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Afflalo the leader: Nuggets banking on big year out of shooting guard in his return

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DENVER - Josh Kroenke's slip of the tongue even made Arron Afflalo smirk.

The Denver Nuggets president explained Monday how he has closely "Afflalowed" the shooting guard's two seasons in Orlando, before reacquiring him in a draft-day deal last week.

"Afflalowed? I have followed," Kroenke quickly modified to laughter, "Arron's career since he left here."

There's no mistaking this: Afflalo has developed more of an all-around game since the Nuggets dealt him to the Magic on Aug. 10, 2012, as part of the blockbuster four-team, 12-player deal that also involved Dwight Howard.

Back then, Afflalo was viewed as a defensive specialist with a solid jumper.

Now, he's got more of a shooter's mentality. So much so that Kroenke introduced him as a "new Arron Afflalo."

"Arron took a lot of steps in his own growth over the time he was here and has since taken more steps," Kroenke said. "I'm proud to see him doing the things he's been doing down in Orlando."

The 28-year-old Afflalo is coming off a season with Orlando in which he averaged career highs in points (18.2), rebounds (3.6) and assists (3.4). He also made 128 3-pointers.

This season, he will be reunited in the backcourt with Ty Lawson, who was one of the first to congratulate him after the trade that sent promising young point guard Evan Fournier to the Magic, along with a pick.

"I want to continue to improve as a player," Afflalo said. "I'm going to do my job, work hard this summer to put myself in the best position."

In some ways, Afflalo feels like he never really left the Nuggets as he always kept close tabs on his former team.

And yet plenty has changed in his two-year absence. Namely, George Karl being replaced as coach by Brian Shaw. Afflalo is ready to take on whatever role Shaw has for him, whether it's as a scorer or simply being Afflalo the leader.

"My job is to make sure I'm capable of getting that job done," Afflalo said. "I have no problem doing whatever coach asks of me."

That's the way he was with Karl, too. Afflalo could've been a different type of player — more of a scorer, perhaps — in his first go-round with the Nuggets. But that's not what they needed, especially in the years when they had Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony on the floor.

"There are probably a lot of things I probably could do back then," said Afflalo, who will wear No. 10 for Denver this season. "But it's not my job to come in here and prove I could score points with the lineup I was starting with three years ago.

"These days, I'm a lot more confident all over the court, whether it's posting up, shooting 3s, being available in the fourth quarter, being someone you can rely on in the fourth quarter."

As for his defensive tenacity, that will always be a source of pride with him.

"That's part of being a complete player," he said. "I expect to be at a high level on both ends of the court."

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