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Former Nuggets big man Nene makes return to Pepsi Center

Denver and Washington Wizards square off for first time since March 15 trade


It was a bittersweet day, to say the least.

From the front office to the locker room to the administrative staff, the trade that sent longtime Nuggets big man Nene to the Washington Wizards generated a wave of emotion.

On the one hand, the Nuggets were sad to part ways with a gentle giant who provided inspiration by beating testicular cancer and helped the franchise make the transition from the draft lottery to a perennial playoff team.

On the other hand, the team was excited to welcome JaVale McGee, a talented young center whose career was still in its infancy.

“It is a tough day for us,” Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri said while addressing the media on March 15, 2012. “Nene has been great to this organization. We wish him the best, but we felt that the best thing for this organization is that we wanted to go a little bit younger.”

“We felt that we needed someone athletic, somebody that can protect the paint a little bit. We’re happy that we were able to get JaVale McGee.”

Ten months later, McGee and Nene will take the court as the Nuggets and Wizards square off for the first time since the trade Friday night at Pepsi Center.

After missing the first nine games of the season with a foot injury, Nene is averaging 12.3 points and 6.4 points for a young Washington team trying to find traction.

McGee, meanwhile, is averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 19 minutes as a member of Denver’s high-energy second unit.

“He’s basically where I thought he’d be,” Nuggets coach George Karl said of McGee. “We’d like to get him to be a 25-minute player, and I think that’s feasible. We want him to be solid; we want fundamental. We want spectacular, but only when it happens.”

McGee and the Nuggets (24-17) will be looking to bounce back from a 117-97 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Despite the hiccup, Denver has won six of its past seven games and 13 of its past 18.

“It’s going to be a big game,” Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson said. “You know, it’s Nene’s first game back. I know he’s going to have a lot of energy. We just have to come out ready and make sure that game doesn’t get away from us.”


WIZARDS AT NUGGETS


WHEN:
7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950

PROBABLE STARTERS
DENVER

F Danilo Gallinari
F Kenneth Faried
C Kosta Koufos
G Andre Iguodala
G Ty Lawson

WASHINGTON
F Martell Webster
F Nene
C Emeka Okafor
G Bradley Beal
G A.J. Price

INJURY REPORT
DENVER:
No injuries to report.
WASHINGTON: Jordan Crawford (ankle) is questionable; Cartier Martin (knee) is out.

SERIES NOTES
The Nuggets have fared extremely well overall against the Wizards in recent years, having gone 15-3 in the last 18 meetings since the end of the 2002-03 season … The Nuggets have won eight of the last nine against Washington in Denver … The Nuggets have played well in Washington in recent years, having won seven of the last nine meetings with the Wizards at the Verizon Center – with the average margin of victory being 14.5 points in those seven wins … The Nuggets swept the season series in 2010-11 and 2011-12, which marked the fifth and sixth time in the last 10 years that the Nuggets swept the Wizards.