DENVER (AP) -The Denver Nuggets lost their best defenders this summer when they let Eduardo Najera and Marcus Camby get away.
So, what was all the talk about Monday on the eve of training camp?
Defense.
Denver's never been known for its `D', but coach George Karl said players and coaches alike will focus on defense this season after spending the last two years trying to match the Phoenix Suns' up-tempo style.
He plans to change the team's culture with a slew of new high-energy young players and a renewed commitment from his veterans.
That starts with Carmelo Anthony, whom he trusts will bring with him the lessons he learned from the U.S. Olympic team that rode its tenacious defense to the gold medal in Beijing.
``Our offense is there. Look, this man right here's got over 20,000 points,'' Anthony said, motioning toward Allen Iverson. ``I know I can score with the best of 'em. But that's really not an issue for us right now. We've got to stop people.''
Anthony said all the stopping starts with him.
ll see a different me,'' he promised.
A leader. A stopper. A rebounder. Whatever it takes. Hustling back to the paint, funneling a player toward the help.
Anthony, who also has a national championship at Syracuse to his credit, still smarts when critics bring up his notoriously soft defense. He knows as the team's superstar, though, he sets the tone and is its lightning rod.
``If I can stop five people out there on the court myself then I'd be the best to ever play this basketball team,'' Anthony said. ``There's no 'I' in defense. The only thing I can concentrate on is my man and help the other four players on my team. I know I can play defense.''
And he's certain his teammates can, too.
After a fifth consecutive first-round flop in the playoffs, the Nuggets lost Najera to the New Jersey Nets in free agency and traded Camby, the league's top shot-blocker and a former defensive player of the year, to the Los Angeles Clippers for basically nothing in return except salary cap relief.
``I know a lot of people are saying that our defense left when Marcus Camby left,'' Anthony said. ``So, I think that gives us motivation to go out there and prove to everybody that we are going to come together as a team and play defense.
``I'm pretty sure you guys will see a different defensive team this year from the Denver Nuggets.''
and the porous defense led to another first-round exit from the playoffs when the Los Angeles Lakers rendered them the first 50-win team to get swept in the postseason.
Karl, an old-fashioned, defensive-minded coach who has spent his last decade in the NBA watching his teams in Milwaukee and Denver light up the scoreboard and more often than not fail to sprint back to the paint to deny baskets, said this team is the faster, quicker and more athletic than any one he's coached in Denver.
Iverson, known more for his ballhandling skills than his steals, said he's willing to commit to playing better defense, too.
``I've been in this league going on my 13th year and I've been to the finals once. I would have thought I'd have been there five or six times by now and won a championship,'' Iverson said. ``So, obviously, the commitment is there from me to sacrifice my game, do whatever the team needs me to do.''
Karl isn't expecting miracles, just movement.
``All we want is a consistent commitment,'' Karl said. ``I've coached a lot of guys that when they came into our team had a reputation of being a bad defender. But if they just do the concepts with good focus, we understand that they might not be able to cover the guy that they're assigned to. But if they send them to the right place or the right position, we will help and have that covered up.
or Defensive Team vote-getters,'' Karl said. ``But I would just want a commitment on transition defense (from everyone). ... No one plays the defensive end of the court with perfection. But you can play the defensive end of the court perfect conceptually.''
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