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Getting Healthy Nuggets for 2010 Playoff Run

March 9th, 2010 by aswitzer

The 2009 Playoff run was pure joy for any Nuggets fan thats been following the team for more than a handful of seasons. Erased were the frustrations of five consecutive years of one round a nd done, each year with no more than a single playoff win to show for it. Sure, some will say it was still a frustrating finish to the season with the Nuggets being on the brink of moving on to the NBA Finals before being eliminated by the Lakers in Game 6. I choose to look at the 2010 playoffs with the half glass full.

We got a glimpse into how the Denver Nuggets management team hopes to succeed last season when they were able to strike gold by moving out fading players with large contracts and swapping them (mostly) with cheaper but solidly performing players. In 2009 this was the moving of Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby and bringing in Chauncey Billups, Dahntay Jones, and the return of Chris Andersen – aka “Birdman”. In 2010 it was the departure of Dahntay Jones and Linas Kleiza (who were overpaid by new teams) and the additions of Arron Afflalo and rookie Ty Lawson. The rest of 2010 was mostly status quo (resigned Birdman) or signing of minor insurance pieces like Malik Allen and Joey Graham to handle various big-man roles when our main guys are out.

As we near the 2010 Playoffs, this approach has worked and worked very well. We again struck gold with Afflalo and the better-than expected play of Lawson, and the rest of the pieces have continued to improve their play or maintained a high level – Carmelo Anthony, Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Chauncey Billups.

The one problem with a plan like this is that we are not completely stacked up and down the line-up like some teams are – as in the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Boston Celtics. These teams are all paying well above the luxury tax for veteran filled squads. The Denver Nuggets are trying to do it a bit more “on the cheap” and the drop-off is a bit more severe when any of the starters are injured and out for an extended period.

With less than twenty games to go, the Nuggets find themselves without being able to count on three big important names that are critical to this years playoff run – Kenyon Martin, Ty Lawson, and George Karl.

We’ll start with George Karl. Right, coach is obviously not suiting it up, but he is and has been an integral part of this team’s success since he came to Denver in 2005. After the 2010 NBA All-Star weekend, George announced that he been diagnosed with treatable throat and neck cancer. This comes after he had to battle prostate cancer the summer after his first partial season with the Nuggets five years ago. George is undeniably dedicated to this team after they finally extended his Coaching contract thru the end of next season. George is somehow fitting in his cancer treatments and procedures around the Nuggets schedule as to minimize games missed yet still effectively fight off the deadly disease. Amazing. Still, this is a factor in the always-tight Western Conference Playoffs race. Tommorrow night against Minnesota, Coach Karl will miss his second game. Top, and long-time Denver Nuggets assistant Adrian Dantley will step in again, after having won the previous game that Coach Karl had to miss in February.

The Nuggets speedy rookie – Ty Lawson, will miss his 5th consecutive game tomorrow night, and the timetable for his return is still questionable. Ty’s injury came when he drew a foul underneath the basket against the LA Lakers Andrew Bynum, who came crashing down on his left shoulder. Lawson has made a huge impact on the team this year with his blinding speed and ability to drive to the basket and create shots for himself and the big men who find passing lanes during his drives. He’s an upgrade over veteran Anthony Carter, and is one of the key new factors in the team’s potential ability to get past the Lakers in the playoffs in 2010. We need him back, but we need him healthy also, so he can get back to wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. Here’s Ty talking about his current state before the Minnesota game:

“It’s day-to-day now,” the reserve point guard Lawson said after today’s shootaround at Target Center. “It doesn’t hurt a lot, I’m moving it now, there’s just one spot (in my shoulder) that catches every time I dribble and make a move. So I’m trying to work it out. … Once it stops catching, then I’ll be able to play.”

Lastly, we come to starting power forward, Kenyon Martin. Kenyon is arguably having one of his best seasons as a Denver Nugget – coming from New Jersey via trade in 2004. He’s the only player in the NBA to play after having microfracture surgery… on both knees. Somehow though, he’s played in 71 (2007-08), 66 (2008-09), and 55 this season thru 63 games. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and is one of, if not the key cog in the Nuggets defense, often drawing the toughest forward to defend, and almost always involved in the Nuggets pick-n-roll defense near the basket. Lately though, Kenyon had been playing thru considerable pain in his left knee – his planting knee for his still explosive jumping ability. So Kenyon was shut down while team doctors looked at his knee. The result is indefintely out, and starting on PRP treatment (platelet rich plasma therapy) which involves using Kenyon’s own blood components to stimulate healing. The hope is that Kenyon will be able to return towards the end of the season, or at the very worst – for the playoffs. If I had to bet on it, Kenyon will be back one way or another, but the bigger question is will he be able to play pain-free and make his impact felt on the court again this season/playoffs.

All three of these Nuggets must be able to return for the Nuggets to truly make another deep playoff run like they did in the late spring/early summer of 2009. Oh what fun that was. I’m an eternal optimist, and if all three can return to the levels they’ve played or coached at so far this season soon, or at least before the playoffs begin, the Nuggets can make some serious noise. They can even get past the mighty Lakers this time.

So Nuggets fans… send those healthy thoughts… those little white lights when you fall asleep at night. Then maybe, just maybe… we can have some championship dreams.

3 Responses to “Getting Healthy Nuggets for 2010 Playoff Run”

  1. Wavatar Cheap Tools Deals Says:

    i was searching on yahoo and found your site, you have great information and very nice site.

  2. Wavatar David Foster Says:

    Well, one and done again, and this time with probably the best team in years, including last year. I’m through with this team

  3. Wavatar angry smiley Says:

    Lakers are going to win this final! Game 1 has been won and Gasol has surely proven himself. Go Lakers!

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