Nuggets' Nene has testicular tumor removed, biopsy to determine if cancerous

Updated: January 17, 2008, 2:13 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ATLANTA -- Denver Nuggets forward Nene underwent surgery Monday to remove a testicular tumor, and a biopsy will determine if it was cancerous.

Nene
Nene

The Brazilian player took an indefinite leave of absence Friday, and there is no timetable for his return.

"Nene is recovering well and in good condition," Dr. Fernando J. Kim said.

The operation was done at Denver Health Medical Center. Kim said a "right testicular mass was found incidentally and it was managed surgically." The tumor was found last week in an exam by team physician Dr. Saurabh Mangalik.

"I want to thank my fans, my teammates, the Nuggets organization and everyone that's been supporting me," Nene said in a statement released by the team before Tuesday night's game at Atlanta.

"My victory will represent their victory as well. Thanks for being with me in this moment. I will remember all the appreciation. I thank God that we could detect this at such an early stage."

A team source told ESPN.com's John Hollinger on Tuesday that the tumor was caught exceptionally early and was quite small, leading to speculation that Nene could return to the court in a matter of weeks.

The Rocky Mountain News reported that according to a source close to the situation, the possible health problem was noticed last week by an administrator during a routine NBA drug test.

Denver coach George Karl said he first talked with team captains Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby about Nene's condition on Friday, before the team's home game against Orlando.

"I can't deny that talking about Nene was more emotional than some other circumstances I've been presented," Karl said. "I think the team, I don't know what the word is, but it was a very quiet day. The game that night, the personality was introverted, introspective."

Iverson said Nene's surgery has forced players to think about more than games.

"We just want to make sure he does everything he has to do to get well," Iverson said. "This whole thing is so much bigger than basketball. This is life. All we can do is be there to support him and be a phone call away if he needs us."

Karl and his son, Coby, have been treated for cancer. George Karl has had surgery for prostate cancer.

"As a cancer survivor and someone who has watched his son go through two cancer-related surgeries, I know firsthand the emotions and fears that you feel when someone says you might have it," Karl said. "Our job now is to support Nene and be there for him as a family. Basketball is at the bottom of the totem poll at a time like this. We just want him to get healthy."

Nene is averaging 6.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. He missed 22 games earlier this season after undergoing left thumb surgery. He was out for all but one game of the 2005-06 season after tearing a knee ligament, and he was sidelined for 27 games the season before with a variety of ailments.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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