Sunday December 12, 2010

BOSTON

It was 5 p.m., and the locker room of the Denver Nuggets was pretty empty.

One lone Nugget, former University of Massachusetts star Gary Forbes, was already out on the court at the TD Garden, working up a sweat.

"Every day, every game, every practice," he said with a smile. "First one in, last one out. That's what Coach [Travis] Ford taught me.

Forbes' cell phone had been blowing up in the days leading up to the trip to the Garden. The trip turned out to be an unsuccessful one, as Boston beat the Nuggets 105-89 on Wednesday night.

In the game, the former Minuteman had 5 points in 20 minutes as he got a start for the injured Carmelo Anthony. Two nights later, he was back in the starting lineup at Toronto and had better results. Forbes scored 15 on 7-of-8 shooting from the field in 24 minutes as Denver beat the Raptors 123-116. That was coach George Karl's 1,000th win.

Forbes, who transferred after two years at the University of Virginia, was one of Ford's top recruits to Amherst. And while only playing two seasons in the Mullins Center, Forbes had a stellar career at UMass.

His 1,128 points put him 28th all-time at UMass, not bad for a guy who played only two seasons. He was the Atlantic 10 Conference player of the year for the 2007-08 season, and helped lead the Minutemen to a berth in the NIT championship game at Madison Square Garden.


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He still talks to Ford, now at Oklahoma State, two or three times a month.

Since leaving UMass, Forbes has been on a mission to make it to the NBA.

Forbes spent 2008-09 in the NBA Development League. Then he went overseas, playing in the Philippines, in Italy and Israel before securing an invitation to Nuggets camp this summer. He made the team, and has been part of Karl's rotation ever since.

Forbes was a most confident Minuteman in his two years, and that confidence remains to this day.

When did he think he would make the Denver roster? The former UMass star didn't need time to think about that.

"The day I got the call and said I got invited to camp," Forbes said, "I felt like I knew I was going to make the team. Training camp was cool. It was tough, but at the end of the day it's just basketball. Once I got comfortable, I was able to make plays and be myself."

When Karl told him he was on the roster, Forbes said it was like a weight lifted off his shoulder, and it was time to prove people wrong -- that he could play in The Association.

"It's the best job in the world and I love doing it," Forbes said. "I'm real blessed to have this opportunity. The Nuggets organization took a chance on me and hopefully, I'll prove them right."

The Nuggets head coach said some guys just need a chance.

"Forbesey? A cocky kid, man. He reminds me of me a little bit," Karl said with a smile. "For a guy that came into our camp -- I didn't know what he was and who he was, what type of player he was -- he's come to the gym every day. ‘No' was not going to be accepted."

Forbes is one of two former Minutemen in the NBA, joining Portland's Marcus Camby on the NBA list. Stephane Lasme almost made the Celtics and is currently on the injured list with Boston's D-League team in Maine. Tony Gaffney was an early cut of Boston and is playing in Turkey.

"I love this area," Forbes said of Boston. "It's too bad these guys [the Celtics] didn't pick me up two years ago, but I'm here to prove a lot of people wrong."