Nuggets: Time to give up on Nenê

Wish I could say I was surprised by the way the Nuggets' playoff run -- more like a playoff stagger -- ended Friday against the Utah Jazz. But our April 26 post "Nuggets Bound for First-Round Playoffs Loss -- and Deserve It" laid out the scenario: a game five win at home, followed by a game six defeat in Salt Lake City.

In their two home victories, the Nugs played the Jazz close through three quarters before pulling away in the fourth. We predicted that this formula would fail in Utah, and it sure as hell did. When the Denver ballers were down by three going into the final stanza, I knew the Jazz would wind up on top by a comfortable margin, and they did.

Now come the questions about what to do prior to next season to make sure the Nugs' championship window doesn't slam shut, with plenty of observers arguing that J.R. Smith and perhaps even Chris Andersen should get the boot. But the parade out of town should be led by Nenê.

Over the past couple of years, Nenê has reportedly been an object of desire for any number of NBA teams, but the Nuggets always deemed him untouchable because of his untapped potential. But at what point do the theories about the great player he could become shatter against the reality of who he is? And that's a baller with great physical gifts who simply doesn't appear to have the aggressiveness and feel for the game that would transform him from a mere lane clogger to an offensive and defensive force.

Over and over again, Nenê passes up high-percentage shots in order to set up teammates with more difficult ones. And his D simply hasn't improved. He's inconsistent, prone to footwork issues that allow seemingly less skilled big men to rack up points against him.

And that's not to mention his proclivity for injuries of the sort that knocked him out of game six.

Yes, Kenyon Martin is more brittle. But K-Mart is also a lot more difficult to deal due to his age, and when he's healthy, his play is much better than Nenê's. That's why the Nuggets need to stop waiting for Mr. Hilario to blossom. Because he won't.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts