Preseason predictions are out, and many aren't friendly to the Nuggets. But Nuggets coach George Karl and his players are relishing the underdog role.
"You guys are the ones... the media in general (who say), 'Denver can't do this and can't to that. They're missing (the traded Marcus) Camby and their defense has gone to the Clippers,''' Carmelo Anthony said. "We take (the less-than ideal predictions) and we run with it. We smile and it motivates us.''
Anthony said, "At the end of the day, we're going to look back and say, 'I told you so.'''
Allen Iverson said the Nuggets can make up for the loss of Camby.
"That makes it exciting when everybody is doubting you, and when everybody is picking you being the underdogs,'' Iverson said. "When playoff time comes, we'll be right there... We didn't become underdogs until Marcus left. People weren't calling us underdogs until Marcus left.... Obviously, he's a great player... That would be a blow to any team to lose Marcus Camby. But we put our uniforms on like every other (team does).''
Iverson and forward Kenyon Martin have predicted the Nuggets to win 60 games and Anthony is saying they'll win 50 to 60. While Karl has issued no numerical predictions, he likes seeing lowly preseason projections.
"I like the idea that people are condescending and degrading our possibilities,'' Karl said. (This is) the first year (since Karl arrived in January 2005) that most people don't think we're going to be any good. Some people are saying we're totally demised. And I don't see that on our team... I like the idea of people thinking we're not that good... I like being the underdog and (prognosticators saying), 'We're floundering,' because I don't think that's the case.''
* Iverson said he's willing to sacrifice some of his scoring this season for the good of the team. "The commitment is there to sacrifice my game and do whatever the team needs me to do,'' he said. "If that means doing something different offensively, then I'm willing to do that.''
Karl said, "you can put A.I. and Melo both in that category'' of needing to worry less about scoring to make the Nuggets better.
* Remember how Karl used to want to play like the Phoenix Suns? Well, with the new emphasis on defense, those days are gone.
"Over the last two years, we as a coaching staff, tried to coach the game and incorporate the game, kind of the mentality of scoring and playing fast -- Phoenix Suns mentality -- learning how to attack the game,'' Karl said. "But we feel we have to change our mindset... To do that, I think you're going to see us incorporate a defensive mentality to training camp.''
Karl said that includes play on offense since bad shot selection sometimes resulted in hampering Denver's defense on the other end.
With Camby gone, Karl expects the Nuggets to "become more aggressive (on the) perimeter with rotations and double teams and zone actions.''
* Anthony doesn't believe playing this summer with USA Basketball, which included winning an Olympic gold medal, has resulted in him being worn down entering training camp.
"I had a month off from the last game that I played,'' Anthony said of the Aug. 24 gold-medal win over Spain. "I'm good. My conditioning is good.''
* Karl has high hopes for Nene, who will replace Camby as the starting center, although he said it will take some time for Nene to get into a groove due to missing much of last season with testicular cancer.
"There's no question that Marcus' presence was going to be missed,'' Karl said. "But I think Nene in a different way could be as good or a better basketball player than Marcus. And that's his challenge and our challenge.'''
It'll be very interesting and exciting to see how this team unfolds during the season, wether it's for the good or the bad. Hopefully for the good.
I think the underdog is going to do us wonders, especially in the northwest division where Portland is sooo hyped up. I could see Oden going down with an injury/not living up to expectations and working out best for us.