Nuggets big man Nene sits with bruised foot

Kosta Koufos scores 8 points, grabs 6 rebounds in first start of the 2011-12

Watching his teammates grind through their third game in three nights was nearly too much for Nuggets forward Nene.

“I almost called the doctor over to check my heart,” he said.

Nene sat out Monday night’s heart-pumping 91-86 victory against the Milwaukee Bucks with a bruised left foot. He said the pain in his heel has been bothering him for about 10 days and he hopes to return as soon as Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.

“It’s been getting more painful,” he said. “After (Sunday), it was really tough. I couldn’t walk. If I can’t walk, I can’t jump and run.”

With Nene sidelined, Nuggets coach George Karl turned to 7-foot center Kosta Koufos to start at power forward. Koufos, who had played a total of 11 minutes in Denver’s first five games, responded with eight points and six rebounds in 19 minutes.

“I prepare myself mentally to be ready for every game,” Koufos said. “Whenever my number’s called, I’m going to work hard and maximize any opportunity I get.”

With 7-1 Timofey Mozgov starting at center this season, Nene predominantly has been playing the power forward spot. Koufos’ presence gave the Nuggets twin towers in the middle to complement the inside-outside game of 6-10 small forward Danilo Gallinari.

“I like Kosta, man,” Nene said. “He played hard. When coach starts using him more, he’s going to prepare his mind better. To be in a game and play the game the right way, you need to be part of the game.”