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The Talk of the Town

NUGGETS' BOYKINS, THE CENTER OF ATTENTION IN DENVER

Denver's Earl Boykins
Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images
Talk about impressive. He has a vertical leap of around 37 inches. He can bench-press 315 pounds. He is arguably the quickest player in the entire NBA.

Talk about amazing. He stands just 5-foot-5, the second-shortest player in NBA history. He weighs just 135 pounds dripping wet. He has more confidence in his pinkie finger than most people do in their entire family tree.

Talk about Earl Boykins. These days, one cannot help but do just that. Whether it be around the water cooler between co-workers or on television between NBA personalities debating the favorites for this season’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Earl Boykins is becoming a household name.

“I don’t know about all that,” grinned Boykins in his usual modest manner.

Despite what he thinks, there is no question that Boykins is becoming a special player in this, his seventh season in the NBA (his third with the Denver Nuggets). In each of his last three seasons, Boykins has set new career-highs in points per game. Sitting at 13.4 ppg through 46 games this year, Boykins is on pace to set yet another personal career-high in that category.

Only nine other players in all of the NBA are currently on pace to set a career-high in scoring for what would be at least the fourth-straight season. The list of players that could join Boykins is quite impressive: Gilbert Arenas (five-straight), Mike Bibby (four-straight), Joe Johnson (five-straight), Mehmet Okur (five-straight), Michael Redd (six-straight), Jason Richardson (five-straight), Kareem Rush (four-straight), Nuggets teammate Earl Watson (five-straight) and Yao Ming (four-straight).

“We obviously hoped that he would improve,” explained Nuggets GM Kiki Vandeweghe when referring to the signing of Boykins after what was then a career year in 2002-03 with the Golden State Warriors. “But I think Earl’s really exceeded anything that we could have hoped for.”

All Earl Boykins ever hoped for was a chance. After spending his first two seasons in the NBA leap-frogging from team to team on short-term contracts, Boykins found himself in what seemed like a good situation with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2000. Although he was no longer living out of his suitcase in L.A., Boykins still was not getting the chances he thought he had earned.

“Although I was there for two years, I wasn’t playing very much,” said Boykins, referring to his time with the Clippers. “I felt like I still had quite a bit to prove in this league.”



Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images

So, Boykins packed up again in 2002 and landed in Golden State, which was his fifth different team in five seasons. Appearing in 68 games in 02-03, Boykins got his first chance. In just under 20 minutes a game, Boykins averaged career-highs of 8.8 ppg and 3.3 apg with the Warriors. That summer Boykins parlayed his first real opportunity into his first multi-year contract as an NBA player, signing a five-year deal with the Denver Nuggets.

Boykins, himself, is not the only one happy to have finally gotten a chance. Players, coaches and staff associated with the Nuggets organization understand how important Earl Boykins is to the success of this franchise.

“I think everybody knows that when he has his motor in fifth gear, we’ve got a dimension that’s really interesting,” said Nuggets Head Coach George Karl. “It seems like in most games when he plays well, we play well.”

There is no question that Boykins has a direct impact on the Nuggets’ success. Through 46 games in 2005-06, the Nuggets were 15-3 when Boykins scored at least 15 points and just 4-8 when he scored less than 10. In the six games he missed in mid-December due to a strained left hamstring, the Nuggets managed a record of just 2-4 with him out of the lineup.

“I’ve never really had a guy that comes into every game and has an impact,” said Karl. “Sometimes he does it with speed. Sometimes he does it with passion. Sometimes he does it with shooting. I just put him in the game and I know something’s going to happen.”

Most of the time, whatever happens is usually for the good of the team…especially in late-game situations. On more than one occasion already this season, Earl Boykins has made a clutch basket to either win the game, break a tie, or simply put the Nuggets up for good in the waning seconds. Against Miami on Dec. 3, Boykins nailed the game-winning three-pointer with 17.0 seconds remaining. On Jan. 18 versus Cleveland, Boykins came through down the stretch once again, draining a wide-open three-pointer with 33.2 seconds on the clock to help lift the Nuggets over the Cavs.

But for some reason, Boykins always seems to save his best for overtime. In an overtime game against the Seattle Sonics last January, he scored an NBA-record 15 points during the five-minute overtime period alone. Boykins displayed some overtime heroics again this January, helping lead the Nuggets to the 139-137 triple-overtime victory over the Phoenix Suns on Jan. 10. Boykins scored 20 of his career-high 33 points against the Suns in the fourth quarter and three overtime periods.

“He’s helped me out big-time,” said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, who along with Boykins is the Nuggets’ main late-game scoring option.

Talk about impressive. He is the shortest player in NBA history to score over 30 points in a game; and he’s done it three times. Prior to getting injured in December, he appeared in 253 consecutive games, which was the sixth-longest active streak of its kind in the NBA at the time.

Talk about amazing. He is doing all of this on basically God-given talents. He doesn’t lift weights with his legs and he doesn’t run on anything but a basketball court. He eats Burger King Whoppers on every game-day. He is, for lack of a better term, a freak of nature.

Talk about Earl Boykins. Honestly, we could talk about this for hours.