t see where we’re going to falter, except Kenyon and Chris (being out). In four out of the six years I’ve been here, we’ve had some big guy out for the year. It’s not something we haven’t made adjustments to.”

Karl was speaking under the assumption that All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony returns to the team following a summer of speculation that he wants out of Denver.

Karl, still recovering from treatment for throat and neck cancer, hasn’t spoken to Anthony since his star player got married July 10, but he hopes to talk to him before training camp starts Sept. 27. Newly hired executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri plans to visit with Anthony in the next few days.

“If I’m going to coach him, my step’s got to come in the next couple weeks,” Karl said. “I’ve coached players who are trying to figure out (their future). I think Shawn Kemp had one of his best years in a contract year or a situation where he was uncertain whether he wanted to stay in Seattle. Whatever happens, once we get on that court, Melo will be ready to play.”

And Karl plans to be ready to coach.

Though he still has to go through more tests, all signs are pointing to a clean bill of health heading into 2010-11.

“I’m not going to be a 10-hour-a-day guy anymore,” he said “I’ve been a delegator and a director for two or three years. It’s going to continue to be more of that. I’ve got great coaches on my staff. This is always fun trying to figure out what changes you’re going to make, but I don’t think I’ve been totally cleared. There may be two or three things that need to be checked on before we give that a go. But my mindset is to get ready.”

Karl said he’s still unsure whether he will replace assistant Jamahl Mosley, who accepted a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he’s waiting to hear if assistant Tim Grgurich will return for another season.

Billups on Team USA roster, Nene out for Brazil
submitted by Aaron Lopez 8-24-10

Chauncey Billups is ready to take on the world, but Nene will have to sit this one out.

As expected, Billups was among the 12 players named to the Team USA roster that will compete in the FIBA World Championships starting Saturday in Turkey.

Billups will not square off against his Nuggets teammate Nene, however. A right calf injury prevented Nene from competing for his native Brazil and he is back in Denver receiving treatment.

At 33, Billups is the oldest player on the U.S. team, which will have an average age of about 24. Before leaving for training camp with Team USA earlier this month, Billups said he didn’t expect the summer workload to affect his endurance during the 2010-11 season.

“This is my time of year when I’m turning it up anyway,” he said. “I’m doing stuff to get ready for the season. Other than the travel, it’s not like I’m doing that much more.”

Nene, meanwhile, strained his calf while training with the Brazilian national team. He played in all 82 regular-season games for the first time in his career in 2009-10 but sat out Denver’s final playoff game with a sprained left knee.

Go to the USA Basketball website For more infomation about the 2010 U.S. World Championship team.

Melo speculation borders on comical
submitted by Aaron Lopez 8-11-10

Of the 6.8 billion human beings on Earth, 99.9999 percent of them will never have a chance to weigh the pros and cons of signing or rejecting an eight-figure contract extension.

That doesn’t stop people from pretending to know what Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony is thinking or what his course of action will be.

It’s no secret that the Nuggets have offered their franchise player and three-time All-Star a three-year extension worth roughly $65 million. His subsequent “silence” on the matter has been described by NBA writers, columnists, bloggers and talk-radio hosts as “eerie,” “telling,” and “deafening.”

There are a couple things people need to keep in mind before they start putting him in another uniform (most notably, that of the New York Knicks).

First of all, maybe Melo is simply enjoying his summer. He got married July 10, went on a honeymoon in Costa Rica and made a stop in Puerto Rico. Yes, the money would be life-changing for most people, but it’s not like Anthony is struggling to make his next mortgage payment. He's still playing under a contract that will pay him about $17 million in 2010-11.

Secondly, Anthony has until June 30, 2011, to sign an extension or opt out of the final year of his current deal. Who can blame him for taking his time before re-committing for an additional three years? If he doesn’t take the guaranteed security, he will assume the risks that come with that choice: injuries and a potential change in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement in 2011.

Like he does every offseason, Anthony is keeping a low profile, so his extended period off the grid isn’t abnormal. He might shed some light on his future when he holds his annual basketball camp Saturday in Highlands Ranch. In past years, Anthony’s PR people have tried to keep the media questions limited to the camp and the kids who attend. It hasn’t always worked out that way, and this weekend will be no different.

Everyone wants to know what’s on Melo’s mind. Maybe he’ll share his thoughts, maybe he won’t. That’s his prerogative – even though some misguided people might think otherwise.

Mosley grateful for opportunity in Denver
submitted by Aaron Lopez 7-29-10

Having spent four years at the University of Colorado and five years with the Nuggets, Jamahl Mosley considers Denver his second home.

“You can’t beat Denver,” he said Thursday.

Starting in 2010-11, that’s exactly what Mosley will try to do.

After learning the ropes under Nuggets coach George Karl and player-development guru Tim Grgurich, Mosley has accepted an assistant-coaching position with Byron Scott and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I have George and Grg to thank for everything,” Mosley said. “George gave me my first opportunity to even be put in this position to go to another team. I’m going to miss the heck out of them and out of Denver. But it’s a necessary step to grow in my career.”

During his time with the Nuggets, Mosley was a tireless worker who did a little bit of everything, but his specialties were teaching young players and motivating veterans. Given a chance to coach Denver’s summer-league team, he guided it to a 4-1 record.

Karl takes great pride in developing young coaches, and he recently gave Mosley some good-natured ribbing about being a “traitor.” Both will be eagerly awaiting the 2010-11 NBA schedule, which is typically released in early August. The Nuggets and Cavs will play twice.

For the first time in his career, Mosley will try to beat Denver.

Will new additions catch Melo's eye?
submitted by Aaron Lopez 7-16-10

As wedding gifts go, these will probably mean more to Carmelo Anthony than another Waterford place setting or crystal serving plate.

While Anthony enjoyed his honeymoon in Costa Rica, the Nuggets made roster upgrades that they hope will convince their franchise player to accept a contract extension that would keep him in Denver through the 2013-14 season.

After re-signing steady backup point guard Anthony Carter and young power forward Shelden Williams, the Nuggets found a big-ticket item in versatile veteran forward Al Harrington.

Depending on the health of forwards Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin, Harrington could see upwards of 35 minutes alongside Anthony when the 2010-11 season begins. Andersen and Martin are recovering from knee operations.

Harrington is they type of player who can score 30 points and grab 10 rebounds on any given night. At 6-foot-9, he’s not a traditional low-post player, but his ability to knock down shots on the perimeter, run the floor and defend in the paint should fit well in coach George Karl’s system.

Karl likes the move because it gives him a “shooting big” that he’s coveted ever since he took over as Denver’s coach in 2005. It also gives him another scoring option off the bench if shooting guard J.R. Smith is struggling at either end of the floor.

Carter, who has shown loyalty to the Nuggets ever since they signed him at the end of the 2006-07 season, is an insurance policy in the event of injuries to either Chauncey Billups or Ty Lawson. As a team-first veteran, there is little downside to his return.

Williams, meanwhile, has something to prove after four unspectacular NBA seasons. He was the fifth overall pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, and the Nuggets are hoping he becomes a surprise success story in the mold of past acquisitions such as Andersen, Dahntay Jones and Arron Afflalo.

With Harrington and Williams in the fold, it also answers another question. Denver will not match the offer sheet given to restricted free-agent forward Linas Kleiza.

Hardly a deal-breaker as Melo weighs his contract extension.

Butch injury, Petro exit hinder frontcourt depth
submitted by Aaron Lopez 7-11-10

The Nuggets’ frontcourt depth has gone from ‘thin’ to downright ‘gaunt.’

Not long after news spread Saturday that 7-foot center Johan Petro was agreeing to a three-year, $10 million contract with the New Jersey Nets, 6-11 rookie center Brian Butch injured his left knee in Denver’s summer-league game.

Petro provided some nice minutes as a starter for the Nuggets when Kenyon Martin was injured last season, so it wasn’t a surprise to see someone offer him the multiyear deal he was seeking. His migration to New Jersey actually opened the door for Butch, who signed with Denver on April 11 but was inactive for the final two games of the regular season and the playoffs.

Sensing an opportunity to stick in the NBA, Butch made himself a fixture at the Pepsi Center this summer, working on his perimeter shot on the practice court and beefing up as best he could in the weight room.

It was tough to see his dedication and diligence go unrewarded. Butch was taken off on a stretcher Saturday and appears to be facing a long rehabilitation after dislocating his left patella; he is scheduled to be re-evaluated in Denver on Monday.

Butch’s injury and Petro’s departure leave the Nuggets with just three players – Martin, Nene, and Chris Andersen – taller than 6-8 under contract.

The lack of size isn’t hampering Denver’s summer-league team. Now that Butch is out, the Nuggets don’t have anyone over 6-8, yet they improved to 3-0 Sunday with a 100-90 win over the New York Knicks.

Ty Lawson had 28 points and seven assists to lead Denver, while Coby Karl added 22 points and seven rebounds.

Keep an eye on power forward Othello Hunter, who spent two seasons with the Atlanta Hawks from 2008-10. Hunter had 19 points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes Sunday and is averaging 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds in three summer-league games.

Nuggets face decision on Kleiza
submitted by Aaron Lopez 7-8-10

The first big decision of the summer just arrived for the Nuggets.

Restricted free-agent forward Linas Kleiza signed an offer sheet with the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, leaving Denver with a short window to match the four-year contract or work out a trade.

The Nuggets are expected to receive the offer sheet Friday. Under league rules, they then will have seven days to match the deal, which is reported to be between $18.8 million and $20 million.

Kleiza, 25, spent his first four NBA seasons with the Nuggets after he was acquired in a draft-night trade with Portland in 2005. He played for Olympiakos in Greece last season but the Nuggets still held his rights in the event he decided to return to the NBA.

The Nuggets are seeking to add depth to the frontcourt, and the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Kleiza could help in that respect. Though not a prototypical post player, Kleiza is physical and can stretch the defense with his three-point shooting range.

He averaged 8.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in his four NBA seasons.

Butch to carry big-man torch in summer league
submitted by Aaron Lopez 7-1-10

When Brian Butch goes through his first practice with the Nuggets’ summer league team in Las Vegas next week, he might feel like Gulliver among the Lilliputians.

The 6-foot-11 Butch is the only player on Denver’s 10-man roster taller than 6-8, which gives him an opportunity to make a good impression on the team’s management and coaching staff as the Nuggets seek to bolster their frontline for 2010-11.

Butch averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds in 39 games with the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League last season. He signed with the Nuggets on April 11 but was inactive for the final two games of the regular season and the playoffs.

He has been a frequent visitor to the Pepsi Center practice court over the past two months, working extensively on his perimeter shot and conditioning. Depending on how he plays in five summer-league games, Butch could receive an invite to Denver’s training camp in the fall.

The Nuggets entered the free-agent signing period Thursday looking to improve their frontcourt depth. Starters Nene and Kenyon Martin and backup Chris Andersen all ran into injury problems last season, and Martin and Andersen are recovering from knee operations.

Joining Butch on Denver’s summer-league roster are some familiar names to Denver basketball fans. Point guard Ty Lawson is the headliner, along with Coby Karl, the son ofGeorge Karl. Former University of Colorado guard Richard Roby also will wear a Denver jersey; Roby is Martin’s half-brother.

The Nuggets will travel to Las Vegas next week and practice a couple times before playing their first game on July 9.

Optimism trumps dog days of summer
submitted by Aaron Lopez 6-25-10

The disappointment of spring is gradually giving way to the optimism of summer in the Nuggets’ locker room – and far beyond.

Coach George Karl is regaining his strength and energy as he beats back throat cancer. Carmelo Anthony is less than three weeks away from entering the sanctity of holy matrimony. Forward Chris Andersen is regaining his confidence and swagger while recovering from knee surgery.

The good vibes of Nuggets’ gold and blue are even being felt in Central Africa, where Cassie Carter went this week to follow through on a project that will provide clean drinking water for a village in Democratic Republic of Congo.

As recently as a month ago, Carter – the wife of Nuggets point guard Anthony Carter – was uncertain whether she would raise enough money to build a well in Mikonga, a village near the DRC capital of Kinshasa.

Anthony Carter said this week that donations for the “Digging For Hope, Water For Life Project” came through better than expected.

Not only did Cassie Carter raise about $25,000 to pay for a well and filtering system, but there was enough additional money to build a second well. Each well can provide water for about 1,000 people per day.

Karl is a big believer in karma. As summer heats up, maybe it’s finally going the right way.

Karl 'excited' about approaching NBA Draft
submitted by Aaron Lopez 6-21-10

After three months as a spectator, George Karl is starting feel like a participant again.

There was noticeable enthusiasm in Karl’s voice on Monday as the Nuggets coach spoke about his improving health and the upcoming NBA Draft.

“Every week’s a little better,” said Karl, who is recovering from throat and neck cancer. “The draft’s got me excited. The team’s got me excited.”

Though the Nuggets don’t currently have a selection in Thursday’s draft, Karl didn’t discount the possibility of that changing in the next few days.

“We wouldn’t have guys in here (working out) if we didn’t think we were going to do something,” Karl said.

Twelve players took part in a predraft workout Monday on the Pepsi Center practice court. There were 10 big men among them as Denver seeks to add some depth to its frontcourt.

Craig Brackins of Iowa State had a solid session, consistently knocking down shots from the perimeter. Karl has been in search of a “shooting big” in the mold of Channing Frye, Charlie Villanueva and Rasheed Wallace.

“If I miss a shot I get upset because I feel that I can make everything I shoot,” said the 6-foot-10, 230-pound Brackins. “That’s just my mindset. Once I get that ball and I’ve got a little space, I’m letting it go. I’m confident.”

Trevor Booker (Clemson) also had a good workout, along with Derrick Caracter (UTEP) and Luke Harangody (Notre Dame).

Brackins and Booker are projected as late-first-round picks by, while Caracter and Harangody are considered second-round picks.

“You don’t know what’s going to happen. Whatever team asks me to workout, I just go in and do it,” Brackins said. “I don’t care if they have a pick. I don’t care if they’re No. 1 or if they’re 60. It only takes one team to like me.”

Other projected second-rounders who worked out for the Nuggets were Jerome Jordan (Tulsa), Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State) and Latavious Williams (NBDL), though Williams' day ended early after taking an inadvertent elbow to the forehead.

Karl, who missed the final 14 games of the regular season and all six playoff games while going through radiation and chemotherapy treatments, watched it all unfold from the sideline. His voice remains a little raspy, but he plans on helping out on draft night and traveling to Las Vegas for the NBA summer league.

“I’m more active,” he said. “I talk more. I’m more sarcastic. Obviously my energy’s a little better.”

Karl also reiterated his plan to return to the bench for 2010-11.

“I fully expect to be back,” he said. “Right now, I feel good about it.”

Nuggets Beat 2009-10 Entries: DEC. 2009 | JAN. 2010 | FEB. 2010 | MARCH 2010 | APRIL 2010 | MAY 2010 | SUMMER 2010