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Nuggets are haven for former Wolves

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD
  • Star Tribune
  • November 21, 2012 - 9:04 PM

Look at the Denver Nuggets roster and one sees a lot of familiar faces. It's almost like it's Timberwolves West.

There is Corey Brewer, the Wolves' first-round draft pick in 2007. Center Kosta Koufos appeared in 29 games with the Wolves during the 2010-11 season. And then there is perennial prospect Anthony Randolph.

You can even put Ty Lawson into the mix. Lawson, Denver's starting point guard, was drafted by the Wolves in the first round in 2009 but immediately traded to the Nuggets.

Perhaps the biggest surprise out of the bunch is the 7-foot Koufos. After earning a starting spot during the preseason, Koufos is averaging career highs in points (6.6), rebounds (5.6) and minutes (22:23).

"He's not a flashy guy," said Nuggets coach George Karl. "But he's a guy who does a lot of dirty work for us, and I think probably he's our most fundamental player."

Starting Koufos allows Karl to bring JaVale McGee off the bench to be a part of a very athletic -- and high-scoring -- Nuggets bench that includes Brewer.

Brewer's travels took him to New York as part of that trade; to Dallas, where he was a bench player on a title team, and finally to Denver, where he said he has found a system that fits his style.

"This is a good situation for me," said Brewer, who is averaging 10.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 22-plus minutes per game. "I love this system. We play up and down, transition basketball. When I was in Minnesota, we just threw it into the post. When I was here, it was more, run the offense, throw it in the post, stand in the corner."

Dividends coming

Kevin Love made his debut Wednesday. But center Nikola Pekovic also returned, as did guard J.J. Barea. Ricky Rubio is expected back in December, when Brandon Roy might return, too.

Adelman said having played through injuries should pay dividends with a deeper roster once everyone is healthy.

"It will," Adelman said. "And I think it also gives us, from game to game, ways we can go. Because we've seen guys play. We've seen what they can do. So [rotations] could change dramatically, as far as who is playing. Getting a lot of these guys minutes, this will be an advantage."

Just wait

Karl has coached against Adelman enough over the years to know how good the Wolves will be once the roster becomes fully healthy.

"They are going to be so good offensively when they get their guys back," Karl said. "The Adelman system is ahead of the curve. It's effective. They don't have the cleverness right now that they'll have after 30, 40 games. So far they have survived, and there is an energy that comes with playing well through injuries."

Karl is especially impressed with Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko. Before the game he called Kirilenko one of his favorite players.

"He is their defensive key," Karl said. "He has amazing reaction. He creates many different defensive plays in a lot of different ways. I was really depressed with Steve Nash signed in L.A. But when Minnesota signed Kirilenko I was like, 'Wow, I think they figured something out.' I think he's a glue guy. He plays winning basketball."

Etc.

• The NBA schedule-maker did the Wolves a favor, having them play in Portland the day after Thanksgiving. The Wolves, who will fly out Thursday afternoon, have several team members who are natives of that area, including Adelman, Love and president of basketball operations David Kahn.

• Roy's surgically repaired right knee will not allow him to travel with the team to Portland.

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