Weekly Optimism: The Nene we've hardly known...

With the Nuggets riding a seven-game winning streak, it's safe to say that a big chunk of the credit goes to someone I called "soft as a marshmallow" before the season started.

Nene Hilario its your time to shine!

You ever have a friend who's extremely talented? You know the one, the kind of guy/girl who can do something with the greatest of ease? It may be art. music, sports...whatever. What THEY can do is much better than you can do it. Yet they take their talent for granted and never follow through. They have the ability to be living on easy street, but they live in their parents basement. They should be running the company, but they are delivering pizzas.

Ladies and Gentleman...Nene.

The Denver Nuggets 6'11" center from Brazil has tantalized Nuggets fans with his flashes of brilliance since coming in to the league in 2002. Whether it's holding his own against Tim Duncan in the 2005 playoffs, or his dominating performances in the 2009 divisional playoff round versus the Dallas Mavericks Nene has shown that he can be the most dangerous center in the NBA. Yet, that has been the problem. Like a flicker of light on a twilight horizon, Nene tantalizingly shows us what he can do, then too often recedes into the background.

How often have we seen Nene receive the basketball near the rim, only to make a pitcher like throw out to the three point line? How often have we seen Nene grab two rebounds? How often have we seen Nene be a complete non-factor in the game and have stats comparable to (no offense intended) Johan Petro. It's this frustration that leads people to call Nene soft. Maybe even call in to question his mental makeup and his desire to even play basketball based on his desire to be a minister. Thus my proclamation he was a "marshmallow" earlier this season. I've often been frustrated that the Front Office has placed so much trust in Nene. Almost to the point where I was convinced they were just being cheap. (which for all intents and purposes MAY still be true, but that's not the discussion of the day)

Ah, but that assumption has been rapidly changing this season. With each passing game we can see Nene's confidence grow, and the will to dominate has returned. During the Nuggets seven game winning streak, Nene's stats are as follows:

vs Nets: 22 pts 9 rebs

at Warriors: 6 pts 9 rebs (only bad game of the streak)

vs Bulls: 18 pts 7 rebs

vs Suns: 12 pts 9 rebs

vs Bucks: 24 pts 9 rebs

vs Clippers: 11 pts 7 rebs (some great defense on Blake Griffin as well)

vs Grizzlies: 27 pts 11 rebs 6 ast (and completely owned Denver Stiffs favorite Marc Gasol)

Not only has our center done a great and consistent job of late, he's stepped it up at the foul line and given the Nuggets great minutes all around. The best part, for me at least, is the willingness to rebound and use his quick hands to defend. Watching Kenyon must have rubbed on Nene because he stabs at the ball so quickly it reminds me of those great Kenyon Martin steals late in the 08-09 season. The rebounding has been consistent and strong. Also during this streak we have seen Nene box out and allow others to get boards (maybe Nene can teach an instructional video to other Nuggets big men about the art of boxing out)

All in all, Nene has played like the center we all hoped he would be. I for one am hoping beyond hope that this continues. While I don't expect a stat line like the Memphis game every night, I think that 15 and 9 is not too much to ask, and it's more than achievable. With Nene's contract situation not fully clear, my hope is that the Nuggets do what it takes to retain him the best they can. At 28 years old he has two MAYBE three good years left of his prime. It would be a shame if Nene retired or moved on to another team. You can see the impact that Nene has on the rest of his teammates, they respond to him being aggressive and jamming the ball down with authority.

Keep it up Nene. You have restored this critic's faith in you. Now quit that pizza delivery job and join the Fortune 500!!

Here's some Stone Cold Crazy to get ya pumped!

Queen - Stone Cold Crazy (via Magnuz001)

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