Nene: I Want To Be A Nugget Forever
The Nuggets have surpassed expectations compiling an 8-2 record following the trade deadline deal which sent four-time All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks.
The thought of most was that the move would effectively usher in a prolonged rebuilding period filled with an abundance of losses in the short-term. However, the club has been bolstered by its new additions and their incumbent starting center Nene has also stepped up to the challenge by embracing a bigger role.
Nene has played his entire career with the Nuggets organization since entering the league in 2003, but his name became entangled in trade rumors since the start of the season when it became obvious Denver was unlikely to secure Anthony’s signature on an extension.
The ninth year center attracted plenty of interest around the league at the deadline but Denver has remained adamant that Nene is part of its long term plans in the post Anthony era and according to reports have even started pitching a contract extension to the big man.
Nuggets nation may be able to breathe a sigh of relief, because the Brazilian born star says he has no intention of leaving Denver.
"I want to be a Nugget for now and forever," Nene told HOOPSWORLD." But I know there is a lot of business [to handle], so I can say that today. "
Even though he can exercise an early termination option which would make him one of the most coveted talents in the free agent class of 2012, Nene is extremely happy with the direction the franchise is headed as it gears up for another postseason trip.
"Oh yeah for sure," said Nene reiterating his desire to remain in Denver. "It’s totally different right now. Everybody is excited, everybody is happy and everybody is enjoying playing [together]. And after games [now] you feel good. You feel like your mission is done. "
The mission may not be complete in a literal sense but the point is clear. The Nuggets acquired three proven starters from New York in the deal, so the on court successes since the new look Nuggets hit the floor together hasn’t come as a shock to the veteran.
"It is no surprise in basketball when you’re playing the right way," said Nene. "When you ball and play together, when you help each other there’s no secret [to success]. That’s what we’re doing right now."
A big reason for the recent success attained by the Nuggets has been the play of Nene who has fully thrived in the larger role presented by the vacancy created by Anthony heading east.
He’s averaged an impressive 18.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.8 steals on 67 percent shooting from the floor over the team’s last five contests. He credits incorporating a more patient approach to the game and his teammates for getting him the ball in high efficiency areas to work.
"I just let the game come to me and try to make the right decisions," Nene told HOOPSWORLD. "My teammates are making it easier for me and they’re finding me in the right spots. If we continue to play like that we’re going to have a lot of success."
Up until this point the Nuggets have amazingly defied the normal downward trajectory suffered by teams which lose franchise players.
The added touch of good news which has to make Denver ecstatic to hear is that one of their primary building blocks for the future doesn’t want to skip town, but instead wants to be part of the next era of Nuggets basketball.
Ty Lawson Feeling Good Back In Starting Lineup
Nene wasn’t the only player thrust into a more prominent role after Anthony’s departure. The trade also shipped established veteran Chauncey Billups to the Knicks.
Second year point guard Ty Lawson, the No. 18 overall pick of the 2009 draft, has emerged as a full-time starter for the Nuggets – a role he fully believes he’s ready to thrive in.
"It feels good," Lawson told HOOPSWORLD. "I’ve been starting all my life so to get back to this position … it’s a place where I know and I recognize what I can do."
Lawson didn’t exactly ride the pine as a rookie logging over 20 minutes per game in 65 appearances, but he also witnessed his peers selected ahead of him in the draft playing extended minutes as rookies albeit on worse teams.
However Lawson says the stint as a reserve didn’t have a negative impact on his approach to the game.
"Not really," explained Lawson to HOOPSWORLD. "Sometimes you need to just sit down and just learn. That’s what I did for the last year and a half, just learned under Chauncey Billups. He taught me a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have picked up on my own."
While the competition was fierce in practice between the veteran and youngster, Lawson feels his time learning the intricacies of the NBA game under Billups served as a true blessing for his long time future in the league.
"Yeah definitely," agreed Lawson. "I mean you want to go out there and start and all but I’m on a good team and most of the players picked ahead of me that are starting aren’t on playoff teams. I’m feeling good about where I’m at right now."
While the full-time starting role is a new wrinkle in the Nuggets’ team framework, Lawson had already earned the respect of his teammates before head coach George Karl made him the squad’s starter – especially Nene.
"He’s very talented," Nene told HOOPSWORLD. "He needs to step up and that’s what he’s doing. He does a good job in the game and if he’s [playing with] confidence he’s very hard to guard. He’s a very skilled player and he’s so fast. I know the Hornets have Chris Paul but we have Ty Lawson."
The early expectations the team would crumble without Anthony in the lineup has added an extra motivation to the current Nuggets’ roster.
"Everybody talking about we don’t have superstars but we got a bunch of starters on this team," Lawson said to HOOPSWORLD. "We got three starters from the Knicks. Ray [Felton] is an unbelievable player, [Danilo] Gallinari and [Chandler] Wilson. We got ten players that can go."
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