So, by no means is this unfortunate state of affairs uncharted territory for the Nuggets, but please allow me to further illustrate how both men should be looking at the seemingly up-for-grabs starting position and what it ultimately means for the Nuggets as a team.
First off, and regardless of who actually lands the starting role, I think both players need to understand that early in the season both of them are going to receive about the same amount of playing time. A smart coach, (and George Karl is a smart coach), is going to give his returning players an equal opportunity to display what they can do for the team and I can only imagine that Karl will do so by giving each man 20-25 minutes a game. Furthermore, a genius coach, (and maybe George Karl is one of these), would probably start a guy like Eduardo Najera or Reggie Evans to relieve some of the pressure off of the aforementioned duo just to see who is more adept to coming off of the bench. And by doing so, George Karl will know which player has the kind of work-horse mentality that the Denver Nuggets sixth man needs to have.
Once a clear-cut starter is revealed then it is going to be up to the other man to understand his role as the first reserve off the bench. Former Celtics Coach and President Red Auerbach (R.I.P) understood this role better than anyone as he used John Havlicek as his, “sixth starter”, on many of the 16 NBA championships he designed, and it was with the critical unselfishness that Hondo displayed that the Celtics were able to win a lot of those championships.
And that precise minute could be one of many for the Nuggets. We all know that Marcus Camby blocks most of his shots by swooping in from the weak side and it is by doing so that he also picks up the majority of his fouls. So, if Camby doesn’t have to constantly worry about his foul count. He can do more of that vulture-esque swooping and even more swatting of opponent's shots knowing that he has capable replacement itching to get in the game.
It is also a likewise situation for whoever does end up starting for the Nuggets frontline. If it ends up being Big Brazil, then we all know that Nene has a bad habit of coming over the defender’s back to try and grab offensive rebounds and it is this facet of his game where he picks up most of his personal fouls. This doesn’t mean that Nene should stop being aggressive on the offensive glass. In fact, it means the opposite (within reason of course). Nene should always be able to be super aggressive on the offensive glass because he should know that Kenyon is coming in right behind him when he needs a blow or picks up a substitution necessitating foul.
And the same hypothetical situation is true if Kenyon Martin emerges as the starter. Kenyon’s defensive folly is being too physical with his man in the low blocks. So, just like Nene, this doesn’t mean that he should stop playing with the physicality that has made him an All-Star in years past, but rather the opposite. Kenyon and Nene should be able to play with almost a reckless abandon knowing that each other have the others’ back as they form what could be one of the most formidable two-headed monsters at power forward in the entire NBA.
This in turn leads me right into my final point: Nene and Kenyon Martin need to look at this positional conundrum as a chance not to prove who is the better man for the starting job, but rather by understanding the role that each player falls into they are really allowing themselves and their counterpart to play the way the Nuggets need them to play in as many winning efforts as possible. Thus is unselfish, and therefore is fundamentally a cornerstone to what it takes to be great teammate and ultimately a great team. For too many years now the Nuggets have been more about individual accomplishments rather than what they could accomplish as a cohesive unit where each man plays for his teammate, and ultimately for the team. So, in the 2007-08 season here is to hoping that big egos can take smaller roles in lieu of more regular season wins and a deeper playoff run. And ultimately I believe much of this is dependant on Kenyon Martin and Nene.