DENVER -- All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony returned to the starting lineup for the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, taking the court against the Minnesota Timberwolves to end a five-game absence due to a bruised right knee.
Anthony, the league's leading scorer, said after the morning shootaround that his bruised right knee was healed enough to play.
"I'm really not feeling any pain," Anthony said. "It's good to be back out there."
Nuggets coach George Karl said during a pregame news conference that Anthony was returning without any limitations, though he would monitor him closely during the game.
"No one has given me any [restrictions] and I talked to them about that this morning," Karl said. "I'll just observe his conditioning and his ability to run up and down the court."
Anthony, who is averaging 30 points a game, banged up his knee Dec. 28 at Sacramento. He was hoping to make it back in time for the much-hyped matchup with LeBron James last Friday. But he wasn't ready, watching from the bench in a fashionable suit as his team beat Cleveland. Anthony sat out the game in Sacramento the next night to give the knee more time to heal.
The extra rest has done wonders, although Anthony wouldn't put a percentage on how healthy he is.
"The area where it's bruised at, it can't get any worse," said Anthony, whose team went 3-2 in his absence. "Maybe if something hit it or something like that. Pretty much, I'm not feeling any pain. Last week, I was feeling pain when I was trying to jump and trying to get my first step going."
Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis just grinned when he was asked to assess the problems Anthony presents on the court.
"You mean besides his ability to create his own shot, pass to his teammates, post up, hit 3-point shots, go one-on-one, drive and cause foul situations," Rambis said. "Besides all those?"
Besides all those.
"Obviously, he's playing at a very high clip," Rambis said. "He's one of the elite players in the league."
The injury-plagued Nuggets are beginning to return to full strength. The only player questionable for the game Monday was rookie guard Ty Lawson. He remained inactive, however, because of a sprained left ankle, missing his third consecutive game.