About a year ago, I had the privilege of talking about the Nuggets strength & conditioning program with their in-house fitness guru Steve Hess. I kept asking him about Carmelo‘s routine, whether K-Mart was as intense in the weight room as he is on the court, and just how explosive Allen Iverson was in one-on-one sessions. But ultimately, Hess kept coming back to being totally amazed by Nene.
“You want to talk about the will of an individual?” asked Hess. “I’ve never seen anything like Nene. He ruptures his calf. Comes back from that. Tears a ligament in his right thumb. Comes back from that. Has testicular cancer, has a testicle removed, and has chemo therapy. Comes back from that, all in one season.”
That was last year. And now that he’s been cancer-free and injury-free (he hasn’t missed a single game), Nene is deserving of a mention in the conversation about the best big men in the West.
He’s posting career high’s in basically every major category – points, rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and most importantly, minutes played. Last night he added another notch to his belt, posting a career best 28 points on 12-12 shooting from the floor (team record), capitalizing on drive-and-dishes from Chauncey, Anthony Carter and J.R. Smith. Nene ended up dunking all over Paul Millsap, Mehmet Okur and Kyrylo Fesenko.
Sure he’s been through a lot, which has probably taken its toll on his body. But Nene’s still only 26 years old, and he’s now playing the best basketball of his career. If he continues to stay healthy, how good could he be?