June 1 2009, 9:15 AM
The Denver Nuggets' season ended Friday night after a demoralizing smackdown at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association's Western Conference Finals. Now it's time for the team's executives to get to work on finding a way to get back to the finals again next year. But it won't be so easy. The core scorers for the team will return next year, but the team has several unrestricted free agents, including fan-favorite and ultimate energy guy Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who played this year for a little over $998,000. His salary could jump to at least $5.5 million next year, according to The Denver Post, which is bad for a team that is just barely under the luxury-tax threshold. Other free agents include Linas Kleiza, defensive specialist Dahntay Jones, and point guard Anthony Carter. ESPN notes that it'll be difficult for the Nuggets to rebuild this year's squad, let alone improve, unless the team's performance "leads to a torrent of season-ticket sales." The position of the Nuggets' decisionmakers isn't an enviable one, but let's hope they find a way to bring back the Birdman and to let mistake-prone nice guy Anthony Carter hit the road.