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Utah at Denver

Melo, Nuggets give Karl a win in return to bench

CBSSports.com wire reports
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DENVER -- Antsy and anxious, Nuggets coach George Karl returned to the bench after battling cancer.

His team turned it into a stress-free evening.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points, Arron Afflalo added 22 and the Nuggets opened the season with a 110-88 win over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.

Karl missed the final two months of last season after being diagnosed with throat and neck cancer. In his absence, the Nuggets stumbled and were eliminated by Utah in the first round of the playoffs.

Did his presence ignite his team?

"I hope Utah fired them up a little bit more than me," Karl said.

Now that he's back, Karl's next assignment is coaxing Anthony to stick around.

"Try to convince Melo the place he wants to be is really Denver. He just doesn't know it yet," Karl said.

Anthony has been mentioned in trade speculation since he brushed off a three-year, $65 million extension with the Nuggets in June. He was in his white jersey with powder blue and gold trim Wednesday, but this possibly could be his final opener with the team.

Unless Karl can persuade him.

"Come on, George. Let me play," Anthony said when told of Karl's comments. "I'm here. Tonight, I was excited about this game. I can't control what happens out there. Whatever happens, is going to happen.

Like Karl, Anthony received a warm reception for the crowd, something he appreciated.

"The fans, they want to see basketball," Anthony said. "They don't want drama. I don't want drama."

There was hardly any drama in this contest. The Nuggets led by as many as 27 points in the third quarter and easily cruised home from there.

Then again, the Nuggets had a chip on their shoulder.

"We've been looking forward to this game for a while," said Chauncey Billups, who needed stitches after biting his lip early in the game. "We've got guys playing really well right now."

Paul Millsap had 15 points for Utah and Al Jefferson, acquired in a trade with Minnesota over the summer, finished with six. Jefferson said before the game that Utah's pick-and-roll system fits him "perfect" and that he hopes to thrive like Carlos Boozer and Karl Malone once did.

The Nuggets made sure Jefferson didn't go off in Boozer or Malone fashion, frequently putting two bodies on him.

"Made it more difficult for him to get what he wanted," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said.

Sloan wasn't particularly pleased with his team's energy level, especially for this being the opener. The Jazz return home Thursday to play Phoenix.

"Our cuts to the basket looked like we were dead tired," Sloan said. "Let's give credit to Denver, but the season's not over."

Andrei Kirilenko, who was held to two points, has had his name surface in rumors as part of a deal that would land him in Denver and Anthony with the New Jersey Nets. Kirilenko is scheduled to make almost $18 million this season in the final year of his contract, making him an obvious trade candidate.

But Kirilenko shrugged off the speculation at the morning shootaround, saying he's been potentially traded "so many times, but I still wear a Jazz uniform. I'm still here."

In fact, he's been with the Jazz longer than any other player on the roster.

"My friends come to me and say, 'Andrei, you're going to Denver,"' Kirilenko recounted. "I was like, 'Yeah, we have our first game in Denver, that's right.' They're like, 'No, we heard the rumors.' I said, 'That's right, you heard RUMORS.' If something happens, I would know first and prepare my stuff, pack it and go."

The Nuggets remain banged-up in the front court with Kenyon Martin and Chris "Birdman" Andersen recovering from offseason knee surgeries that are expected to keep them sidelined for a while.

But newcomer Shelden Williams had a solid performance, grabbing 16 rebounds.

For Karl, the play of Williams and Al Harrington only bolsters his belief that he has something special brewing in Denver. He told them as much before the game.

"It's an honor and a privilege to try to be a special team in this league," Karl said. "To coach one is my privilege. to play on one is your privilege.

"We showed a lot of good stuff."

Notes

  • Former Nuggets C Dikembe Mutombo was in town to support friend and newly hired GM Masai Ujiri.
  • Anthony drew a technical for arguing a call in the first quarter.
  • Gordon Hayward, who led Butler to the NCAA finals last season, made his pro debut in the first quarter. He finished with nine points in nearly 21 minutes.
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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At least for one night, the Nuggets can forget all their strife as Al Harrington (left) and Carmelo Anthony share a laugh.  (Getty Images)
At least for one night, the Nuggets can forget all their strife as Al Harrington (left) and Carmelo Anthony share a laugh. (Getty Images)

Scoreboard
Utah 0-12020252388
Denver 1-0 «29312624110
UTA:D. Williams 17 Pts
UTA:F. Elson 8 Reb
UTA:D. Williams 6 Ast
DEN:C. Anthony 23 Pts
DEN:S. Williams 16 Reb
DEN:C. Billups 8 Ast
Players of the Game
DenverUtah

C. Anthony

D. Williams
PtsRebsAstPtsRebsAst
23731736
Utah
A. Jefferson, C312-62-27026
R. Bell, SG293-85-622112
D. Williams, PG283-109-1036417
P. Millsap, PF275-95-782015
A. Kirilenko, SF190-42-23342
G. Hayward, SF214-111-25039
E. Watson, PG202-52-42246
F. Elson, C163-50-08036
C. Miles, SF140-42-22142
R. Price, PG140-20-02220
K. Fesenko, C111-10-40322
J. Evans, SF114-53-420111
M. Okur, CDid Not Play
Totals 27-7031-4344213088
 38.6%72.1% 
Denver
C. Anthony, SF367-169-1073323
C. Billups, PG282-710-1128214
S. Williams, PF283-112-216048
Nene, C235-83-541313
J. Smith, SG231-71-23014
A. Afflalo, SG358-113-323122
A. Harrington, PF244-110-172510
T. Lawson, PG243-64-404410
M. Ely, C111-11-12163
G. Forbes, SF51-21-23103
R. Balkman, SF30-00-00020
A. Carter, PGDid Not Play
K. Martin, PFDid Not Play
C. Andersen, PFDid Not Play
Totals 35-8034-41462331110
 43.8%82.9% 
Other Games
Bos 87 Final
Cle 95
Det 98 Final
NJ 101
Mia 97 Final
Phi 87
NY 98 Final
Tor 93
Mil 91 Final
NO 95
Sac 117 Final
Min 116
Chi 95 Final
OKC 106
Atl 119 Final
Mem 104
Char 86 Final
Dal 101
Ind 109 Final
SA 122
Hou 128 Final
GS 132
Port 98 Final
LAC 88