DENVER (AP) -Kenyon Martin again can't wait to get back on the court and bang around underneath the basket to test his surgically repaired knee.
Only, this time, he's not about to rush it.
``You can't be a fool all your life,'' Martin said. ``That's what I told myself. Me going through the first one and coming back on the court in five months, which wasn't the best thing to do.''
After playing a career-low 56 games in 2005-06, Denver's power forward played in just two games last season when he blew out his right knee, an injury he blames on pushing his return from an operation on his left knee 18 months earlier.
Noted sports surgeon Richard Steadman of Vail, Colo., performed this surgery, and now Martin is trying to become the first notable pro athlete to return from microfracture surgeries on both knees.
``People said I wasn't going to play again after the college injury,'' said Martin, who broke a leg his senior season at Cincinnati. ``I made the All-Star team after that. There's no doubt in my mind I'm going to make it back from this.''
He's taking baby steps now.
``I'm running, jumping, shooting, but no contact stuff,'' Martin said. ``Limited time on the court still. As the days go on I'll incorporate more basketball activities, defensive slides and different things like that.''
Martin insists he'll be ready to play in the opener against Seattle on Oct. 31.
``On the first surgery, it took me five months, which didn't do me any justice,'' Martin said. ``So, it's been nine months of me getting off my feet, doing the right things, not jeopardizing the surgery. I think it's helped.''
Martin dropped 10 pounds and is at 230, which will be easier on his knees, he said.
Limited participation at camp, which started Tuesday, is a new concept for Martin.
``I didn't go through this last year,'' he said. ``At the beginning, they just gave me the rope and told me to run. But I'm excited it's just something besides me sitting on the side sweating under my suit.''
Even though he's back in uniform, watching his teammates go full tilt without him is tough.
``It's always that way for me. If there's a basketball and a game going on, I want to be involved,'' Martin said. ``But knowing that's not the right thing right now, I spent the summer getting my mind around that. I know I'll be limited at the beginning but as time goes on I'll be able to do more.
``I'm excited just being able to do something with the team.''
Martin's makeover includes a switch to No. 4 on his jersey.
``Six wasn't doing it for me no more, I had a few setbacks with No. 6,'' he said. ``I'm going back to my college number. That's when I started to become an all-around basketball player. I feel that's what I had to get back to.''
The Nuggets are hoping a healthy Martin can push them over the hump as they try to advance past the first round of the playoffs for a change.
``We look at Kenyon as a great free agent pickup,'' star Carmelo Anthony said. ``He hasn't played in a year and a-half. I can't wait.''
``Yeah, and I feel the same way,'' said Martin, who is eager to play in the star-studded lineup that was augmented by the addition of Allen Iverson during his absence.
``With AI, 'Melo played at an all-time high, Marcus Camby played at an all-time high,'' Martin said. ``And if I'm healthy, there's trouble for people.''
Coach George Karl said he's going to treat Martin's latest comeback much like he did forward Nene's return from a knee operation last year: let his pain threshold dictate his workload increases.
``I would say the first 20 to 30 games, we're going to be very cautious with his minutes,'' Karl said.
Martin won't be pushing it this season, but that doesn't mean he'll like holding back, either.
``I'm used to playing and competing and getting 30-some minutes a night, so I probably won't like it,'' Martin said. ``But whether I like it or not is irrelevant.
``I might not like what's about to happen at the beginning, but it's the best thing for Kenyon. Just having some of Kenyon is better than none.''
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