The Nuggets are beginning to rally around Dantley, who must make this team his for whatever length of time he remains in charge. Karl's priority is to recover his health, and that recovery may prevent him from returning to coach this season. The bottom line for his team is that they must find a way to remain in contention regardless of who is coaching them.
Too much should not be made of this loss in particular, as no one was circling Denver's visit to Boston as a likely win; the one that got away was the preceding night's 109-104 loss at New York. Dantley made a nice move in finding eight minutes in the second half for rookie point guard
Can he view this responsibility as an opportunity? "This is as tough as it gets right here,'' he said with a laugh. "It's not like I came at the beginning of the year. I come in, coach is sick, tough conference. I get a funny call from my wife every night: She says, 'Are you sure you want to get in on this heat?' I just chuckle with her.''
Martin appears upbeat about his chances of returning in strong form from left knee patella tendinitis next month in time for the playoffs. In the meantime the Nuggets must explore ways to develop
After the loss the coach had toughened his message. "The thing the last four or five games is offensive rebounds, second-chance points and points in the paint,'' said Dantley, who was frustrated to see the normally weak-rebounding Celtics come up with 17 offensive rebounds. "They just outhustled us.''
Don't read too much into this. The Nuggets have the means to take Anthony off the market by signing him to an extension this summer, and why wouldn't he consider signing it? If he waits until 2011 he'll be negotiating under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, which is expected to be less lucrative for players.
Not only has he continued to grow more comfortable in the Nuggets' wide-open offense, but Billups insists he feels younger than he should. "My first four years -- maybe five -- I consider them all half-years,'' he said. "I feel like I'm in my prime even though I've been in the league for 13 years.''