- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 24, 2011

The last time the Wizards faced the Denver Nuggets, on Jan. 25 at Verizon Center, they still were anchored on the wing by all-star forward Carmelo Anthony. Credit Anthony for being up front with the Nuggets from Day One of this season about his desire to be traded to the New York Knicks, but the so- called “Melo-Drama” was the talk of the NBA for months.

Melo got his wish; he was traded to the Knicks last month, along with point guard Chauncey Billups for about half of the Knicks roster, and the two of them now play beside center Amar’e Stoudemire.

But since the Feb. 22 trade, the Knicks have gone 7-10, while the Melo-less Nuggets have gone 11-4.

Nuggets coach George Karl has gone on record as being glad the drama is behind him and glad he can once again concentrate on coaching. Without their former star, the Nuggets are now playing true team basketball, and no one is less surprised than Karl.

“The gossip of the trade was one-sided - celebrations in New York and we just got scraps,” Karl said in an interview posted on the Nuggets website. “We never felt that way. We felt we had a hell of a chance to be a good team. Play hard, play together and stay together has kind of been the theme and good things have happened. There’s a spirit and enthusiasm, an intensity an energy. Everyday it’s fun to be around. It’s a good place.”

This newly recharged Nuggets squad is the team the Wizards will face Friday night in Denver, after two difficult losses - a 35-point blowout to the Portland Trailblazers, followed by a double-overtime heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Let’s face the facts. We’ve won 17 games. It’s not like we’ve been in a lot of those types of situations,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said in an interview posted on the team website.

“You’ve got to realize, we’ve really been on the road now for two weeks,” Saunders said. “We were on the road last week for two games, we came home for one day, it was like a road game, went back on the road that night back in Portland and then here. So we’ve been on the road for a while. [The players] are tired, but they’re not using that as an excuse.”

With just 12 games left, Saunders has a one simple request for his players:

“We just want to see our young guys play hard and compete.”



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