K-Mart's Healthy Return Is Huge for the Denver Nuggets

Jesse SchafferCorrespondent INovember 11, 2009

DENVER - OCTOBER 28:  Kenyon Martin #4 of the Denver Nuggets warms up prior to facing the Utah Jazz during NBA action at Pepsi Center on October 28, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Nuggets defeated the Jazz 114-105.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

During the Nuggets' game vs the Miami Heat on Friday night, my roommate Jason and I had a hard time paying attention. In fact, our minds wandered so badly that at one point, that we both fell asleep and missed the majority of the second quarter.

Jason, being the Nuggets maniac that he is, wasn't happy when he awoke and discovered that the Heat were ahead by 22 points. However, he became even more upset when K-Mart left the game with a knee injury about midway through the third quarter.

After it was announced that the specifics of the injury were unknown, Jason looked at me and said, "God that better not be serious."

Serious is the key word here, much as K-Mart is one of the biggest keys to the Nuggets repeating their success from last season. Thankfully, Martin's injury turned out to be no more than a bruised left fibula. He returned to the lineup last night against the Bulls and posted 15 points and 10 rebounds. The Nuggets won after losing two in a row.

Still think the Nuggets can survive without K-Mart? Let's look a little closer shall we.

Turn the page back a little more than a year and the big issue in Denver was the trade of center Marcus Camby to the Clippers for essentially nothing. Without Camby, the Nuggets were predicted to miss the playoffs and be in the bottom half of the Western Conference. However, they survived his absence and had arguably their best season in franchise history.

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A lot of people will be quick to point to the leadership of Chauncey Billups and the re-emergence of Chris "Birdman" Anderson as the chief factors for all that success, but complete seasons and quality play from both Martin and Nene were just as crucial.

For both players, it was the first time since they had been playing on the Nuggets together that they each played in more than 65 games. Only in the 2004 season, their first year with the team, had they even played in a combined 100 games.

The Nuggets didn't add very much depth to their bench at power forward or center in the off-season and unless they make a trade they will have to make do with what they have. Birdman is a great role player and he brings great energy off the bench, but other than that the cupboard is pretty bare.

There are other important cogs on this team. Melo is having an MVP-caliber season. Chauncey is still the leader and J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson are the future. Still, if one of those guys go down, the Nuggets could survive, at least for a while.

The same cannot be said about K-Mart and Nene. Breath easy Nuggets fans, your team is okay. At least for now.


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