PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
This is an article from the Oct. 29, 2007 issue
SG J.R. SMITH
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: F-C Nen√™, F Linas Kleiza, G Chucky Atkins*, F Eduardo Najera, F-CSteven Hunter* *New acquisition ‚Ä†2005-06 statistics
Record: 45-37(6th in West) Points scored: 105.4 (3rd in NBA) Points allowed: 103.7 (26th)Coach: George Karl (fourth season with Nuggets)
Before the startof the Nuggets' preseason opener in Denver, Carmelo Anthony looked around atall the players and coaches in the locker room and a smile came over his face."This is my fifth year, and I've never had everybody healthy and set fromthe start," he said. "We were always adjusting to new players andcoaches, but that's not the case this year."
Having his teamready to go couldn't have come at a better time for Anthony. After aroller-coaster 2006-07 season that included a 15-game suspension for his rolein an on-court brawl in New York, the exhilarating trade for Allen Iverson lastDecember, but then a swift exit from the playoffs, Melo has a fresh outlook forthis year. "I'm a new person with a new attitude," said Anthony, whofinished second to Kobe Bryant for the league scoring title with a 28.9average. "I don't know why. I just woke up one day and felt this way. I'mhappier than I've ever been."
Anthony'snewfound serenity may stem from his talented supporting cast, which includesformer scoring champion Iverson, top NBA shot blocker Marcus Camby, DefensivePlayer of the Year J.R. Smith and former All-Star Kenyon Martin, who missedmost of last season following microfracture surgery on his right knee. Thereare still the questions of whether Anthony and Iverson can be as effective foran entire season together as they were on separate teams and whether Denver canget past the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets haven't gotten over thathump in their last five trips to the postseason.
The more mellowMelo is happy to be the underdog. "We don't need anybody talking aboutus," he says. "We're going to prove what type of team we are. We'regoing to surprise people."
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Nuggets
Pressure ismounting on this franchise. In four years the Nuggets have won four playoffgames, and now they're a heavy tax team with the third-highest payroll in theleague. How do you continue paying that money for a team that can't win aplayoff series? . . . You can tell from Carmelo Anthony's appearances for thenational team each summer that he's serious about trying to get better. He'stheir best player, but is he a real leader? . . . I see Allen Iverson slowing.It takes him a lot of dribbles to get to the rim. When small guards lose astep, they tend to lose their game too. . . . If they get Kenyon Martin back atfull speed, it will be an interesting development. He is a very strong postdefender, and he's quick with his moves. But Martin also creates drama andcould be more trouble than he's worth. . . . Eduardo Najera is probably themost reliable frontcourt player. He's very intelligent, but his body is wearingdown. . . To be successful in the playoffs, they have to get lucky and avoid adisciplined team like San Antonio.
After going tothe Nuggets from the Sixers in a December trade, Allen Iverson's scoringaverage dropped from 31.2¬†points a game to 24.8. His field goalpercentage, however, rose from 41.3 to 45.4.