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The Denver Nuggets’ late-season fade and first-round playoff series calamity have left a sour taste in mouths across Colorado, with a lot of people asking where the team goes from here. It’s fairly clear something has to change about a roster that seemed to fall apart and couldn’t match the team-oriented play of the Utah Jazz.
Nene tells the Denver Post the knee injury that kept him out of the final playoff game this year is healing well, and he plans on playing for the Brazilian national team in August. He says he was frustrated he couldn’t play in the final game, as his team was dominated in the low post—a place where Nene could theoretically help out—but he’s ready to analyze mistakes and improve for next year. “So now, what we can do is prepare for another season and take this experience, use it to our advantage for another season,” Nene tells the Post.
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Yet, if some fans get their way, Nene won’t be around next year to frustrate fans by going soft to the hoop when he’s most effective playing aggressive. Westword’s Michael Roberts couldn’t be much clearer. In “Nuggets: Time to give up on Nene,” Roberts calls Nene “a baller with great physical gifts who simply doesn’t appear to have the aggressiveness and feel for the game that would transform him from a mere lane clogger to an offensive and defensive force.”
HoopsWorld points out another option: Trade J.R. Smith. The enigmatic guard can be a spark off the bench and has the ability to turn games around on his own, but as HoopsWorld points out, “his continued lack of maturity is stunning.” Smith could be an attractive bargaining chip, since he’s due just a touch over $6 million next year, a modest salary by NBA standards.
Certainly there are other players who may need to be moved—Kenyon Martin chief among them—but the Nuggets haven’t made any decisions yet. Something has to happen, though, because this team as it’s currently set up is not winning.