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Denver hoping for gift of good health as Christmas approaches

Andersen, Billups, Martin could make possible return Wednesday


More rapid than eagles, his team ran the fast break. And he whistled and shouted for good shots to take.
Now Melo, now Birdman, now Chauncey and Ty! On Nene, on Arron and Melvin Ely!
From the top of the key, straight to the tin. You need to play together in order to win.

To Nuggets coach George Karl, basketball can be poetic – even more so when it involves a roster of healthy players.

Starting point guard Chauncey Billups and forwards Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin were able to practice Monday. All three could be in uniform when the Nuggets face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

“That would be the best gift for me – to play soon,” Martin said. “I’m looking forward to doing it, but at the same time, I’m not going to risk anything. I’ve made a lot of progress up to this point, so why risk a setback.”

Martin has not played this season while recovering from knee surgery. Andersen returned from knee surgery on Nov. 22 but sustained a fracture in his lower back on Dec. 3. Billups has missed the last three games after aggravating his sprained right wrist.

Nuggets coach George Karl was confident Billups would be able to play Wednesday at San Antonio, while Andersen and Martin will be game-time decisions.

“Our team is very confident that we can be really good,” Karl said, “but I don’t know if we can be really good until we get everybody out there. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Andersen, Billups and Martin – all key members of Denver’s 2009 Western Conference finals team – missed Thursday’s one-point home loss to the Spurs, so the Nuggets could have a very different look in the rematch.

“We owe them a lot of payback,” point guard Ty Lawson said.

The Spurs boasted the NBA’s best record (23-3) heading into tonight’s home against the Phoenix Suns. They escaped with a victory against Denver after Carmelo Anthony’s potential game-winning basket was wiped out by a charging call with four-tenths of a second remaining.

“I think my team is (looking forward to it), Karl said. “Having a couple days to prepare for a good team is always advantageous.”

The NBA schedule-makers otherwise didn’t do the Nuggets any favors during the holiday season.

For the second year in a row, Denver will play a Christmas Day game on the road. After playing Oklahoma City on Saturday, the Nuggets close the week with a back-to-back game at home against the Philadelphia 76ers.