DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets, already dealing with the absence of ailing coach George Karl, were faced with another issue when acting head coach Adrian Dantley was forced to miss Tuesday's practice because of a kidney stone.
A group of assistants oversaw the 90-minute workout, the team's last practice before a pivotal back-to-back set that begins Wednesday in Oklahoma City and concludes on Thursday, when the Nuggets host the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets, who have five regular-season games remaining, began Tuesday tied with the Utah Jazz atop the Northwest Division and in a four-way tie for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Nuggets spokesman Tim Gelt said Dantley would be on the bench for the Thunder game, health permitting.
"We're put in a tough spot, but all year we've collectively tried to help Coach Karl and A.D. by all of us doing what we have to do to keep the bus moving forward," said Nuggets assistant John Welch, who helped run the practice.
Guard Chauncey Billups said seeing Karl and now Dantley confronting health issues has been rough.
"It's something that is just tough that we're going through, but those are the cards we've been dealt and we've just got to continue to play them," Billups said. "We can't hang our heads and say, 'Man, what are we going to do now?'"
Added Nene, "After what we've been through this year, I think God has prepared us for anything."
Dantley has coached 14 games this season, going 8-6, in the absence of Karl, who is battling neck and throat cancer.
Karl is nearing the end of an intense six-week regimen of radiation and chemotherapy. He had to have a feeding tube inserted into his stomach about two weeks ago because the efforts to kill the tumor caused mouth and throat sores that made swallowing food too painful.
A contingent of players, coaches and staff visited Karl at his home on Monday. For most all of them, it was the first time they had seen him since March 16, when he last coached the Nuggets, in a win over the Washington Wizards. There's no word on when Karl will return.
"It was just good to sit and talk with him a little bit about the team and about everything that is going on. It was uplifting," said Billups, adding that Karl told him that he was having one of his good days.
Billups said the two spent part of the time watching Monday night's NCAA championship in which Duke narrowly beat Butler.
"I didn't think he was going to watch it because it was Duke," Billups said jokingly. Karl played at North Carolina, Duke's rival.
Karl did not mention -- and Billups said he did not broach -- the subject of when Karl might be able to return.
"He's doing better and hopefully he can just continue to heal," Billups said.
Nene said he also had a chance to visit Karl and was encouraged to see him upbeat and playing with his daughter.
"In the news, in the media, they don't really explain the situation," Nene said. "I like George a lot and when I saw him, in good humor, I felt better. He made me feel better."
In other developments, injured Kenyon Martin (knee), who had hoped to practice Tuesday for the first time in a month, was held out of the workout because of the flu. Fellow forward Chris Andersen, who missed Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a left ankle sprain, did not practice but was said to have improved and his availability in Oklahoma City will be determined at game time.