The Denver Nuggets will have to play small until their bigs get back.
The Nuggets were unable to find their coveted 7-footer in the draft or free agency, so they signed Al Harrington, a power forward who likes to run and shoot, to a five-year deal worth more than $26 million in guarantees, then lured free agent Shelden Williams from Boston for about $915,000 in 2010-11.
Like Harrington, Williams is 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, bringing some beef to the paint.
The Nuggets don’t know when Kenyon Martin and Chris "Birdman" Andersen will be recovered from offseason knee surgeries, so their desire for a big man took center stage this summer.
They weren’t able to move back into the draft to grab a big man, then struck out in their dogged pursuits of free agents Jermaine O’Neal, who went to Boston, and Udonis Haslem, who stayed in Miami.
So, they decided to change the way they play.
Nene will play center with Harrington starting at power forward until the big men return to the court.
That means coach George Karl, who is recovering from throat cancer and its grueling treatment, will have to play a run-and-gun style like Mike D’Antoni’s old Phoenix Suns teams when the season starts.
It’s always been his forte: building a team of "basketball players" rather than one of traditional "position players."
Another hallmark of Karl’s coaching staff is turning minimum salary guys – Andersen, Dahntay Jones – into coveted free agents who command big bucks after a year in the Nuggets system.
Williams, who played sparingly for the Boston Celtics last season, averaging 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 11 minutes, could be next.
And Carter, who will make $1.352 million next season, is Karl’s safety valve. Spelling Chauncey Billups and Ty Lawson last year, he averaged 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds in 54 games. He and Karl see eye to eye, so he’s like another coach on the court who adds a defensive dimension, especially important with Martin, Denver’s best defender, sidelined indefinitely.