A lot has changed since the Nuggets 2009 run to the Western Conference Finals. Looking over that roster, who would have guessed that Chris Andersen would be the last player remaining from that team? And how much longer will the Birdman be in town?
Let's take a quick look at that roster from the WCF run and see where these guys are now ...
Chris Andersen: racking up Did Not Play - Coach's Decisions in Denver, his contract with the team runs through the 2013-14 season. Birdman is a still a fine backup and can really put together some energy games, but his effectiveness hasn't been as consistent as it once was. If the Nuggets could afford to pay a guy $4M+ to play every 4-5 games then Bird would stay in town for the duration of his deal, but I suspect he might get bought out at the end of the season or he could be used in some type of package trade in the off-season too.
Chucky Atkins: The free agent signing of Atkins never panned out as he was injured during most of his time with the team. He no longer plays in the NBA.
Renaldo Balkman: The Crimestopper was traded to the Knicks and was cut this season after earning little playing time back in New York.
Chauncey Billups: Traded to the Knicks, amnestied by New York, picked up on Waivers by the Clippers, having a decent season until the tore his Achilles and is now in jeopardy of being forced into early retirement.
Juwan Howard: The Nuggets cut him right at the beginning of the season to make room on the roster during that Billups trade. Howard, at age 39, is still in the NBA and still with the Miami Heat. Only two members of the Michigan "Fab Five" never played for the Nuggets ... can you name them?
Allen Iverson: Traded by the Nuggets just three games into the season for Billups. The Nuggets sold high on A.I. as the veteran scoring machine was never the same as he bounced around to Pistons, Sixers, and Grizzlies after his time in Denver and rumors of his joining various leagues continue to swirl the interwebs.
Dahntay Jones: He was the defensive ace for the Nuggets and a key reason why the team did so well in the 2009 post-season as he was a blanket defender on Chris Paul, various Dallas scorers, and tried to become a Kobe Bryant stopper and tripper. Jones cashed in on his one season in Denver with a nice deal with the Indiana Pacers, where he still has a Player Option season ($2.9 million) for the 2012-13 season that he'll pick up ASAP. I still check in on Jones' numbers from time to time as he's averaging over 15 minutes per game in March for the gritty Pacers. Many in Stiffland were sad to see Jones go and some still call for his return ...
Linas Kleiza: The Lithuanian was a key bench player for the Nuggets during the regular season and post-season. He cashed in on his fine season by bolting the country for Greece and getting some big dollars before returning to the NBA and signing with the Toronto Raptors for the 2010-11 season and he still has two years and nearly $9.2 million left on his contract.
Kenyon Martin: The other defensive ace for the Nuggets was always good for tough defense, some key offensive and defensive rebounds, and perhaps a questionable technical foul or two at the wrong times (remember the one on Sasha Vujacic?). Martin left the Nuggets just last season and signed a deal to play in China that lasted just a couple weeks, he came back to the States and surveyed his options before signing a deal to play with Chris Paul and the Clippers where he's a serviceable big off the bench.
Johan Petro: Frenchie looked like a decent backup center, at times and was always offensive minded. Petro came over to the Nuggets in a deal with the hated Oklahoma City Thunder after playing in 22 games for OKC. Petro would play one more season with the Nuggets after the WCF run and then he fled for greener pastures in New Jersey where he still has $3.5 million waiting for him for the 2012-13 season.
Cheikh Samb: A project brought in during that Billups trade, but didn't stick with the Nuggets for long, he was traded in January of 2009 to the Clippers, bounced around the NBA with the Clips and Knicks and is now playing overseas ... last known team was the Mahram Tehran of the Iranian league in December 2010.
J.R. Smith: Dynamic scorer and never living up to his potential guy. Was a key player during the WCF run. Signed in China this past off-season, came back and signed with the Knicks, and has a player option for $2.5 million for next season ... that's a bargain for bench scoring.
Sonny Weems: Just a rookie during the 2008-09 season out of Arkansas, Scott Hastings school, appeared in just 12 games for the Nuggets. He showed flashes of athleticism, but jumped at an offer from the Raptors after the season as he was able to become a free agent as he was a second round draft pick (by the Bulls). Weems played two seasons for the Raptors and then signed with BC Zalgiris of Lithuania for the 2011-12 season where he was a teammate with Ty Lawson. Weems didn't bother getting an NBA out and watched Lawson return to the states when the lockout ended.
That was the roster ...
... only Andersen remains and his time in Denver is drawing to an end. It's funny how quickly things change in the NBA. Denver was able to pick up Petro from the Thunder during that 2008-09 season as OKC was still building their team and the Nuggets were fortifying their own.
Just four seasons later, the Thunder have become the class of not only the Northwest Division, not only the Western Conference, but they are one of the finest teams in the NBA. The Nuggets have completely cleaned up their front office, re-tooled the coaching staff with George Karl still leading the way, and remade the entire roster.
Andersen would be the first to tell you how funny being in the NBA can be ...
The Links ...
Jazz Vs. Kings Post Game Thread -- Jazz win 103-102, now on Five Game Win Streak
Go read about how the Jazz pulled it out in Sacramento and how the Jazz defense has been stout recently too.
How to annoy a fan base in 60 easy steps - Bill Simmons, Grantland.com
A fantastic piece looking back at all the wacky, wild, and bizarre moves made by Golden State over the years. No wonder their owner was booed relentlessly the other night ...
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons