The sounds of squeaky sneakers filled the Nuggets' fluorescent-lit practice court Monday morning. A spirited team scrimmage took up the last half hour of practice, capped with a free-throw contest to decide the winners of the day and a bit less running time as a reward.

Wilson Chandler worked up a good sweat too, but only on a Stairmaster overlooking the court. For now, Chandler remains on the outside looking in on a team that essentially has had to make do without him for more than a year.

But Chandler, who joined the Nuggets from the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade, is close to getting off the Stairmaster and on the court full time. After renowned Vail hip specialist Dr. Marc J. Philippon performed surgery on Chandler last spring, after a tear of the left labral joint in a game in April, the 25-year-old forward is feeling good and hopeful of being in the Nuggets' lineup for the Oct. 31 season opener at Philadelphia.

"That's the goal. I'm working toward that. It's been a slow process with the hip, kind of a delicate situation," Chandler said. "I think once I get back into the rotation, I'll be pretty good."

On a lesser team, Chandler might have had an easy time getting back into the starting lineup. But with the Nuggets having arguably as much overall depth as any NBA team, Chandler might have to work his way up from the bottom of what is expected to be a nine- or 10-man rotation.

"We added more weaponry to this team, so I'll need to work hard to work my way back in," he said. "But I know what I can do if I'm feeling good, and I am feeling that way again."