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Original Issue

14 Denver Nuggets A massage room, yoga lessons, a new coach and a lot of tall, young talent won't be enough to avoid another miserable year

Kiki Vandeweghe is not your typical general manager. He's taught
the Nuggets the finer points of footwork. He's rebuilt the Pepsi
Center weight room, enlarged the locker room, converted offices
into a massage room and a video theater, and is installing a
players' lounge to encourage socializing among his young troops.
The players' summer workouts included lessons in proper running
technique from a track coach as well as instruction in yoga and
martial arts.

A former NBA forward who took over as G.M. in August 2001,
Vandeweghe is not afraid to try new things, which explains the
makeup of the roster and his choice of a new coach. Recognizing
there were no quick fixes, he brought in big raw talent and a
rookie coach, Jeff Bzdelik (buzz-DEL-ik) to shape the Nuggets
into a high-energy, defensive-minded team. According to 6'11"
center Marcus Camby, who was acquired in an off-season trade with
the Knicks, Bzdelik, 49, has much in common with fellow Pat Riley
disciple Jeff Van Gundy, the former New York coach. "A lot of the
plays are the same as we had with the Knicks, and the practices
are just as tough," says Camby, who last week underwent surgery
to repair torn hip cartilage. "But this Jeff is a lot more
approachable than the Jeff in New York."

Camby will be out at least until January, but the frontcourt is
loaded with lottery picks: 7-foot Nikoloz Tskitishvili, 19; 6'11"
Nene Hilario, 20; and 6'9" Rodney White, 22, a 2001 selection by
the Pistons. Reinforcements are expected to arrive next summer,
when Denver has the cap room to sign a free agent or two after
the contract of 29-year-old forward Juwan Howard ($20.6 million
this year) expires. As Howard, the only Nugget to average more
than 11 points last year, puts it, "The challenge for us is to
keep working and not get caught up in wins and losses."

While Vandeweghe promises long-suffering Denver fans that they'll
see "the hardest-working team in the NBA," some deficiencies
can't be overcome with effort alone. The Nuggets went into
training camp with the league's weakest crop of point guards in
21-year-old Kenny Satterfield, the 54th pick in the '01 draft,
who has played in only 36 NBA games, and undrafted rookie Lorinza
Harrington of Division II Wingate (N.C.) University. "I know that
what we're doing here is going to work someday," says Bzdelik,
"and hopefully I'll be here to see it when it does." --I.T.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG NELSON ADDED VALUE Howard (middle) will provide leadership for now, then $20.6 million in cap room after his contract expires.

COLOR PHOTO: GREG NELSON OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS The best of an unproven batch of points, Satterfield will get to show he can run the show.

Last season 560 of the field goals attempted by the Nuggets were
blocked, the most since the Nets were rejected 582 times in

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Nuggets

"They would struggle in the SEC. With a competent point guard,
they could win 20 to 25 games; if they stick with what they've
got, they're looking at 15 to 20. They seem to like Kenny
Satterfield--I think he's a bad decision-maker who loves to shoot
but can't. I'd go with rookie Lorinza Harrington, who has a
little Alvin Williams in him and could be a second point guard on
some teams.... It's a tough spot for Juwan Howard, who spent a
little time with a good team in Dallas before he was shipped
here, but I've never seen him put forth less than a good
effort.... They need scoring from George McCloud and James Posey.
The problem with Posey is that he only knows what it's like to
lose 50 games a year. If you spend your career losing like that,
it's hard not to develop losing habits.... They'll pick up
full-court and try to scramble the game. It's their only hope,
because I can't find one good defender on the roster. They have
no inside presence and no shot blockers.... Rodney White made
some good plays in preseason and could be a surprise. He was
probably the most talented guy in the 2001 draft, but he had red
flags everywhere.... Their foreign rookies are not ready. Nene
Hilario struggles to get a shot off because he doesn't have any
post moves, but at least he's big and strong. Nikoloz
Tskitishvili is not in the class of Dirk Nowitzki or Pau Gasol,
but he doesn't have as much experience as those guys did when
they came to the league. He's going to be lost on defense, and
he'll get pushed around.... Nonetheless, this is a great chance
for Jeff Bzdelik. It helps that his lead assistant is John
MacLeod, who coached winners and losers and can provide
perspective. In the preseason the Nuggets came onto the court
with their shirts tucked in and their pants tied, and they played
tough defense, like a Pat Riley team. They'll steal a few wins
from teams that don't come ready to play."


Tough D

Fair D

No D


2001-02 record: 27-55 (sixth place in Midwest)
Points scored: 92.2 (23rd) Points allowed: 98.0 (24th)
Coach: Jeff Bzdelik (first season with Nuggets)


SF George
McCloud 139 8.8 ppg 3.6 rpg 3.0 apg 0.84 spg 35.8 FG%
PF Juwan Howard 61 14.6 ppg 7.6 rpg 2.1 apg 0.58 bpg 46.0 FG%
C Marcus Camby[1]124 11.1 ppg 11.1 rpg 1.72 bpg 1.17 spg 44.8 FG%
SG James Posey 135 10.7 ppg 5.9 rpg 2.5 apg 1.56 spg 37.6 FG%
PG Kenny
Satterfield 190 5.3 ppg 3.0 apg 0.86 spg 36.7 FG% 25.9 3FG%

F Nikoloz
(R)[1] 172 6.6 ppg 1.8 rpg 0.4 apg 73.3 FG% 40.0 3FG%
F Nene
Hilario(r)[1] 186 13.2 ppg 10.1 rpg 1.7 apg 1.73 bpg 66.7 FG%
F Rodney White[1]207 3.5 ppg 1.1 rpg 0.8 apg 0.56 spg 35.0 FG%
G Predrag Savovic
(R[2]) [1] 236 20.3 ppg 4.8 rpg 2.3 apg 43.8 FG% 39.1 3FG%
C Mark Blount[1] 286 2.1 ppg 1.9 rpg 0.43 bpg 42.1 FG% 81.1 FT%

[1]New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics from Italian League)
(r) Rookie (statistics from Brazilian League)
(R[2]) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)