DENVER -- George Karl is hoping to entice Nene to attend an upcoming practice.
The Denver Nuggets coach thinks it would be therapeutic for the Brazilian forward to hang out with his teammates.
Nene found out Tuesday that a testicular tumor removed on Jan. 14 was malignant. The team said the tumor was discovered early, and tests showed the cancer was isolated.
"I want him to come back and be with the team and understand basketball is a little bit family," Karl said Wednesday before the Nuggets' game against the Atlanta Hawks. "So many of us stay in basketball because of the spirit of basketball, and the spirit of friendship is stronger and deeper ... and loving. We want to share that with him."
The team said there's no timetable yet for his return, but Karl has a suspicion that Nene will return this season.
"My feeling is he knows that we love him and need him," Karl said. "I think he knows we can be a damn good basketball team. As soon as he's healthy, we'll step over that bridge."
The Nuggets suspected the news would come back that the tumor was malignant, based on the information they were receiving. The team was bracing for it, even after Nene's Web site posted a statement last week saying the tumor was benign. But that announcement later was removed.
"Cancer is scary," Karl said. "It's a fear. It's an emotion you don't deal with a lot. Now, you wake up with it and think about it."
The team has had to deal with cancer quite a bit in recent years. Karl was treated for prostate cancer in 2005; his son, Coby, was diagnosed with papillary carcinoma, a form of treatable cancer, in January 2006 and had his thyroid removed three months later. Last April, Coby, who's now a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers, underwent more surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes.
"We're pretty much familiar with the situation at hand," said Marcus Camby, who considers Nene one of his closest friends on the team. "It's tough. We've dealt with it with George, we dealt with it with Coby. So, you have to be there for support. That's all we can really do from afar."
Camby said he's spoken with Nene and that his spirits are high.
"I wanted to let him know that as a friend and as a brother, he definitely has my support," Camby said. "We love him, we're praying for him and want to see him. We hope he gets better. We're not really worried about basketball at this point, we just want him to worry about his life. When he's ready to come back, we'll definitely welcome him back with open arms."
The Brazilian news magazine Epoca recently reported on its Web site the tumor was small and was completely removed in surgery, citing Nene's Brazilian urologist Dr. Fernando Kim.
"There is no sign the disease has spread," Kim told the magazine.
Nene's right testicle was removed, and the early diagnosis made it "close to 100 percent" sure that the treatment was successful, Epoca said.
That was welcome news to Karl.
"The more you understand it, the more you comprehend that if you do the right things, you're going to be fine," Karl said. "He's got it early, it's a slow-moving cancer and I heard the possibilities of close to 100 percent chance of survival and living a clean and healthy life."
Karl has yet to speak to Nene over the phone, preferring his first conversation with him to be in person. That's why he's hoping to lure him to a practice, maybe even as early as Thursday.
"We're going to figure it out," Karl said. "Whatever we need to do to help him, we'll do."