NBA All-Star Couldn't Come at Better Time for Injury-Riddled Denver Nuggets

Rich Kurtzman@@RichKurtzman Senior Analyst IFebruary 26, 2012

After months of being locked out, unable to practice, with games smushed together in a shortened season, we knew this year would be wild and wacky in the NBA.

When the season started, one of the biggest surprises was the Nuggets, a team devoid of stars that analysts believe was an afterthought when it came to competing for a title.

Denver's season began on a Rocky Mountain high—the team started 14-5 and the way Denver dominated was extraordinary.

The Nuggets led the league in scoring, fast-break points, points in the paint, two-point field goals and assists while being second in steals—their team-first, everyone buy-in and sell-out for each other attitude, made the Nuggs look legit.

They were playing beautiful basketball, the right way. Sharing the rock, going all-out on both ends and running teams out of every gym they played in with athleticism and youth was Denver's calling card.

Then the injury bug started biting and has yet to relent.

Ty Lawson, Nene, Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov—all starters—have missed significant time due to ankle injuries.

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Each player is important in his own way to the Nuggets' success, and missing all of them at the same time has devastated Denver.

Lawson's unbelievable speed and quickness give him the ability to get to the rim whenever he wants and he's the major driving force in Denver's transition game.

Nene and Gallinari run the floor extremely well for bigs too, and without Nene, the Nuggets have no low-post presence on offense.

Mozgov's still raw, but his rebounding, active hands and defense are key.

But beyond doubt, Denver's missing Danilo Gallinari the most.

Gallo is a blossoming star, relentlessly taking the ball to the rack with reckless abandon and drawing fouls. His shot from outside is deadly when it's on and Gallinari gives great effort on defense as he's a versatile player.

Gallinari is the Nuggets' leading scorer (17 PPG), and Nene is the leading rebounder (7.78 RPG) while Lawson is second in scoring (15.4) and second in assists (6.1).

After starting the season 14-5 and being second-best in the West, Denver is 4-12 since and currently on the outside of the playoff picture in ninth.

Injuries have destroyed Denver's hot start, and though the Nuggets have shown heart, they are barely over .500 at 18-17.

For the team that plays a mile high, the All-Star break couldn't have come at a better time.

While most fans want to see their team represented during All-Star weekend, Nuggets fans would rather their team rests and gets healthy.

And it sounds like that's what's going to happen for Denver.

Gallinari told Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, "It's hard to tell, but I think I'll probably be back after all-star," Gallinari said. "That's what we're thinking."

And while Nene could be back that same week, after suffering ankle, heel and calf injuries, head coach George Karl told Benjamin Hochman, “His conditioning, being out this long, how we keep him in shape and how we get him to be a 35-minute player might not happen."

Lawson was a game-time decision the last couple Nuggets games, meaning he'll likely be back right after the break as well.

It will be a big boost for the Nuggets, and their fans hope they can get back to those exciting, fun days and back to their winning ways.

What could also help them get back into a groove is their schedule right after the break, with games against Portland, Houston, San Antonio, Sacramento and Cleveland.

So with Denver down, enjoy NBA All-Star weekend and just remember they'll be back to full health soon.

Rich Kurtzman is a freelance journalist actively seeking a career in journalism. Along with being your CSU Rams Examiner, Kurtzman is also the Denver Broncos Examiner and writes for Blake Street Bulletin, Stadium Journey, Bleacher Report, and Mile High Hoops.

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