Welcome Back: It's the Karl and Anthony Show in Denver
Well, almost ready.
"I'm so funky I brought two right shoes to the game,'' said the Nuggets coach. "I had to wear (assistant) John Welch's shoes.''
No, Welch wasn't barefoot on the bench. Thankfully, Welch had both a black and brown pair and wears a similar size, so he passed his black shoes on to Karl.
It's understandable Karl might have been a bit anxious for his team's preseason opener Friday at the Pepsi Center against Portland. Karl was lost for the final 1 ½ months of last season due to a form of throat cancer.
"He told us,'' said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, laughing about Karl bringing two right shoes. "He was nervous and excited at the same time.''
The way Anthony looked, the Trail Blazers couldn't have stopped him had he been playing in two right shoes. Point-a-minute Melo scored 24 points in 24 minutes as the Nuggets led by as many as 22 points and easily won 109-99.
Friday marked the return of Karl and the return of Anthony in that some people thought he'd already be traded by now. But Anthony, who has yet to sign a three-year, $64.47 million contract extension that is one the table, looks to be going nowhere anytime soon. He got a high five in the locker room after the game from Nuggets executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri.
"I'm in regular-season form,'' Anthony pronounced after the game, with Karl saying Anthony is so ready he'll only play in four or five of Denver's eight preseason games. "I think it's just all the hard work and the extra work I put in this offseason.''
Even before he put up his big numbers, Anthony got a good hand from the Pepsi Center crowd. Well, as good of a hand as a crowd announced at 10,864 but seemingly half that size could muster.
"I didn't expect anything different. The boos, that was just one time,'' said Anthony, referring to catcalls heard when his face appeared on the video screen Sept. 30 at a mixed martial arts event he attended in suburban Denver. "I don't expect that. I don't even think about that.''
Karl also got as many cheers as the sparse crowd could manage when he was introduced. He was excited to walk across the court and to the bench before the game.
"I thought it was kind of a good carryover for me,'' Karl said. "I want to be here. I want to be back. I don't think it will be as emotional as the first game that counts (the Oct. 27 regular-season opener against Utah at the Pepsi Center). I just kind of feel fortunate to be coaching in the league and hopefully regain my health to be 100 percent and to have a good basketball team. There's not much else I want other than a good family.''
Karl admits there were times when he was battling cancer that he wondered if he'd make it back to bench for the start of this season.
"Of course, you have doubts,'' said Karl, who also beat prostate cancer in 2005. "Cancer is a scary competitor. There are nights when you think the worst. But I think I was pretty dominant in thinking I can get through this.''
Karl had an emotional moment when he returned to practice Sept. 28 and then there was Friday. But the event he says he has circled on his calendar is the regular-season opener.
"When I saw the schedule, I was kind of disappointed it was against Utah,'' Karl cracked. "I was hoping maybe Minnesota.''
If the Nuggets can get the kind of game they got out of forward Shelden Williams on Friday, the Jazz might not be much of a problem. Williams, who signed a minimum contract last summer as a free agent, totaled a surprising 21 points and 14 rebounds.
Williams played 35 minutes after starting power forward Al Harrington (photo right) went down just 1:19 into the game with a re-strain of the plantar faciitis problem bothering him in his left foot. It looked at first as if the injury could be serious when Harrington went down without contact and was lost for the night. But Anthony said Harrington was "upbeat'' and "didn't seem down'' after the game.
Still, Karl said Harrington will have a precautionary MRI on Saturday. Karl expects Harrington to miss some games in the preseason although he didn't give a precise number.
For the Trail Blazers, playing their third preseason game in four nights, they rested star guard Brandon Roy and injured centers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla remain out due to knee injuries suffered last season. While no timetable has been set for Oden's return, Przybilla said before the game he expects to return to practice Sunday and "definitely'' will be back on the court by November.
"Sunday in practice I'm going to try to go a half-practice,'' said Przybilla, who was lost for last season when he ruptured his right patella tendon Dec. 22, 2009 at Dallas and then tore the same patella when he slipped in the shower last March and needed another surgery. "Something like that. Start it at least.''
So Pryzbilla is making a comeback after many thought his injury would be career threatening. It wasn't surprising that after the game Pryzbilla talked for several minutes in the hallway with Karl, who knows something about comebacks.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson