Denver Nuggets A to Z: Antonio McDyess

Historical look at roster makes U-turn to fill void
by Aaron Lopez
Nuggets.com

In an A-to-Z look at the most memorable and notable players in Denver Nuggets history, it’s time to make a U-turn.

Throughout the years, there hasn't been a Nuggets player whose first or last name begins with U. The all-time roster simply jumps from Elston Turner to Ron Valentine.

To fill the void, we decided to jump back a few letters and celebrate Antonio McDyess, a talented, but largely unheralded, forward who is one of 13 players to represent the Nuggets in the NBA All-Star game.

McDyess was a shy teen-ager from Quitman, Miss., when the Nuggets acquired his rights in a draft-night trade with the Los Angeles Clippers on June 28, 1995. He was the second overall pick after averaging 13.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks as a sophomore at the University of Alabama.

As a soft-spoken rookie, McDyess let his 42-inch vertical leap and sweet midrange jumper do the talking. He averaged 13.4 points and 7.5 rebounds in 1995-96 and earned a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team.

McDyess made a big leap in 1996-97, averaging 18.3 points and 7.3 rebounds, but the Nuggets traded him to Phoenix on Oct. 1, 1997, for fear of losing him for nothing in free agency after the season.

After another solid year with the Suns, McDyess indeed became a free agent and returned to Denver when the Nuggets gave him a lucrative six-year deal to be their franchise centerpiece.

The reunion didn’t lack for drama. McDyess’ former Suns teammates Rex Chapman, Jason Kidd and George McCloud flew to Denver in an attempt to convince him to stay in Phoenix. As McDyess watched a Colorado Avalanche game inside McNichols Arena, the three Suns called him on a cell phone from a limousine outside the building.

McDyess ultimately signed with the Nuggets, and he averaged 21.2, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks – all career-highs – in 1998-99. His upward trajectory continued as he helped the United States capture the Gold Medal at the 2000 Olympics, and he represented Denver at the 2001 NBA All-Star Game.

Within eight months of his All-Star appearance, McDyess received career-altering news. An MRI revealed a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee, requiring surgery on Oct. 12, 2001. McDyess returned to play only 10 games that season, and the Nuggets traded him to the New York Knicks in exchange for the rights to No. 7 overall pick Nene and veteran center Marcus Camby on June 26, 2002.

After sitting out the 2002-03 season, McDyess suffered another knee injury while playing for the Knicks, putting his career in jeopardy once again. Not to be denied, McDyess made a remarkable comeback after signing with the Detroit Pistons in 2004. He missed only nine games in his first four seasons in Detroit and was a key contributor off the bench as the Pistons advanced to the Eastern Conference finals each year.

McDyess later joined the San Antonio Spurs, playing two seasons before announcing his retirement.

Game to remember, Feb. 28, 1999

McDyess scored 46 points and added 19 rebounds – both career-highs – as the Nuggets beat the Vancouver Grizzlies 116-112 at McNichols Arena. McDyess went 16-for-25 from the field and also finished with four blocked shots. It marked the first of three 40-point games for McDyess in his NBA career.

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