After difficult week, Anthony returns to comfort of court

Nuggets forward set to play first game since sister's death

Whether he scored 50 points or 10, Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony could expect a heartfelt phone call after the game.

Big sister Michelle wasn’t a ballplayer herself, but she knew the game. More importantly, she knew exactly the right things to say to her little brother.

“My sister was somebody who actually raised me with my mother. We’ve been through thick and thin,” Anthony said Friday. “I’m going to miss her calling me after every game, telling me what I did wrong, telling me what I did good and giving me some encouragement.”

Michelle passed away on Dec. 21 of a pre-existing medical condition. Anthony immediately left the team to be with his family in Baltimore and missed five games before returning to the gym for an individual workout Wednesday.

Friday marked his first practice with his teammates in preparation for Saturday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

“There’s no place like the gym, especially when you’re going through tough times like I just went through,” Anthony said. “But I’m glad to be back. I’m glad to be here. My spirits are up. The worst part is over with. I’m back here now and I can just focus on basketball.

“I know she’s watching. I know she’s looking down, so I’m going to try to keep my head up high, do what I have to do on the basketball court and continue playing like I’ve been playing.”

The Nuggets lost their first three games in Anthony’s absence but rallied to win two in a row without their leading scorer. After Denver’s most recent win against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Anthony borrowed a page from his sister’s playbook.

“I was calling my teammates to let them know ‘Good game,’ ” he said. “The other day, Renaldo (Balkman), I called him right after the game and told him thank you. And Melvin Ely. I wanted to let them know I was still with them from afar.”

After working out three days in a row, Anthony said he’s not worried about his conditioning. Nuggets coach George Karl is eager to test his stamina against the Kings.

“We ran a lot (in practice) because we wanted to get him back into shape and at least feeling like he can get up and down the court,” Karl said. “He played well. Hopefully he’ll be able to help us win some games real quickly.”

Though Anthony is set to return, the Nuggets are still expected to be without forward Al Harrington (dislocated right thumb) for another game, while starting center Nene (low back/hamstring strain) is questionable for Saturday after sitting out Wednesday in Minnesota.

ETC: After practice, Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups had rookie Gary Forbes sing happy birthday to forward Kenyon Martin, who turned 33 on Thursday … Karl didn’t seem too worried about his players staying focused for a game on New Year’s Day. “I think we understand that our job is to win games,” he said. “We have an opportunity in the next three or four games to get better and get some wins under our belt against teams under .500.”

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press. Follow him on twitter @Lopez_Nuggets. Aaron's full bio...

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