Nene is coming back after a season-ending knee injury suffered in the first game of last season’s campaign. It has been rumored that Nene is in the best shape of his life. He even got married this summer back home in Brazil. There is also speculation that the knee is fully rehabbed and Nene is going to return from this injury and be the monster that he was forecasted to be. Well, maybe this is just speculation, but the Nuggets must see something they like because they were not shy dishing out $60 million for Nene’s services for the next six years. The question is will Nene be all that the Nuggets need him to be in 2006?
Nene was only in the league for three years before the unfortunate knee injury cut his 2005-06 season short. He was young, raw, and quite possibly had one of the quickest dunks in the league coming from the low block. With a body very similar in stature to the great Gus Johnson. All Nene needed to do was keep developing his game, inside and out, and keep moving up the depth chart. In his first year in the NBA, Nene played in 80 games with 53 starts. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.1 rebounds. Not bad numbers by the rook, but the Nuggets have always wanted more out of the big man from Brazil.
In his sophomore season Nene was clearly blossoming into the kind of player the Nuggets thought he might be when they drafted him seventh overall in 2002. He had raised his scoring average 11.8 points and his rebounding was picking up slightly to an average of 6.5. Not Hall of Fame numbers, but the progression was there. He was a starter in all 77 games he appeared in and things seemed to be on the up and up.
His third season was some what of a disappointment. His scoring and rebounding had both gone south, 9.6 and 5.9 respectively, but what was being built upon the season before seemed to either plateau or regress. The Nuggets had weathered an interim coach in Michael Cooper, which was dreadful might I add, and had seen the arrival of George Karl to hopefully lead them to greatness. We all know what happened to the Nuggets last year, so lets talk about what this year will bring for Nene.
Optimistically speaking, Nene needs to step back into the Nuggets scene and be the kind of power forward that $60 million dollars would entitle him to. I’m talking about 16 points and twelve boards at least. Nene needs to be an automatic double-double on the Nuggets front line. A consistent starter and contributor is what the Nuggets need in their most inconsistent position. Nene should be out to prove that he is the man at the four, and leave no controversy for Kenyon Martin and Joe Smith to solve. Nuggets fans are banking on the judgment of Stan Kroenke and the knee of Nene.
But what about if he struggles? I really don’t even want to think about the mess the Nuggets will be in if this happens, but it needs to be looked at. The Nuggets will be the deepest team in the league at the four spot without a clear starter. Kenyon Martin, Nene, and veteran Joe Smith will just be shuffled around like a beat deck of cards and provide no stability to this team. Not to mention the disaster it will be to clear either Kenyon or Nene financially. Quite simply put, all eyes will be on Nene when this upcoming season begins.