Even if he isn’t completely healthy, Denver’s Carmelo Anthony thinks its time to get back on the court.
The All-Star forward hopes to play for the first time in six games on Saturday when his Nuggets host the Charlotte Bobcats.
Anthony has not played since Jan. 21, when he sprained his left ankle landing on Kobe Bryant’s foot in the second quarter of a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Nuggets (27-18) have gone 3-2 without Anthony, who ranks fourth in the league with 25.5 points per game.
“It’s good enough for me to go out there and be able to do what I can do,” Anthony said after practice on Friday. “I hate sitting out. I’m happy to be back.”
Denver coach George Karl said he won’t play Anthony for long stretches as the star eases back into the lineup. Still, Anthony’s return will help a team short-handed as Chucky Atkins recovers from surgery on a right groin/abdominal strain and Nene recovers from testicular cancer.
“Every game we had without him we got what seemed to be more and more naked,” Karl said. “You know that anytime you’ve got a horse and a rock like Melo, it’s easier to play with him.”
Anthony picked a good opponent for his return. In seven career games against the Bobcats, he has averaged 29.7 points - his most against any opponent. He scored 35 in a 119-116 loss at Charlotte on Jan. 14 - the teams’ first meeting this season.
“He’s a big part of what we do around here,” teammate Marcus Camby said. “We definitely missed his scoring output and his presence. We welcome him back with open arms.”
Anthony and Allen Iverson form the highest scoring tandem in the NBA this season, averaging a combined 52.5 points. Iverson, who ranks third in the league with 27.0 points per game, has scored at least 20 in 15 straight games and 41 of Denver’s 45 games this season.
Iverson had 32 points and 12 assists in Wednesday’s 106-102 win at Memphis, helping Denver end a six-game road losing streak.
“This was a big win for us at somebody else’s home,” he said. “Down seven points with 3 minutes to go. It was a gut check for us. I think a game like this is going to help us down the road.”
The Nuggets have won seven straight on their home court, their longest such streak since a 12-game run from March 16-April 19, 2005.
“It was more precautionary,” Charlotte coach Sam Vincent said. “We need them for (Saturday’s game). We didn’t want to chance something when we have another game tomorrow. Let them get some rest. … It didn’t look like we were coming back, (so) it was time to get ready for Denver.”
Earl Boykins, who signed with the Bobcats on Thursday to provide backcourt depth, made his debut with his new team and had five points and four assists in 23 minutes.
The game was Charlotte’s third on a five-game Western road trip.