Updated: Jan. 11, 2007, 2:45 AM ET

Waiting for the Melo fellow

A few questions in the wake of San Antonio's 92-83 win that dropped Denver to 17-16. As the Disciples Of Fat Lever are wont to chant, Carmelo Anthony's return is four games away -- Jan. 22. The waiting is the hardest part ...

After spending his suspension "bickerin' and fussin'" at the TV while watching Denver games with Carmelo, J.R Smith's return was not the stuff of legend. He was 0-for-4 in 3-point attempts.

The first game back can be tough. As a team, they were struggling defensively. And you're not going to beat the Spurs playing their way.

Can the Nuggets still catch the Jazz, who they now trail by six games, for the Northwest Division title?

The Jazz are catchable. But what has to happen is what people expect to happen -- that when Carmelo comes back, they take off. They should know each other pretty well. I think they'll be the most watchable team out there.

For their former GM, definitely. The stakes have been upped since the end of your Denver tenure last season.

From a GM perspective, the ownership has changed course and really spent a lot of money here. That brings with it a type of pressure. The Nuggets need to win now. There's going to be expectations to win, since they're heading into luxury tax territory. In committed salary, the Nuggets are up with the top teams in the league. You've got to win with that. And you've got to give kudos to the owner because he stepped up.

Given the injuries and suspensions, how do you rank the 3-7 mark with Iverson in baby blue?

Pretty good, actually. George Karl won the games he could, sometimes heading out there with three guards. The frontline guys like Marcus Camby, who is always good when he's in there, was battling a hand injury and Nene still is not looking like he's at full strength. Reggie Evans is great at rebounds, but he's not an intimidator.

Without your best players, you're not going to win a lot. Talent wins in this league, the exception coming when you have young hustle players. That's how Toronto and New York get wins lately, and it's the same with Philly when it wins. But you're not going to win big without your stars.

I know the Nuggets didn't want to give up Andre Miller to make the deal. With suspensions, they had to do it during this time period, thinking that if they didn't, it would probably put them out of contention for the Northwest Division.

Chris Webber's on the market. Denver might do too much running for him, but where do you think the best fit for him will be?

If I'm Webber, I'm going to a team that can win a championship or to a situation where I can make a big difference. If I think I have three or four years left, I can go to a place where I can make a difference.

But if I think I only have a year or two, then I go to a team that can win a championship now. But then there's the question of how Webber fits each team. Take the Mavericks, maybe the favorites to win it now. I'm not sure how much playing time he'd get there. He's got to feel like he's a contributor. Chris has got to get comfy. And if you're Dallas, your team is going pretty good right now. Do you dare mess with the chemistry?

I think he can really help a team.

Melo will help Denver when he can dwell on playing, not on that foolish moment at MSG. Should we point out that the Nuggets are now 0-12 when they don't score 100 points?

Racehorse basketball is the Nuggets way.

ESPN analyst Kiki Vandeweghe, who was the Nuggets GM for five years until last spring, played 13 NBA seasons, averaging 19.7 ppg for four teams from 1981-93.

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One Down, One To Go
Jerry Stackhouse
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
J.R. Smith returned to action after serving a 10-game suspension during which he watched Nuggets games at the home of fellow suspendee Carmelo Anthony.


Thorpe Speed: Battier's Bounce

SHANE'S SKILLS: Shane Battier made a play as smart as any I've seen in the fouth quarter. Chasing Luke Walton who was leading the break, Battier recovered a mid-dribble by Walton as the players were crossing the timeline. His momentum should have carried him over the line, which technically would have been a "backcourt" violation. But Battier recognized where he was and instantly stopped with his toes inches from the line, dribbled the ball behind his back (had he dribbled in front and hit the line it still would have been a violation) and passed it to a teammate on the Rockets offensive end. Most players would have crossed the line and hoped the officials missed the violation.

CASE FOR KWAME: I know people won't believe me, but the Lakers really miss Kwame Brown. He is their best post defender and is often an energetic presence inside. Without him there is a huge hole in the middle.

TRIGGER MAN: Teams that make the quick outlet pass can score in transition; teams that don't can't. Coaches can beg and plead for their teams to run and push, but first the rebounder has to release the ball to the point guard quickly. Making the quick outlet is as much an art or talent as the assist at the end of the break.

-- David Thorpe



Daily Dish: Trade Winds
Kevin Garnett

Trade Kevin Garnett? Chad Ford says Chicago shapes up as the perfect trade partner. Marc Stein thinks making a move before July 1 might be the best time, but the team probably can't go into next season with him still in Minnesota.

Daily Dish: Ford and Stein


Records At A Glance



Spurs Welcome J.R. With Defeat

Spurs keep high-scoring Nuggets in check


Swatting Sensation
Dikembe Mutombo
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Dikembe Mutombo swatted five shots in a win over the Lakers and moved into what is technically second place all-time with 3,191, two more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem's first four NBA seasons weren't counted, because blocks didn't become an official stat until 1973-74. Hakeem Olajuwon is the all-time leader at 3,830.




Extreme Behavior
Dwight Howard

Wednesday's Best
Magic center Dwight Howard: Had a career-high 30 points and season-high 25 rebounds in a 91-76 win over the Warriors. Howard, the league's top rebounder at 12.5 coming into the game, posted his fourth game this season with at least 20 points and 20 boards.

Desmond Mason

Wednesday's Worst
Hornets forward Desmond Mason: First the good news: The Hornets snapped a five-game losing streak, topping the Hawks 96-77. But Mason lived up to his name, missing all six shots.

Quote of the Day
"This is the best I've felt in three years. Now the thing I want to do most is win a championship, put myself back on that kind of level."
-- Chris Webber, after having his Sixers contract bought out

See how all 241 who played stacked up

-- Andrew Ayres



Pick Your Top All-Time Lineup

Nathanael (KC): If you could create your all-time perfect team, who would its starters be?

David Thorpe: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon. (We need The Dream to be a shot blocker and another back to the basket player.)

Renegade: I agree with your team except I'd replace Malone with Tim Duncan. :)

David Thorpe: I may end up agreeing with you once TD's career is over.

Fred (LA): No Wilt on your all-time starting five? I guess a guy who leads the NBA in scoring all-time and rebounds and averaged about 30 rebounds a game for his career isn't good enough nowadays!

David Thorpe: My take on the Stilt era is that he was amazing but did not compete against so many bigs like they do today -- each team only had one or so.

Full David Thorpe chat Insider



Ruben Among The Best Deals

John Hollinger ranks the top 10 offseason deals, including the Bucks' trade of Joe Smith for Ruben Patterson:

Can you even imagine where Milwaukee would be right now if it hadn't made this deal? The Bucks originally pulled the trigger because they felt they needed a backup small forward more than a backup power forward, and they were proven correct when Bobby Simmons' heel problem kept him on the shelf. But Patterson has played better than they could have possibly imagined.

The veteran nomad is having a career year -- no mean feat for a 31-year-old player who is almost entirely dependent on his athleticism. He's shooting 56.4 percent from the floor, pumping in 18.1 points per game and looking forward to six weeks as the Bucks' go-to guy while Michael Redd's knee heals. Patterson's line from the first game sans Redd indicates he may be up to the task -- 29 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and four steals against Denver on Monday. (Incidentally, this deal didn't work out so badly on Denver's end either -- Smith was a key piece in the Allen Iverson deal.)

Full John Hollinger story Insider



On This Date In NBA History

January 11, 1947
The NBA voted to outlaw the use of zone defenses. When the league began play 2½ months earlier, it did so under college rules that permitted zones. But league officials felt that zones were slowing down the game and allowing teams to clog the middle and thus voted that they be prohibited.

January 11, 1967
San Diego was granted an NBA franchise to be called the Rockets. The franchise moved to Houston for the 1971-72 season.

-- ESPN

 

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