DENVER George Karl scoffs at the notion that a team needs a superstar to be successful.
The Denver Nuggets coach would be more than satisfied if the organization manages to retain guard Arron Afflalo weighting his options in free agency and big man Nenê, who reportedly re-signed Tuesday night.
That would be enough of a nucleus for Karl. And even if that doesnt pan out, he insists this roster already is a sleeping giant, even if no one will take the Nuggets seriously.
Sort of like last season.
The Nuggets didnt miss a beat after dealing All-Star Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in a blockbuster deal last February, going 18-7 the rest of the way to once again make the playoffs. The squad didnt have a bona fide star, yet still threw a scare at Oklahoma City in the first round before being eliminated.
Karl believes this team can be just as accomplished, especially with a full camp together.
Well, an abbreviated one anyway, given the late start because of the lockout.
The best team wins championships, Karl said after practice Tuesday.
And for proof of that, Karl offered up the Dallas Mavericks, who won the NBA title last season. Sure, they had Dirk Nowitzki, but after that it was pretty much a well-balanced cast.
Karl thinks Danilo Gallinari, who was acquired in the Anthony trade, could be Denvers version of Nowitzki, someone who can step up at crunch time.
Or maybe it will be Nenê, possibly even Afflalo provided, of course, the team can agree to a deal with either player.
When asked if anything was new on the Afflalo front, Nuggets vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri simply said: Optimistic.
According to The Denver Post, Nenê reportedly signed a five-year deal Tuesday that could be worth up to $67 million.
Unlike last season, though, the Nuggets wont have J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin, who all left to play in China while the NBA was in a lockout.
Not now, at least. Maybe down the road, when their obligations overseas are fulfilled.
I still think were hopeful that some of those guys are going to be in a Nuggets uniform sometime this year, Karl said. I think Arron and Nenê everyone knows we want them here. Its a business right now. Got to respect that.
Theres a possibility of J.R. and Wilson if and when they come back from China. Do they fit into our plans? Do we fit into their plans? Were not going to show our hand, but we dont dislike any of them. We think theyre all good players.
For now, Karl is concentrating on the only thing he can control his current roster. Rookies Kenneth Faried (Morehead State) and Cory Higgins (Colorado) are having solid camps, while the team brought in forward DeMarre Carroll on Tuesday.
Interesting seeing new guys more responsibility and new opportunities and how they respond to it, Karl said.
Karl is a big believer that consistently winning doesnt simply mean having a troupe of headliners. After the Anthony trade, Karl rotated in fresh bodies from a deep roster, a style that was highly effective.
Hes eager to find out if that approach can produce results over a long season.
None of you guys think we can. Id like to prove you guys wrong, Karl said of prognosticators. I dont see anybody talking about 18-7 (from last year). I havent gone back and checked the record, but I think its against some pretty good basketball teams.
That spurt last season definitely has the Nuggets trusting, and they dont mind being labeled underdogs.
It takes out a little bit of pressure, Gallinari said. We were a really good team (last year), and we didnt have a superstar. We played really good basketball.
Ty Lawson couldnt agree more.
After the trade, they didnt expect anything from us. We surprised everybody with one of the best records after the trade, said Lawson, who spent the lockout playing in Lithuania. This year, theyre going to sleep on us again. Were definitely going to surprise people.