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Departure of Nuggets' Linas Kleiza leaves bigger hole than most fans acknowledge

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The Denver Nuggets' loss yesterday of backup forward Linas Kleiza, who signed a two-year, $12.2 million deal with the Greek team Olympiakos, has prompted a collective shrug by most members of Nuggets Nation, probably owing to Kleiza's underperformance last season, when many observers expected him to have a break-out year. But his absence will definitely be felt. Even though he's been inconsistent, he runs the floor very well for a man his size, and he often stepped up scoring-wise at key moments -- like, for instance, game two of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Lakers this past May, which the Nuggets probably would have lost without his second-quarter points.

Given how much other teams in the West have improved (notably the champion Lakers), the Nugs can't afford to shrug off this roster spot. Yesterday on Mile High Sports Radio, Marc Spears, a former Denver Post scribe now writing for Yahoo! Sports, suggested that grizzled veteran Bruce Bowen, a long-range specialist and defensive stopper who was traded by San Antonio to Milwaukee in June, but is expected to be cut loose by the Bucks prior to the start of the season, might be a low-cost fix, and that's a viable possibility. Better, though, would be if the Nuggets found someone along the lines of Chris Andersen -- a castoff who might blossom in a new system. Such players are tough to find. But if the Nugs don't discover one, they'll have even more reasons to miss the security no longer offered by Linas.

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