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February 19, 2009 11:45 PM

Nuggets lose no ground at deadline

By Aaron J. Lopez

I know money's tight and all these days. Heck, it hurts me to shell out $7 for a carnitas burrito at Chipotle, but a man's gotta eat, right?

Even with the tough economy, I thought NBA owners would still have an appetite for excitement at the trade deadline. Bold moves. Power shifts. All that corporate board room, rah-rah stuff.

Instead, most contenders in both the East and West decided to save their money for July 1, 2010 a rainy day. Other than the Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets, no team with a winning record made any significant moves Thursday as the trade deadline failed to provide much excitement.

The most active traders were Sacramento, Chicago, Minnesota, Oklahoma City and New York. All five have losing records and Minnie, OKC and Sac are battling for ping-pong balls in the upcoming draft lottery.

Closer to home, the Nuggets couldn't have been too disappointed to see two of their closest competitors -- Portland and San Antonio -- stay the course at the trade deadline. It could have gotten dicey for Denver if either had landed New Jersey swingman Vince Carter.

Having already made their impact trade for Chauncey Billups in November, the Nuggets were content to keep their payroll comfortably under the NBA luxury tax and see how far the current cast can take them.

Though the trade deadline turned out to be about as exciting as a CSI re-run, I can't say I disagree with Denver's decision to stand pat. The Nuggets are playing well and there seems to be a good vibe in the locker room. Even if they hit a rough patch, veterans Billups, Kenyon Martin and Anthony Carter are proving to be calming influences who can help their younger teammates stay focused.

That being said, don't be surprised to see another veteran join the team before March 1. That's the deadline for players who have been on an NBA roster this season to be added and still be eligible for the playoffs. Coach George Karl said Thursday that the Nuggets will keep their eyes out for another big man or a backup point guard that might serve as insurance.

He was genuinely intrigued when I told him that Sam Cassell had been waived by the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. Cassell will clear waivers today, and he and Karl have always said they would be willing to reunite after spending five seasons together in Milwaukee.

Cassell was on Denver's radar last year but opted on join the Boston Celtics because they were closer to winning a championship. His decision proved to be a good one as the Celtics won it all. Now that the Nuggets are starting to join the conversation of title contenders, Cassell might be more inclined to bring his experience and leadership to Denver.

He's no Vince Carter, but it would at least be a move worth talking about.


  • February 22, 2009

    9:03 AM

    Richard Holcomb writes:

    Let's be clear: the Denver Nuggets will lose ground next season if they do not replace the immature, erratic and basically selfish J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza with two unspectacular but reliable team players. Neither has adapted to the new regimen represented by the starters and other teams like Portland, Utah, Dallas and Houston will get better while the Lakers and Spurs continue as the class of the West. Further, a strong, reliable and athletic backup for Chauncey Billups---ideally a potential successor---is needed to replace the hard working but severely limited Anthony Carter. And, oh yeah, we clearly need a real NBA big to back up the talented but injury-prone Nene and K-Mart.
    If the Nuggets want to retain their season ticket holder base in these tough times, they must act boldly in the off-season.

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    What for? The Nuggets are Division leaders and rank 3rd in the Western Conference. JR has shown great improvement in his decision making and his defense.

    Kleiza's game has stagnated on the other hand, but he's still a very athletic and talented scorer. He has to become more consistent in his game but other than that he's very cheap at his level of talent.

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