News » Nugs lose ground Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks bolster lineup with free-agent additions


Nugs lose ground Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks bolster lineup with free-agent additions


Nugs lose ground Lakers, Spurs and Mavericks bolster lineup with free-agent additions
Three weeks ago, even as the Los Angeles Lakers celebrated winning the NBA title, the Nuggets looked at the landscape and knew without a shadow of a doubt that they were still a top-four team next season.

Not anymore. Things have changed - quickly.

Free agents started signing with teams Wednesday, and Western Conference teams in particular have really started to stock up.

Maybe most troubling of all - for everyone - is that the Lakers got stronger with the addition of Ron Artest, one of the NBA's best defenders. They still must sign their free agent, Lamar Odom, but once that happens, the Lakers have to be considered the front-runners for the title.

Perhaps of more interest to the Nuggets are teams that can gain ground on them, such as the Mavericks, who are making subtle moves to improve. Guard Jason Kidd was an unrestricted free agent, but he'll be back with the team. The Mavs are also on the verge of acquiring Toronto's Shawn Marion in a sign-and-trade. Dallas also signed defensive-minded guard Quinton Ross and has signed Orlando backup center Marcin Gortat to an offer sheet, which the Magic is not expected to match.

The San Antonio Spurs, who traded for Richard Jefferson and drafted Pitt bruiser DeJuan Blair, picked up Antonio McDyess on Wednesday. The second overall pick in the 1995 draft by Denver, McDyess was one of the most sought-after free agents this season. Portland made a run at Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu, who spurned the Trail Blazers to sign with Toronto.

Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony has watched the signings from afar.

"Artest to the Lakers, that was the one that surprised me," Anthony said. "And Turkoglu, knowing what he did to Portland and going to Toronto, and Rasheed (Wallace) to Boston. That was a good one."

The Nuggets appear to be lagging behind in the free-agent process, but there are still some options for a team that is looking for frontcourt help. Denver's interest in Phoenix forward Grant Hill is not expected to bear fruit. Hill has other suitors, including the Celtics, on his plate. The Nuggets have already started to make a play for Portland big man Channing Frye.

Beyond that, Spurs forward Drew Gooden is on the market, as are other inexpensive options, but no one who could make a huge impact, production-wise.

But then the Nuggets aren't sure they need that. Nuggets coach George Karl said Anthony, J.R. Smith and Nene still have a high enough ceiling that the team will get better as they get better.

And signing a free agent isn't the only means through which the Nuggets can improve. There is still the matter of their $9.8 million trade exception, which the Nuggets must use by the beginning of November. It simply means that they can take up to $9.8 million more in salary than they trade out. Trading for a player opens up more options than can be easily seen.

The Nuggets have 13 players on the roster, meaning they are looking to add one, maybe two more. That 13 includes Linas Kleiza, Anthony Carter and Dahntay Jones. There could be more roster spots open in a week or two, depending on who stays and who goes.

Chris Dempsey: 303-954-1279 or cdempsey@denverpost.com ----------------- Where have they gone?

A look at how the free-agency market has fared this season:

L.A. Lakers: F Ron Artest, G Shannon Brown

Rockets: F Trevor Ariza

Mavericks: G Quinton Ross, C Marcin Gortat (offer sheet)

Spurs: F Antonio McDyess

Raptors: F Hedo Turkoglu

Celtics: F Rasheed Wallace

Pistons: G Ben Gordon, F Charlie Villa-

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: July 10, 2009

 

 
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