Anthony, Carmelo_2After a six-month hiatus, the Denver Nuggets are finally back in action tonight, hosting the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center to kick off the 2009-10 campaign. The team’s quest for the NBA championship falls on the shoulders of different players, depending on whom you ask.

The Denver Post thinks the bulk of the responsibility falls on hometown hero Chauncey Billups, who’s entering his second year in the driver’s seat for the team. The Denver Stiffs pass on Billups, who they say will age gracefully this year, looking instead to Carmelo Anthony (pictured) to carry his teammates back to the top of the Western Conference.

The Nuggets aren’t getting any love at the national level, with most pundits saying the team didn’t make enough moves during the offseason to compete in the talent-rich West. Sports Illustrated has the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs duking it out at the top of the Western Conference, with one expert predicting the Nuggets will be this year’s biggest flop because they lost defensive specialist Dahntay Jones and bench malcontent Linas Kleiza.

SI adds that coach George Karl’s teams don’t play well after playoff disappointments, pointing to his experience with the 2002 Milwaukee Bucks and the 1994 Seattle Super Sonics.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ Kenyon Martin is singled out by Forbes as one of America’s most overpaid athletes. The magazine believes his $13 million-per-year salary is much too high, considering his 13-points-per-year average over the last three years.

All this early doubt may turn out to be a good thing (consider the recent successes of the Broncos and the Avalanche). Let the national pundits and other teams focus on the Lakers and the Spurs, while the Nuggets climb right back up to the Western Conference finals.