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Old 12-18-2006, 10:52 PM   #1
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Join Date: Apr 2004
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M. Salah
Default Without 'Melo, Nuggets Might Move Quickly To Get AI

The Iverson solution?
Without 'Melo, Denver might move quickly to get A.I.

So what's next for the Nuggets and Knicks, now that NBA commissioner David Stern has issued his penalties for last Saturday's brawl?

For Denver, it's cue up the Allen Iverson trade talks -- and pray that home court brings relief. For New York, it's cue up the "Fire Isiah" chants -- and breathe a sigh of relief.

The Nuggets obviously were dealt a huge blow with the suspensions of Carmelo Anthony (15 games), J.R. Smith (10) and Nene (one). Denver enters this week sitting in the seventh spot in the Western Conference playoff race, just a few games ahead of contenders such as the Clippers, Kings, Hornets, Warriors and T'Wolves. Without Anthony, the NBA's leading scorer, and Smith, the team's starting shooting guard, the Nuggets will be hard-pressed to maintain that position during the next four weeks.

Keep in mind, Denver already has lost starting power forward Kenyon Martin to a season-ending knee surgery. Nene, the team's other power forward, has been working his way back slowly from his own past knee problems. Now the Nuggets will have to make do for a long stretch without Anthony and Smith, who account for a combined 48.4 points per game, or roughly 45 percent of the team's offense.

It doesn't help that the Nuggets happen to be woefully thin at shooting guard and small forward. DerMarr Johnson started 21 games at the 2 spot a year ago but had lost his job to Smith and was barely getting off the bench this season. Yakhouba Diawara is a rookie who is averaging 5.1 points on 35.7 percent shooting in his 19 minutes per game. At small forward, Eduardo Najera and Linas Kleiza now will be called on to fill in for Anthony.

Obviously, Nuggets coach George Karl's biggest concern will be finding a way to replace all that missing offense. One option will be to go small more often, with 5-5 Earl Boykins playing alongside Andre Miller in the backcourt. The drawback, of course, is that it leaves the Nuggets vulnerable on defense.

The good news for Denver is that 12 of its next 15 games are at the Pepsi Center, including dates against the Celtics, Sonics, Sixers. More than ever, the Nuggets must try to go up-tempo and run foes off the floor in the mile-high altitude. Marcus Camby is going to have to come up big and block a lot of shots, and the Nuggets are going to have to run, run, run.

Of course, Denver might be able to solve its scoring woes immediately if it can swing a trade for Iverson. The Nuggets reportedly have offered the Sixers a package including Nene, two first-round draft picks in 2007, and the expiring contract of Joe Smith. Philadelphia doesn't want Nene's contract ($60 million through the 2011-12 season), so Denver GM Mark Warkentien is trying to get a third team involved.

With his team facing the prospect of losing ground in the ultra-competitive West, Warkentien and the Nuggets brass might have to sweeten the pot. Of course, the Nuggets will be dealing from a position of urgency rather than strength, so it won't be easy. But it could be worth it.

As for the Knicks, they don't figure to be damaged too badly by Stern's ruling. New York will miss Robinson's energy, but it's not like he was leading them to victories. Mardy Collins is a seldom-used reserve, and Jared Jeffries had recently returned from an injury that had kept him out the first month anyway.

The Knicks should be thankful that Thomas wasn't hit with a lengthy suspension. Given his comments after the game, in which he basically admitted that his team was looking to pay back the Nuggets for embarrassing them on the court, the former Bad Boy could have found himself on Stern's hit list. Apparently, the Commish looked the other way on this one.

Then again, considering how poorly the Knicks are playing this season, maybe losing Thomas for a few games wouldn't have been so bad. Either way, it's not going to help his standing with Garden fans. Unless the Knicks start winning games soon, the fans are going to continue to boo and Thomas is going to be sent packing at the end of the season.
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