Nuggets’ Nene looks to future
The Denver Post
Vail, CO Colorado
Nene walked out of the Pepsi Center on Monday afternoon with a summer cool about him.
Shades. Polo shirt. Shorts. Sandals.
And, of course, his trademark smile.
Nene did not play in the Nuggets’ last game of the season, the Game 6 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday night, after suffering a left knee injury in Game 5. But the sprain that kept him out is healing nicely, Nene said as he and his personal manager, Alex Santos, toted belongings from his locker to a car.
Nene said his knee was feeling much better and he’s still on target to play for the Brazilian national team at the world championship in Turkey in late August.
“The good news is my knee is getting healthy,” Nene said. “I’ll be ready to work. Now I’m going to enjoy the summer and think about next season, what I can do better.
“There’s a couple days of treatment. I’ll be here in Denver, and then I’ll prepare myself for the national team. Going to work out here and enjoy the summer, but work and play for the national team.”
The Nuggets could have used Nene in Game 6, as Utah was overpowering in the paint against the undermanned Nuggets. Nene said it was difficult watching the game without being able to play. He did not travel with the team to Utah.
“I was so mad, it was so frustrating because I’m not there to help my team,” he said. “But I’m glad because I know they played hard and they did the best they could do, but Utah did better.
“So now, what we can do is prepare for another season and take this experience, use it to our advantage for another season. That’s the best we can do. We can review, we can watch tape, we can analyze. That’s all we can control.”
The end of the season still stung for many of the players who cleaned out their lockers Monday.
“I haven’t gotten over it yet,” forward Joey Graham said.
None of the players made a big deal of the coaching situation, with Adrian Dantley replacing George Karl, who missed most of the past two months. He is recovering from treatment for throat and neck cancer.
“We definitely missed (Karl) a lot,” Nene said. “But I think A.D., for the first time being coach, he did what he could. It’s a tough spot for him. You can’t compare A.D. to George, because George has the experience. He’s coached for a while. He’s a top coach in the league. A.D., I think he did his maximum. He did a good job.”
Added guard Arron Afflalo: “It’s just his experience as a coach is something you can’t replace. Nothing against the assistants that did the best they could under the circumstances. But at the end of the day he’s been around 20-something years. That’s just something you can’t teach.”
Nene played it close to the vest when asked if the current roster was good enough to win an NBA title.
“That’s for management,” Nene said. “I’m sure they’re going to look at how they want to get better. Every year you want to improve, you want to get better, you want to go far (in the playoffs). So that is the job for (management), the coaches.”
If the Nuggets are to bounce back, Afflalo said the players have to approach their work with a healthier state of mind.
“We expected to win with the personnel that we had, the experience from last year,” Afflalo said. “It’s just a mental thing that we all need to get stronger at as far as how we play the game, how we approach the game.”
Chris Dempsey: 303-954-1279 or email@example.com