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NBA Roundup: Anthony, Iverson part of the New Nuggets

By Arnie Stapleton

Associated Press

DENVER — Maybe this wasn’t the best year for George Karl to take his team on the road for some training camp bonding.

These Denver Nuggets aren’t the same ones who gathered in Durango in October.

Joe Smith, Andre Miller, Earl Boykins and Julius Hodge are all playing in the Eastern Conference now. Kenyon Martin is a sidelined spectator, and the backcourt now consists of Allen Iverson and Steve Blake.

In their minds, the Nuggets’ season started anew Monday night when Carmelo Anthony, the NBA’s leading scorer, returned from his 15-game punishment for fighting and teamed with A.I. for 51 points, 13 assists, countless highlights and abundant open looks all around in an emphatic win over Memphis.

“It was fun,” Iverson said. “The future looks bright for us.”

With everybody getting open shots and Marcus Camby holding things down in the paint, the Nuggets suddenly look like a contender.

“We have something really special,” forward Eduardo Najera said.

Just wait, advised Anthony.

“We ain’t even clicking the way we’re going to be clicking next month or the month after that,” he said. “March and April, that’s the best time to click. I think once we get our stuff together, it’s going to be trouble.”

“The chemistry is going to get better with everybody, not just me and Carmelo,” Iverson concurred. “Everybody hasn’t clicked so far. We need more games and time to practice together.”

A seven-time All-Star acquired from Philadelphia last month, Iverson insists he’s thrilled to play second fiddle to Melo. Having a second superstar on his team along with a pass-first point guard allows him a freedom he’s never had in his 11 NBA seasons.

“I have been on teams where I scored 50 points and lost,” Iverson said. “That is tough. And when you have so many good players around you, it makes it that much easier and makes the game that much more fun. I’m not saying that I don’t play 110 percent anyway. I’m going to do that regardless, because I will never disrespect the talent that God gave me.

“I play 110, but I don’t have to do all the things I had to do in Philadelphia. I don’t have to put that much pressure on myself like I did night in and night out, to go out there and have a big game and give our team a chance to win. Here, I feel like if I do go out and struggle, we can still win the game.”

Melo struggled with his shooting touch, missing all eight jumpers, but still managed a game-high 28 points against the Grizzlies.

“He missed a lot of shots that he usually can make with his eyes closed,” Iverson said. “But that is all about having timing and getting into a rhythm. For someone that hasn’t played in 15 games, he looked like an All-Star to me.”

Iverson is already calling this the most talented team he’s ever been on, and that’s saying a lot for a guy who led the Sixers to the NBA finals in 2001.

“It’s not even close,” Iverson said. “I could go through the whole squad and name somebody that can impact a game. I have never been a part of a team like that. I feel like I can play four more quarters. Usually after a game, I’m done.”

Anthony, too, is refreshed, about the only positive result from his five-week ban from basketball for punching Knicks guard Mardy Collins on Dec. 16.

“I’m not saying that I’m glad that incident happened,” Anthony said, “but in a way, I am glad that I got a break, got a chance to sit back and analyze things and get my mind together and see what I need to do out there on the court and off the court.”

TUESDAY’S GAMES

WASHINGTON — Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns made Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards look more like pretenders than contenders, putting the so-called “Phoenix Suns of the East” in their place with a 127-105 thumping Tuesday night.

Nash scored 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting and added 14 assists in the Suns’ 14th straight win. Phoenix led by 21 after the first quarter and won for the 30th time in 32 games in a matchup between the NBA’s two highest-scoring teams.

Arenas, who has compared his team’s high-octane offense to the Suns’, scored 31 points, but he started 1-for-6 and the game was essentially over before he got going.

Mavericks 111, Magic 95

ORLANDO, Fla. — Dirk Nowitzki had 33 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, and Josh Howard added 25 points to help Dallas beat Orlando for its eighth straight victory.

For the second consecutive night, the Mavericks led from beginning to end. They pushed the margin to 25 points in the second quarter with a 15-5 run capped by Nowitzki’s three-point play, and kept it around 20 most of the second and third periods.

76ers 102, Hornets 96

PHILADELPHIA — Kyle Korver scored 25 points, Andre Iguodala added 20 and Philadelphia held on to beat New Orleans.

The 76ers got double-figure scoring from five players and opened the second half of their season with a victory after going 11-30 over the first 41 games.

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