|Anthony thinks Nuggets have all the pieces to be West contenders|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 26 October 2007 01:46|
He's anxious to prove it's more than just words.
``It's looking real good out there for us. We've got everything we need,'' the Nuggets' All-Star said.
Denver has Allen Iverson in for a full season, Kenyon Martin back after two microfracture knee surgeries, Nene on the mend and NBA Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Camby patrolling the middle.
Then there's Anthony, who was second in the league in scoring last season, averaging 28.9 points a game.
The forward has even shored up his one glaring weakness: ``He's made strong steps forward in his maturity and in his professionalism and in his responsibility,'' coach George Karl said.
Anthony spent the summer helping Team USA secure a spot for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing by winning the 2007 FIBA Americas tournament.
His desire now is to guide Denver on a deep run through the postseason.
``A championship, that's our goal,'' Anthony said.
First, the Nuggets have to find a way to get out of the first round of the playoffs. They've lost in the opening round four straight seasons, including last year when San Antonio beat them in five games en route to the NBA title. Denver is confident they're closing the gap on the world champions.
``We're not far away from the Spurs,'' Anthony said. ``We're going to fight this year. We're going to leave it all out there on the court.''
Denver didn't do much tinkering with its lineup in the offseason, just a couple of tweaks. The Nuggets went out and signed Chucky Atkins after Steve Blake bolted for Portland. The team also traded forward Reggie Evans to Philadelphia for Steven Hunter and Bobby Jones.
Other than that, though, the Nuggets didn't make much of a splash in the free agent market.
Then again, the Nuggets view Martin almost as a free agent pickup. He's back this season after his second microfracture knee surgery. He played only two games last year.
``I'm geeked,'' he said. ``It's been a long road, and it's taught me how to be patient.''
Anthony will now also have a full season to work with Iverson. The Iverson deal went down in December just as Anthony started serving his 15-game suspension for his involvement in a brawl with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
A training camp together has only solidified the chemistry between the talented tandem.
``Last year, we didn't have everybody on the court at one time,'' Anthony said. ``We got a whole month (of training camp) together before we even start playing.''
The brakes may be applied to the Nuggets' high-octane offense this season. Although Anthony is one of the top scorers in the league and Iverson has scored 20,824 career points, Denver wants to become more defensive minded.
After all, it's worked for the Spurs.
``Defense wins titles,'' Eduardo Najera said. ``The better teams play defense.''
Camby couldn't agree more. He likes the fact the team is stressing defense. He's predicting big things out of the Nuggets.
``I think we have a team assembled here that can make a lot of noise,'' said Camby, who had a league-leading 3.3 blocks a game last season. ``If you look at the talent, we stack up against the best teams in the NBA. It's all about going on and proving it.''
Anthony has a win total floating around in his mind.
``60,'' he said with a grin.
Karl squirmed at that number. The Nuggets' team record in the NBA is 54 in 1987-88.
``I've heard guys talk about 60 games,'' Karl said. ``And 60 games is probably a couple steps further than I think we can do. We should try to be the best team in Denver Nuggets' NBA history, and that's not out of the question. I think we can win 52-to-55 games.''
But Denver has to stay healthy, which has been easier said than accomplished. Martin has been hobbled by his knees the last two seasons and the Nuggets are still taking it easy with Nene, who tore the ACL in his right knee on opening night in 2005.
``My knees are fine,'' Nene said. ``This is going to be great, having the whole team back together.''
The Nuggets will be without guard J.R. Smith for three games after the team suspended him for ``conduct detrimental to the team.'' He was recently issued a summons on charges including assault after an incident at a night club.
Smith was also suspended 10 games last season for his role in the Knicks brawl.
Last summer, Smith was cited for failure to stop at a stop sign and improper passing in a car crash that killed his friend, Andre Bell, in New Jersey.
In Karl's opinion, the success of the Nuggets boils down to cohesion on the court.
``We are going to be judged on how we play as a team,'' Karl said. ``We have enough talent to be a great team.''
Anthony feels that way as well.
``We have no excuses this year,'' he said. ``We have everybody back. Our main thing is just everybody being healthy throughout the season. If we have that, big things can happen.''