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House call: Nuggets players, staff pay Karl a visit

Recovering coach enjoys one of 'best days' in weeks


Nene and his wife arrived at George Karl’s house bearing a gift.

“I got a little present for you,” Nene told his coach, showing him a bottle of red wine. “When you’re ready for this, you call us.”

Nene was among the players, coaches and Nuggets staff members who visited Karl on Monday. Karl is recovering from throat and neck cancer, and is scheduled to complete his final chemotherapy session Wednesday.

“His energy was pretty good,” said point guard Chauncey Billups. “They said he was having a great day. It was just good. It was uplifting to see him and be able to talk to him.”

Billups watched part of the NCAA championship game with Karl and talked about life and basketball. Denver is 8-6 in the 14 games Karl has missed while going through treatment.

“I told him, I hope he hasn’t been watching too many of our games lately,” Billups said. “He’s doing better, man. Hopefully he can just continue to heal and rest up.”

There is no timetable for Karl’s return. Doctors have told him that it will take two or three weeks to regain his strength and energy following six weeks of grueling radiation and chemotherapy.

“I feel better (about his recovery) because I know he’s in a good place right now,” said Nene, who is two years removed from treatment for testicular cancer. “The tough part is done.”

Nene said Karl’s sense of humor is “at a very high level,” while other staff members also saw indications that the 58-year-old coach is returning to his old self.

Karl greeted advance scout Jesse Mermuys and assistant athletic trainer Dan Shimensky with playful punches to the ribs. Nene smiled as Karl passed a basketball back and forth with his 5-year-old daughter Kaci Grace.

“Today I would say was one of George's best days in the last three weeks,” Karl’s life partner Kim Van Deraa wrote on her blog at mylifeline.org/georgekarl. “I believe he spoke more today than he has in the last 2 weeks alone I am sure it was a combination of him not having radiation for two days, less pain medicine in his system and knowing all of his coaches were coming to see him today.

“Today we just had to go in and get some blood drawn and since we were there he received some fluids. Then once we returned home our door was revolving – all the coaches, training staff, players came to visit to give George their encouragement. Thanks for putting a smile on his face!!!”

The Nuggets will make Karl even happier if they can close out the season strong and capture their third Northwest Division title in five years. To a man, the players and coaches have been telling Karl not to worry about them – just worry about getting better.

“Don’t watch the game and don’t listen about the game,” Nene said, recounting parts of his 45-minute visit. “Listen to yourself and get better. You watch the game, that might slow your recovery.”

Does Nene think that’s possible for a basketball lifer like Karl?

“No,” Nene said. “He’s a little stubborn.”

Just another sign that Karl is returning to health.