Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We Gets Ours!

(Boulder-CO) It has been brought to my attention by Natalie over at http://www.need4sheed.com/ and Ryan at http://www.hoopsaddict.com/ that each of our sites have been collectively featured in this February's edition of Dime Magazine! In a section titled, "Dime Blog Pick" one of the best hoops mags has this to say about what has been going on around here, "The 'Nugg Doctor' knows everything there is to know about Carmelo and the crew, and right off the bat it's clear that Nugg Doctor is serious about his squad. A post recapping a relatively insignificant November loss to the Grizzlies was titled, 'Just Plain Sickening'."
Let me just say this... it feels real good right about now on the eve of The Nugg Doctor's first birthday. Big props goes out to Natalie and Ryan for also making the grade in this month's edition of one of the greatest hoops publications on the planet!

I Think I Might be Sick

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets have not won once this season when they do not score 100 points in a ballgame. Tonight’s 100-91 loss marks the fourteenth time the Nuggets have not hit the century mark and they are 0-14 in those games. This beating also makes the Nuggets 0-4 in their last four games where they have continued to surrender more points than a team usually averages. There is no finger to point in this one, but I would appreciate it someone would point me in the best direction to go puke because I am just that sick of the inconsistency that surrounds this team. It was even so bad that the Nuggets managed to finish with a season low 13 assists.

The Yak played 27 scoreless minutes, Eduardo and DerMarr (yes, he did play) combined for eight points, two rebounds, and an assist in 26 minutes, and starters Reggie Evans and Steve Blake combined for ten points in their allotted 59 minutes of PT. Denver is just not getting it done is basically all you can say at this point. When you add it all up that’s 112 minutes of combined playing time folks, and all that the Nuggets fruited was a measly 18 points from five players combined!

Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby well out performed the aforementioned jive five. ‘Melo finished with 33 points, four rebounds, two assists, and a steal, while the Camby man added 17 points, eight boards, five assists, and two rejections. The only other Nugget worth mentioning was Nene who is showing some surprising aggression when attacking the rim. “Big Brazil” ended tonight’s game with 14 points, four rebounds, and two steals.

The game basically went like this: Denver was nursing a 42-40 lead at half and then decided to fall asleep in the fourth quarter. Entering the deciding period tied at 66, Denver decided that they didn’t need to play anymore defense and the Trailblazers, led by Zach Randolph’s 26 points and 17 rebounds, proceeded to outscore the Nuggets 34-25. It was about as uninspired of a fourth quarter as I have ever seen in a game so close. Carmelo tried to put his team on his back with 12 points in the final period, but he and the other Nuggets couldn’t secure rebounds and turned the ball over enough to never get any closer than three in the final two minutes.

I don’t know if it is a good or a bad thing that Denver will be hosting Portland again on Friday. They are .500 at home and are really discombobulated right now. Nothing seems to be working on the defensive end I didn’t want to have say this, but I feel that the team chemistry is at the season’s lowest point. The Nuggets are playing as if they don’t trust each other and the stand-and-watch philosophy of basketball is getting super old to watch. I gotta sign off friends. I am so decimated right now after watching that fourth quarter that I just want to go to sleep. Tomorrow is another day, and fortunately the Nuggets are not playing.

No Yaks in Vegas

(Boulder-CO) The snubbing of Denver Nuggets players has officially begun, and we will only know the rest of the story by the end of tomorrow when the Western Conference Reserves are announced. What we do know at this point is that Denver’s rookie Yakhouba Diawara is not going to be partaking in the Rookie-Sophomore game during this year’s All-Star affairs in Sin City.

The rosters are now available over at SLAMonline by clicking this link: http://slamonline.com/online/2007/01/rookie-sophomore-game-rosters/.

I can’t say that I am surprised at the Yak not being selected. Whenever I even mention him the looks on people’s faces are priceless. “Yak-‘em Who-ah?” is typically what I get, but it would have been nice to see Diawara make the trip on behalf of the Nuggets since J.R. did not get invited for the dunk contest, and I can almost guarantee that either Carmelo, AI, or Camby, or a pair of the three will be snubbed for sure. Count on an extremely irritated post if Carmelo gets left off that team! I’m just warning you now…

Nuggets vs. Trailblazers Preview

(Boulder-CO) Tonight’s game marks a point in the Nuggets season that I think we will all be able to look back on and see where this team is really headed. The last three games have been a total disappointment stemming back from the emotional loss to the Utah Jazz. The Anthony/Iverson honeymoon is over and the Nuggets are really searching for some type of continuity on the defensive end. While the offensive end is still clicking just fine, who better than the third lowest scoring team in the league in the Portland Trailblazers to re-establish some resemblance of defense against? Even better is the chance to execute said defensive turnaround in back-to-back games against the same team as the Nuggets will see the Blazers again at Pepsi Center on Friday night.

In these two teams’ last match-up a couple of weeks back the Nuggets won by 16 points without Carmelo Anthony. Allen Iverson had one of his best games (32 points and nine assists) and received a lot of help from Steve Blake’s 25 points. Defensively, the Nuggets did a marvelous job of keeping all the Portland starters out of double-digits in scoring and stymied Zach Randolph for a 1-12 night in which he finished with only four points.

But oh what a difference a couple of weeks make! In the Nuggets’ last three games they are surrendering an average of 111 points per game and have played by far the worst defense they have played all season long. Opposing teams are just gorging themselves on lay-ups and uncontested jumpers and the Nuggets fast break is suffering severely as a result of their poor defense.

So here is the remedy for all that ails the Denver Nuggets. It seems so simple, but in all actuality, the problem that is killing the Nuggets is a direct cause and effect situation. Because the Nuggets are allowing such a high opposing field goal percentage, 49%, 46%, and 51% in their last three losses, they are not getting the same amount of defensive rebounds and consequentially are not getting out in transition for fast break opportunities. The antidote for the Nuggets is to play solid defense, (elementary I know, but hold on for a second), with no gambling, and to secure the defensive rebound first and foremost. It wouldn’t bother me one bit if the Nuggets didn’t record a single steal tonight if they can nab better than their average 44 rebounds. Plain and simply stated, they need to stop taking chances that put their defense in a scramble which usually leads to easy buckets.

The recipe is simple: Stay home, box out, grab a rebound, and get out and run. Everyone’s involvement is eminent if the Nuggets can get their fast break going, and that same involvement will in return become infectious on the defensive end. The defensive hand will wash the offensive hand and hopefully both hands will wash the Nuggets’ face clean of all the grime that the last three games worth of defensive abominations have left the Nuggets wearing. It shouldn’t be that complicated and I think that if the Nuggets can get back to basics on the defensive end everything will be ok against the Trailblazers. Not only tonight, but on Friday night, and for the rest of the season. Be sure to head over to http://www.truehoop.com/ for Henry Abbott’s phenomenal input on tonight’s game, (he is a huge Portland Trailblazer fan) and all that is NBA basketball. Go Nuggets!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This Could be Rock-Bottom

(Boulder-CO) I don’t know about anyone else out there, but I would have to assume that this is, or is pretty damn close to, rock-bottom for the Denver Nuggets. The problem isn’t Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony sharing the ball, but rather the rest of these guys stepping up and playing like the dynamic duo isn’t there. Remember how hard the role guys were playing before the AI trade and after Mardy Collins got his legs wobbled? I can just barely recall because as of late the majority of the Nuggets, with some exceptions, have been playing like a bunch of babies. As the spade hit a point where it would seemingly go no deeper, the Nuggets lost to arguably one of the weakest teams in the Charlotte Bobcats, 105-101.

I’m letting Carmelo and Allen off the hook as well as Marcus Camby and J.R. Smith. Although Smith had a deplorable 2-12 night that included 1-9 from three-point range, he has been playing better and his efforts have been there nearly every night. Carmelo had 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and a block and Allen Iverson contributed 31 points, eight assists, four steals, three rebounds, and a block. These guys are getting it done almost as routinely as the sun rising and they are doing it in more than just the points column. Marcus Camby, even on one of his worst nights of recent, still had ten boards, six blocks, five assists, and three points. So, obviously the problem isn’t with the main weapons. The crux of this slump is with the guys that were stepping up, but now are just not getting it done.

Where it is just not happening is on the defensive end of the floor. Guys like Eduardo Najera, Nene, Reggie Evans, Linas, and Blake are not giving the Nuggets the kind of efforts that were being rendered just a few games ago. Nene’s offense is coming around, but his defense plain stinks. Same goes for Reggie Evans. Maybe making the move to the starting line-up has made Reggie forget what kind of player he is, but I would be lying to you if I said that Reggie has been bringing his lunch box and hard hat to work as of late. And remember the hustle of Eduardo Najera that seemed to be an endless well? Now that well has seemingly dried up into a puddle that seems to get dipped only once or twice a game. Defensive rotations sucks, so that leaves playing zone out, and the Nuggets are having a hard time playing in-your-jock defense against pretty much anybody man-to-man!

I have always believed that defensive agenda is a product of playing with a chip on your shoulder that whispers in your ear, “This fool isn’t going to score on me,” but if I had to guess what kind of chip is whispering in the Nuggets’ ears it would probably be in the realm of, “Don’t worry about rotating over and giving up a lay-up. We’ll just push the ball and get one back on the other end.” Such a defensive identity is plain fools gold and as a result the Nuggets have a lost three straight games and in their last ten, which includes a five-game win streak, are only 5-5.

Nuggets fans need to remember this point in the season because looming in the near future are two games back-to-back with the Portland Trailblazers, one away and then one at home, and the Nuggets are 22-20 at a real fork in their road. If they continue this kind of half-assed play they will most likely limp into the playoffs with the last seed and get bounced in four or five games just like last year. Dallas, Phoenix, or San Antonio will simply drill a team like the Nuggets unless they decide that this is not all they are capable of. There are 40 games left in the season at this point and I truly feel that the Nuggets need to start winning three out-of-every four of those games if they do not want to be talked about as a blundering basketball blooper all summer long!
The bottom line is this: If you want to win, start playing some &%$^#@* defense! Watch some film of the last two games and then do the exact opposite. I haven’t missed a Nuggets game in five years running, but if this team losses to the Trailblazers on Wednesday night… I just might have to take a night off. I will say this though; if this is rock bottom the only way to go is up. However, if it isn’t I may need to be alone for awhile…

Monday, January 29, 2007

Nuggets vs. Bobcats Preview

(Boulder-CO) No rocket science here. The Nuggets need a win in the worst kind of way after dropping two tough games back-to-back and the Bobcats have been struggling to find the winning recipe all year long. The Nuggets can not afford to sleep on Charlotte because the ‘Cats are a team with seven players averaging double figures in points although they do not have an average better than 15. Point being, the Nuggets can expect a spirited effort out of everyone in opposing jerseys and will have to play defense as a team if the young Bobcats are to be subdued.

When you look at this Charlotte team the first thing that comes to mind is that this is some kind of college All-America team. Of their seven players averaging double-digits in scoring the list has an average age of about 25. It includes three players that are 22, (May, Felton, and Morrison), and two 24-year olds in Okafor and Gerald Wallace.

Charlotte has lost three of its last four games with their only win coming in the form of an OT victory against the Lakers. They average around 95 points per game and if the Nuggets are to win they need to jump out to an early lead and keep extending that lead throughout the game. I do not think that tonight’s game is going to get out of hand all at one time, and that is why I think that if the Nuggets can just play three to four points better in each quarter they will find themselves comfortably in the lead around the mid way point of the fourth. Charlotte has one great defensive stopper in Gerald Wallace, but will probably have a hard time containing Allen Iverson and J.R. Smith if the Nuggets will play sound team basketball.

The player the Nuggets are going to have to put in check is Emeka Okafor. The third year pro is having a breakout season averaging 15 points, nearly 12 boards, and three blocks. His offensive game doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, but he is a meat and potatoes kind of player that just gets it done. My prescribed strategy would be to aggressively take the ball to the rack early and try to hit the big man with a couple of quick fouls to disrupt the flow of the game from coming to him. If he is over on the sidelines, the Bobcats become much more vulnerable inside and the Nuggets will be able to exploit that with their front three.

My last point of emphasis is that Allen Iverson has to have a bounce-back game from his 18-point performance against the Nets. He finished that game 6-19 as a result of too many contested jumpers and I would like to see him eclipse the ten assist mark against the ‘Cats. Such a mark he hasn’t met or passed since last Tuesday against the Sonics and surprise, surprise that was the last Nuggets win.

The Charlotte Bobcats are a team that a playoff-bound team like the Nuggets is supposed to beat at home. It discerns me that the Nuggets are only 12-11 at Pepsi center because the upper echelon teams in the NBA take care of business in their own building. Tonight’s game should be a victory if the Nuggets play the way the are capable of. They are a superior team on paper, it is at home, and they have lost their last two games. If that doesn’t get them up and ready to play, I don’t know what will. Time to right the ship, men. Take care of dem ‘Cats!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mid Season Check-up

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets are officially at the mid point of their season and it is time for the Doctor to give everybody a much needed check-up. I am not going to bore you with a bulleted description of how everybody is playing individually because if you have been keeping up with my articles you already know that much. What I would rather do is evaluate how everyone is playing together as a unit up to this point, and how they need to improve their games if this team is going to make any noise in the playoffs.

First let me say that this team is going to be mired in mediocrity as long as they refuse to honestly commit to the defensive end of the floor. That is the obvious fault that this team has to overcome if they are going to compete in the stacked Western Conference. Too often they enter games with the notion their offensive explosiveness is going to be enough to beat any team, but as we all saw last night against the Nets, such notion is not the case. Not against a decent New Jersey team, and certainly not powerhouses like San Antonio, Phoenix, or Dallas. With that said, Marcus Camby and Yakhouba Diawara are the only Nuggets that I can honestly say play tough defense every night and such a trend has been the determining factor in the Nuggets 22-19 record so far.

Now on to things that seem great on paper, but really illustrate just how middle of the road this team truly is at this point. For starters they are the number one team in the NBA in rebounds per game. Such an achievement is great, but often times not all that glitters is gold. And in this case the Nuggets’ other half of the story is that they are also one of the worst teams in opposing team’s rebounds. The same contradictions are evident in the column of points scored and points surrendered, assists, steals, and turnovers. It is as if they Nuggets understand what they have to do to win on one end of the floor, but do not have the discipline to apply the same concepts to themselves. It is frustrating to watch because the art of taking care of business should occur in all areas of the game, but is only being implemented part-time.

Another area that the Nuggets need some consistency in is the line-up. While the suspensions made it tough to find groups that could put Denver in a position to win, all that is behind us and Coach Karl has a tough task to find chemistry with the new personnel. My opinion is that the Nuggets have specialist on both sides of the ball and a healthy mix of these specialists is going to be the best thing for their overall success. I would like to see the starting five of Steve Blake at point, AI playing the two, with Carmelo, Najera, and Camby forming the frontcourt. Earlier I know that I called for Reggie Evans to start, but such an experiment has disrupted the chemistry and I have to admit that I was wrong to want Evans in with the starters. Najera and Camby work better together on defensive rotations and Eduardo’s willingness to take a limited role in the offense better suits Iverson and Anthony playing together with Blake distributing the ball.

With that starting group, Karl would be wise to sub Smith for Blake around the five minute mark as if it was clockwork. AI then moves over to the point and the Nuggets not only bring in one of the league’s best three-point shooters, but they also add size. When this line-up is on the floor Allen Iverson needs to look to kick the ball out on penetration and Denver’s primary objective should be to attack the basket. All the switching and rotating should give the Nuggets driving lanes and open looks will then develop around the arch when those lanes get shut down. From there Karl should substitute accordingly, but never should the Nuggets be without two of the trio of J.R. Smith, Allen Iverson, and Carmelo Anthony on the floor. We all know that AI and ‘Melo play near 40 minutes a game so such a rotation shouldn’t be hard, but from what I have watched the Nuggets go to pieces when Blake and Smith are in the backcourt together without one of the aforementioned also on the floor. From there you have guys like Nene, Evans, Yakhouba, and Kleiza who all give Karl something different and should be used as needed according to what they bring, or should I say what they aren‘t bringing that particular night.

So with all that said, it is now time for some praise for this team. They have endured long suspensions, huge roster shake-ups, and the ever-glaring eye of the national media since day one. With a record of 22-19, it is hard to say that this team, with all things considered, should be disappointed with the results thus far. I strongly believe that if the Nuggets can make the same commitment to defense as they do offense, start to apply some of the concepts that they are so good at on one end of the floor to both ends, and find some consistency that works in the line-up that they can still finish this year at the magic mark of 50 wins and 32 losses and be rewarded with a top six seed in the west. They have two of the top three scorers in the league, the NBA’s second best rebounder and one of the best shot blockers, plus a top ten guy in assists and steals. Do not be surprised that if, and when, the Nuggets get some of the kinks worked out they go on a couple of more five game winning streaks before the season’s end. And with any luck they can start off the second half of the season on the right foot with their match-up with the 15 and 28 Charlotte Bobcats on Monday night. Go Nuggets!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Honeymoon is Officially Over

(Boulder-CO) It doesn’t even take someone who has ever played basketball to tell you that the Nuggets just plain stunk up the joint tonight with their performance against the New Jersey Nets. Now after losing two straight, the Nuggets are at the halfway point in the season with a record of 22-19. And since that they are in the fourth ten-game stretch of the season they are now two games behind the pace that it takes to win fifty games. Remember, winning 6 out of every 10 puts a team in position to realistically win fifty games, and it would take the Nuggets winning eight of their next nine to catch up to said pace. Tonight’s 112-110 defeat didn’t help their cause.

The defensive agenda was just plain blown off. Marcus Camby had an uncharacteristically low seven rebounds, Nene only grabbed five, and Reggie Evans led the team with eight. As a team the Nuggets were outrebounded 45-38, which is not a good sign if you’re the league’s best rebounding club. And If only the Nuggets problems could have just ended there they might have had a chance, but when you not only fail to have a double digit rebounder you can ill afford not reaching double-digits in any other category but points. There is no excuse for the kind of box score that the Nuggets finished with. It just shows that they just had no energy and a lack of focus tonight.

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson were just as bad on offense as they were on defense. The two combined for 11-33 from the field, including 1-6 from downtown. ‘Melo finished with 23 and Iverson with 18. These two are combining for an average of 59 points on most nights, and those missing 18 points were devastating to Denver’s chances of a win.

If there is anything positive that can be taken away from this game it is that J.R. Smith is fulfilling his requested role quite nicely. It is never easy to move from the starting line-up to the bench, but J.R. is doing a fine job in the minutes he is playing. He finished the team’s leading scorer with 28 points, and is currently third best in three-pointers made per game in the NBA. Sometimes it is easy to forget that J.R. is only 21-years of age and in just currently in his third year of NBA basketball. His defense still needs to work, but his efforts are there and his progression can be noticed when comparing his defense from early this year up to this point.

Denver is lucky that they are going have a day off before they face the struggling Bobcats. I don’t know what it was that impeded the Nuggets from playing at a level more familiar, but the answer better materialize in the next 36 hours. Charlotte is still a team of professionals and the Nuggets will get beat if they put up another half-hearted effort against them and any other team in this league. For now, that is all I have to say.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Utah Enjoys the Home Cookin’

(Boulder-CO) There are things that the Nuggets didn’t do very well tonight, but when you have the refs in your corner it makes things a whole lot easier. The Utah Jazz emerge victorious against the Nuggets, 116-111 and brought the Nuggets five-game winning steak to an abrupt halt in a manner that really chaps me in the worst way. It stings so bad because the Nuggets turned the ball over at critical times, lost a sizeable lead, and should have beat the Jazz. That’s right, I said it! They should of beat ‘em, but just couldn’t stop shooting themselves in the foot.

In the first half the Nuggets were just where they wanted to be with the game being played at a fast pace and Denver in the lead, 67-62. They still weren’t doing a great job of keeping the Jazz off the boards, but they were running the ball and ‘Melo was hitting his jumper. Marcus Camby was well on his way to a double-double and I was feeling really good about the way we were playing.

Then the second half started and the Nuggets exploded with an eleven point lead with four minutes remaining in the third period when they all simultaneously fell asleep on defense. Utah was all over the offensive glass and Carlos Boozer got dimed by Deron Williams for an and-one followed by four quick points by Ronnie Brewer. A once eleven point lead was dwindled down to four in the matter of a single minute! No timeout was called, which I was screaming loud enough for, and just like that the game became a dog fight. Utah ended up winning that quarter, 25-24, and had all the momentum of the Energy Solutions Arena carrying them at the crest of its wave.

In the fourth quarter the Nuggets shot a dicey 4-12 from the field and missed critical free-throws. The worst part of what was otherwise a great game was that the game was changed by the officiating down the stretch of the final 31 seconds. With 31 seconds remaining and the score 111-110 in favor of the Nuggets, Matt Harpring let fly an 18-foot jumper and Nene had Carlos Boozer boxed like a dozen oranges. Boozer, as I described his rebounding style in my preview, proceeds to shove Nene in the back and knocked the big man down to the floor snagging the rebound with the whistle blowing. Somehow, some-indescribable-how, the referee found a way to nail Nene with a foul which sent Boozer to the free-throw line for the lead. It was the most baffling call I have seen all year. How a guy can perfectly box-out his man, get pushed down to the floor with a shot to his back and be called for a foul?

Denver still had time after Boozer cashed in his free-throws, but with the clock reading 21 seconds Carmelo dribbled the ball off his foot and the balloon popped for the Nuggets. The entire Nuggets Nation heard a big fat fog horn. A couple fouls later and with the Jazz hitting their free-throws the large women was belting one out. The Nuggets were there, so close to the win, but had it slip their grasps.

The bright side of things shined on Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. Allen’s 33 points, three rebounds, and six assists in combination with Anthony’s game-high 37 points and six rebounds, and two assists were incredible to watch. Unfortunately, other than Marcus Camby who recorded yet another double-double of 21 points, ten rebounds and three blocked shots, watching is about all that the Nuggets got from anyone else. The Nugget bench combined for 11 measly points while the Jazz reaped the benefit of their reserves coming up huge with 46. Carlos Boozer also was everything I said he was in my preview and the Nuggets had no answer for the power forward’s 25 points and 19 rebounds.

As big as this game was, it is still just a game in the first half of the season. The Nuggets will get to see these guys twice more before the season’s end and I just know that there is a victory over the Jazz waiting to materialize sometime this season. This game also makes the Nuggets 2-19 in their last 21 games in Utah.

Tomorrow night the Nuggets will host the New Jersey Nets before a day of rest and then playing host again to the Bobcats. Both games are very winnable as neither team is even .500. From there the Nuggets will have back-to-back games with the Portland Trailblazers and should be well on their way to another nice win streak.

What the #%&! was He Thinking?

(Boulder-CO) Credit Henry Abbott over at www.truehoop.com for bringing this to my attention, but I think that the title of this post sums up my thoughts after watching a video of what transpired at the Toros vs. 14ers game last night. I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but I highly suggest you click the following link and take a look at one of the stupidest things I have ever seen a mascot do. Honestly, if there was ever an example of a moronic moment by a mascot this would have to be the most textbook case. Thanks again, Henry! How do you find this stuff? Do you ever sleep?

Click it here for the funny: http://keyetv.com/sports/local_story_025130627.html.

Nuggets vs. Jazz Preview

(Boulder-CO) The last time these two teams met the Nuggets were a badly depleted squad. They didn’t have Marcus Camby due to the hand injury, Carmelo and J.R. were still suspended, and the Nuggets had not yet traded Earl Boykins for Steve Blake. Utah won that match up by twelve points, but oh what a difference 20 days makes! This time around the Nuggets will be a full-strength and I expect a much better showing by Denver.

For starters, the Jazz have come back down to Earth after their red-hot start to the season. In their last ten games the Jazz are an honest 5-5 and are coming off a loss to the, smirk, Memphis Grizzlies. They do still have a four game lead over the Nuggets in the divisional standings, but tonight poses an opportunity for Denver to gain some ground.

In their first match-up, Deron Williams exploded on the defense of Earl Boykins for 28 points and 12 assists, but don’t think that a similar performance is in stock against the defense of Steve Blake or Allen Iverson. It’s just not going to happen, and I feel that Williams will be held around his averages of 16 points and nine assists.
Another front to be aware of is the defensive presence that was missed when Marcus Camby wasn’t available for the first meeting. Okur, despite having a great season, and Boozer will have a different time getting all those bunnies that killed the Nuggets last time with one of the league’s best one-on-one defenders/shot blockers/rebounders back in action.

I have two points of emphasis tonight that if accomplished will end up resulting in a victory for the Denver Nuggets. Reggie Evans and Nene are going to have to play great defense against Carlos Boozer. Carlos can hit the medium range jumper with consistency and likes to crash the boards from the weak side on both the offensive and defensive glass. The Nuggets defender that guards Boozer is going to have to make sure to contest that outside jumper while not giving up baseline drives and also make a point to put a body on Boozer regardless of proximity to the basket to keep him of the glass. He lives off offensive rebounds for easy buckets and will become frustrated if he isn’t grabbing boards as easily as he is accustomed to.

My second point is movement without the ball. I noticed against the Sonics that the Nuggets still have a tendency to get caught watching when AI or ‘Melo start to work on their man. If, and when, Carmelo gets the ball in the low post it is imperitive for the weak side to screen away and cause commotion because it frees up passing lanes for ‘Melo to survey and causes confusion on rotations. This results in the double-team being harder to pull off for the Jazz and makes it easier for Denver to capitalize when they do. Both Iverson and Anthony are proficient enough passers to find the open man if their offensive attempt isn’t there and I would like to see both men finish with more than five assists for the game.

This is far more than just a divisional match-up for the Nuggets. This game serves as a measuring stick for how the Nuggets are progressing against some of the real contenders in the stacked Western Conference. Wins over Memphis and Seattle were nice, but as the season enters the second half it is really how the Nuggets do against teams that are playoff bound that provide a glimpse as to what is to come. Denver can extend their five-game win streak if they take care of the points of emphasis that I have illustrated. I’m expecting a great game. Go Nuggets!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

A Check is on the Way

(Boulder-CO) Insurance is a beautiful thing. The NBA has a rule that once a team has been without one of their top eight players for more than 41 consecutive games its insurance policy picks up the remaining half of the season’s salary to the tune of 80%. This is critical for the Nuggets as Kenyon Martin has missed his 37th game of the season so far, and I bet Stan Kreonke is checking the mail for about a 4.8 million dollar check to cover 80% of K-Mart’s estimated remaining salary. I doubt ticket prices are going to drop, but at least the Nuggets are not at a total loss from having Kenyon be a complete wash for the season after having to endure another microfracture surgery on his left knee following having the same operation on his right knee the season before. Imagine for a second that K-Mart was playing and the Nuggets were starting Blake, AI, Melo, Martin, and Marcus Camby. That would be four guys that are of All-Star caliber on the same team! Sometimes it is easily forgotten that K-Mart is still on this team as there has been so many shake-ups so far, but if he can come back and contribute on even a similar level that he was. The Nuggets are going to be REDICOULUSLY good, at least on paper, next season.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It Wasn't Pretty, but I'll Take it

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets made me sweat after making a prophetic call in my game preview, but found the will and the way for a 117-112 victory over the Sonics. The game went back and forth with Ray Allen, the league’s best shooter, giving Denver his best shot on his way to scoring 44 points. Unfortunately though for the Sonics were the collective offensive efforts of ‘Melo, AI, Nene, and Steve Blake in combination with the defense of Marcus Camby down the stretch. And overall, the Nuggets just had more firepower than Settle and outlasted Ray Allen‘s single handed onslaught. My only hope is that by going through each quarter’s high and lowlights. I can make some better sense of a game that was really closer than it needed to be.

In the first quarter the Nuggets really opened the game with some bad shooting in what I feel was a direct result of the tail end of back-to-back games and fourth game in five days. Their legs weren’t there and the jumpers just didn’t want to fall. The Nuggets found themselves 4-15 and 0-5 from three point land before some relief in the form of two quick threes from J.R. Smith revitalized them to a nice comeback.

The second quarter continued to harbor sloppy basketball for the Nuggets. Denver turned the ball over nine times before the half and the overall execution was ugly despite the Nuggets hanging around. It wasn’t all bad though. Nene showed a quick spin move around 11:00 minutes and Allen Iverson also reached the 20,000th career points milestone. AI became the 30th player in the history of the NBA to reach 20K, but acted as if nothing had happened at all. Seattle countered with a 7-0 run to close out the half when a three-point buzzer beater by Ray Allen made the score 60-53 in favor of the Sonics. Chris Wilcox’s 16 points were the difference and the Nuggets were playing down to the Sonics’ level and not making a commitment to the defensive end.

Marcus Camby said in his post-game interview that Coach George Karl told the team that this game was going to be won on the defensive end and the Nuggets reacted favorably in the third quarter. By holding the Sonics to only 18 points in the quarter, the Nuggets got defensive rebounds and turned the game around with 32 points of vintage run-and-gun.

The fourth and final quarter started with the Nuggets up 75-68 with a 31-10 point advantage in bench scoring and a shoot-out ensued. It started with Ray Allen hitting a 27 foot jumper and was countered by J.R. hitting his fifth three of the night. The Sonics and the Nuggets went back and forth with the game eventually deadlocking at 99 with 5:05 remaining and once again at 106 after the first of four events that I can pinpoint which inevitably sealed the victory for the Nuggets. First, Steve Blake hit his first shot of the game and it was a big three to tie the game at 106. Then after a defensive stop, Nene made a strong move that was awarded with a foul being called and “Big Brazil” hit both of his free-throws to put the Nuggets up 108-106. Can you say clutch? The third turn of events was a perfectly diagramed and executed play for the ball to go into ‘Melo and to be thrown back out to a relocating Steve Blake for his second cold blooded three-pointer in just over a minute. Those eight points turned the tide of this ball game and a steal by Carmelo Anthony that led to a fast-break lay-up nailed the coffin shut. A handful of free-throws in the waning seconds were just cushioning to ensure that Ray Allen’s amazing three-point stroke was in vain as the Nuggets persevered for the win in a game that they played below their desired level of execution. The only thing I can say is a win is a win and I am glad the honeymoon now has a chance to wear off before the Nuggets take on the Jazz in Utah this Friday night.

Nene continues to out do himself in the last couple of games and performed beautifully in route to a 17-point, seven rebound evening. Carmelo returned back to his normal form and scored a team-high 34 points and also added a team-high nine rebounds. Allen Iverson was the only Nugget to record a double-double with 21 points and ten assists and J.R. Smith finished with 20 points off 6-10 from the three-point arch. I really like J.R. coming off the bench right now because he is filling the role of offensive instigator when the Nuggets are searching for a basket with the second unit in the game.

The only sense I can make is that Seattle, behind Ray Ray’s game-high 44 points, gave the Nuggets their best look and the Nuggets played just enough out of rhythm for it to be closer than I expect it to be. You gotta tip your hat though to the Sonics because they didn’t get caught up stargazing at the Nuggets and put up a valiant effort.
The most hated of all NBA foes in the Utah Jazz look to spoil the Nuggets weekend in a game that could have major divisional implications on Friday night. Tonight's win gives the Nuggets a season’s best five-game win streak and now they just need a couple of days of crisp practice and some rest before we really see what this new look Denver team is capable of against a Western Conference playoff bound opponent. But as the team flies home tonight, I think that it is now hightime for Nuggets fans to say Denver is officially where butter belongs… On a roll!

Cocky-ass Preview of Nuggets vs. Sonics

(Boulder-CO) After watching what happened to the Grizz last night, and the previous 15 years of being completely obsessed with basketball in every way, shape, and form. I think that the cocky feeling I have about the pending outcome of the Nuggets game tonight is warranted. Tonight's game is going to be a win! No need to get into advanced quantum physics for this one. The Nuggets should win, and win BIG! I have been reading all kinds of retractions circulating around statements like, " AI and Carmelo won't be able to share the ball," and, "AI+Melo=lottery pick," but I think that what we all saw last night has those writers feeling they were dead wrong. I almost feel sorry for the Sonics... Almost!

Monday, January 22, 2007

A New Beginning

(Boulder-CO) Tonight was the dawn of a new era for Nuggets fans worldwide. Carmelo Anthony made his return to basketball and for the first time got to play with his new teammates Allen Iverson and Steve Blake. Before the game he addressed the Pepsi Center and thanked the fans for their continued support and promised of great things to come. As for the results, well let’s just say that it was all Nuggets all the time! Denver roughed up the Grizzlies 115-98 and held Memphis at bay with large leads all night long.

It was only fitting that the first two points were scored by Anthony on an alley-oop lob from Marcus Camby. Pepsi Center went bananas and it was just first chance of many for the Nuggets Nation to do so. Denver jumped out to a twenty point lead in the first quarter with the score 38-18. The second period was not that sweet, but nevertheless the Nuggets were still in the lead 59-47 at the break.

Carmelo showed us a couple of glimpses of his pre-suspension self in the first half. Once especially when he took the ball off the right wing, broke Pau Gasol with the cross over, hop-stepped and proceeded to throw it down with two hands. He would finish the half with 15 points, many of which came from the free-throw line. The man was back and it all seemed so familiar. I was cooing with pleasure!

It was also the same old same old from Marcus Camby from opening tip through final substitution. The Nuggets big man finishes the night with a double-dip of 17 big ones in scoring and rebounding. He added in three assists and just as many blocks while also stealing two balls. The “Chairman of the Boards” played at an All-Star level tonight and made defending the basket a lot easier for everyone else.

Four other Nuggets had big games too in fanning the jet fuel fire that is the Denver Nuggets offense. Allen Iverson scored 23 while dishing seven assists, J.R. Smith grabbed five boards to fit nicely with his 19 points, Steve Blake handed out a season-high 12 dimes to accompany his five points, and Nene continues to improve, so ever slowly but so ever surely, and chipped in another eleven points and five boards.

But tonight was all about Carmelo Anthony. His return. His rise to fan favorite in Denver. His seemingly easy ‘Melo-ness. It was almost as if he never left. Certainly the chemistry was there between Iverson and Anthony and no play leaves me anticipating more AI to ‘Melo magic than the super-sized alley-oop that the two hooked up on to give the fans one last treat. Iverson was streaking down the left side of the court and threw an underhand lob that was seemingly too hot and too high for anyone to catch, but as if it was scripted, ‘Melo came unpeeled to grab the pass and dunked it home! Carmelo finished tonight’s game with 28 points, six assists, and five rebounds. His jumper was a little bit out of rhythm, which was to be expected, but he is too versatile a scorer to let that ruin his night. He built his confidence by finishing 8-8 from the free-throw line and one last backdoor oop from Iverson before leaving the game with four minutes and change to a standing ovation.

And so did the rest of the starters, one-by-one, as the Grizzlies were beaten handedly. The Nuggets are the winners of four straight and will be playing a road game against the Seattle Supersonics tomorrow night. Sleep tight, Nuggets fans. It should be nothing but sweet dreams tonight! Seattle gets a taste tomorrow…

A Few Thoughts Before the Return

(Boulder-CO) Time to weigh in how I evaluate the supporting cast that has gotten the Denver Nuggets through to this point so far. There have certainly been some good, bad, and ugly moments of memory, but I wouldn’t change the way that the journey has gone for the world.

Reggie Evans: 6.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists in 20 minutes of play nightly. He is a complete animal on the boards and solid defending pretty much any power forward in the league. I have really enjoyed watching Reggie during the duration of the suspension. Especially because of the added toughness he brings.

Yakhouba Diawara: 6.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 23 minutes of play nightly. I love what Yakhouba does when guarding the opposition’s best scorer. He really showed me some diversity in his match-up potential so far to this point and sometimes it is hard to remember that he is just a rookie. He did have some horrendous nights shooting, but it’s nice to see that it didn’t shake his confidence in his defensive game. The offense will come for this young player, but for now his development is right on schedule.

Marcus Camby: 12.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, and 2.9 assists in 33 minutes of play nightly. He has been dominating the boards for the Nuggets all year long and making opposing players change their shot. His outside jumper from the top of the key is also falling as of late and Marcus is coming off a 22-rebound performance against the Rockets. Denver is a completely different team without Marcus on the floor and his presence is like knowing a mountain is right behind you.

Eduardo Najera: 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds in 23.6 minutes of play nightly. In the last 15 games Eduardo has really been struggling. His minutes are dwindling and his starting position has been given to Reggie Evans. While not playing poorly, I feel that Eddie has not played up to his skill level in the last ten games especially. And with the 6’8” Carmelo returning, Najera’s numbers may be on the verge of shrinking even more.

DerMarr Johnson: Where ya been?

Jamal Sampson: 1.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 6 minutes of action nightly. Not much to report really, but from what we have seen there could be some raw ability. So hard to justify giving Sampson anymore minutes than he is getting with Marcus Camby playing like a wild man, but it is still nice to know Denver has a guy like Sampson.

J.R. Smith: 16.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in 29 minutes nightly. It took J.R. a couple of games to return to the flow, but we saw against the Rockets that he is officially back. My only knock on J.R. is that he tends to get caught up in the moment sometimes which leads to him taking poor shots. He is an electric player and I feel that if he aggressively receives the game’s flow more naturally he can continue to be the Nuggets third option on offense. And you gotta love those highlights! Dude jumps right out of the gym!

Steve Blake: 14 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.5 rebounds just four games into being part of the Denver Nuggets’ system. Blake was an ideal pick up for a team that has scoring pouring out the yin yang. He is uber-safe with the ball and has been hitting the open look cold. He is a much better player on defense than Earl ever was and Nuggets management looks genius for signing him.

Linas Kleiza: 5.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in nearly 16 minutes of play nightly. Linas has been coming around as of late after nearly shooting himself down to the CBA… I jest, I jest, but his aggressive attack on the rim is something you never have to question. He has a cult-like following very similar to former Nugget Chris Anderson and his high-octane style of play also resembles the game of the “Birdman.”

Allen Iverson: 27.7 points, 7.7 assists, 2.6 rebounds and 2 steals in 43 minutes nightly. He has been the Nuggets savior on offense and done a pretty good job filling the void that Anthony left. Now that the two have a chance to pair I am expecting great things. One aspect of Allen Iverson’s game that has really impressed me is his passing. 7.7 assists is a lot of passing for a guy who is also scoring nearly 30 a game and I guess it took him coming to Denver for me to realize how gifted of a set-up artist he really was.

Nene: 7.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.15 blocks in 18 minutes of play nightly. It has been long road back for “Big Brazil” and I think that he is just now starting to get to where we all expected him to be in the early part of the season. The knee is reportedly stopped swelling so badly after games and hard practices and there has even been a spring in the big man’s step in the last two games. I still feel the sky is the limit for a guy like Nene because he already has the body to accompany the finer skills that can be acquired. If he stays the course he has been on in the last two games he could finish the year with averages of 10 points and eight boards which I’m sure any Nuggets fan would take.

And there’s the wrap-up! As one chapter closes, another one begins and thankfully for the Nuggets this story is not even close to over as Denver still has more than 50% of the season still ahead. It is going to be a wild ride, Nuggets Nation, so if you don’t have the stomach for it, let’s get it out on the table right now!

Obligatory NBA Carnival Post

(Boulder-CO) The latest and greatest of the NBA Carnivals has stopped over at www.detroitbadboys.com. The guys over there have done a great job and I suggest you head over there to get all of your Carnie, and NBA, updates for a taste of some the best NBA writing that exists today! It is all broken down by division so catching up to speed with what is going on with your favorite team (and it better be the Nuggets) or your bitterest rival (the Jazz) will be no sweat. Well done guys!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Carmelo Puts Us on Notice

(Boulder-CO) Carmelo Anthony's return to the game of basketball is being covered at nausea mainly because the NBA's biggest chemistry experiment is about to take place. AI (former scoring champion) + Carmelo Anthony (current NBA scoring leader) * the hopes of an entire city (Denver) = Nationwide gaze on the Denver Nuggets. Some are probably hoping for the Nuggets to implode, some on the other hand are wishing for something sweeter, but one thing that is for sure is that Carmelo is a very focused individual. On the eve of his return, he released a letter addressing Nuggets Fans, his teammates, Stan Kroenke and the entire Nuggets Organization. Here is my favorite stretch of that letter:
"I have been going crazy for 36 days waiting to return, all my life playing basketball has come easy to me, but not being able to play has been the most difficult thing I have ever experienced as a player. I've spent this time off working on my game and reflecting on who I am. And who I want to be. I want all of you to know that I plan to be better, stronger and smarter on the court than I've ever been before. I've never been more dedicated to becoming the best player and teammate that I can be. It has been very tough watching the team play without me, knowing that my mistake has made it very difficult for my teammates, the franchise and the fans. I've spent the time working extremely hard, and I plan to come back better than ever."
The entire letter is available at this link:
INCREDIBLE is the only word that I feel can summarize the way that I feel right now. I knew that his return would be emotional, but who could have predicted this? My body is covered with goosebumps right now, how's yours?

Rockets Grounded by Nuggets in OT

(Boulder-CO) Like I said in my preview of this game, “My feelings about this game are that the Nuggets need to continue to play like they did last night if they want to be in this one in the final quarter with the Rockets tonight.” What I didn’t know was that it was going to take overtime for the Nuggets to exercise their will, and revenge, on the Rockets for losing to Houston on their home floor. The whole turning point to me was J.R. Smith hitting back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter. He ignited for eleven points in two minutes, but it was those two three pointers that resuscitated the Nuggets back to life. Denver beat the Rockets, 121-113, in what is hopefully a prequel to much more success now that Carmelo is officially out of the slammer!

Everyone for the Nuggets did exactly what they needed to do for success to be fruited. Marcus Camby was his dominate self by owning the boards and nabbing 22 rebounds and also giving the Nuggets 12 points, many coming off his favorite shot from the top of the key. He also put fear in the Rockets slashers by swatting five shots. I don’t even care if Marcus makes the All-Star team or not, he should but that is beside the point, because he is an All-Star in my book.

The scoring load was handled by, who else, Allen Iverson. AI scored 36 points, but none were bigger than the three he hit to tie the game at 108, and the bank shot three-pointer with the shot clock running down to get the Nuggets jumpstarted in OT. The Answer also hit the double digit mark in assists with ten and had four steals and three rebounds. He was fouled repeatedly on his way to cup with no calls, once blatantly by Father Time (AKA Mutombo who should act like a professional and not a little baby about his age) and was worth his weight in gold. “I’m going to tell my uncle David Stern that you guys were making fun of how old I look…” For a player that likes to waive his finger after blocking a shot, he sure does have some thin skin in my opinion!

Returning back to what matters, the Nuggets, J.R. Smith is officially back! Smith was the X-factor tonight. He finished the game with 24 points off 6-9 from downtown and provided the Houston fans with some highlight material. The highlight was a slashing, double-clutch-two-handed-yoke on the rack with defenders getting dropped off at the fifth floor while J.R. proceeded to go upstairs to the penthouse. My girlfriend hates it when something like that happens because I have a tendency to scream obscenities. Needless to say, I was juiced!

I don’t want to leave anyone out, but for the sake of the length of this post, I am just going to touch on the rest of the stellar performances that were rendered by the rest of the supporting cast. Yakhouba Diawara did a great job on Tracy McGrady and added ten points of his own, Nene played the best game I have seen since before his injury, Steve Blake continues to be that safe answer at point guard that hits open looks (not to mention his four point play in OT and his assist to Marcus Camby off a drive that had me on the edge of my seat), and Linas Kleiza is shaping up into form too! I can only imagine what is going to happen to the Memphis Grizzlies when they come into a jam packed Pepsi Center for the return of Carmelo Anthony. Let’s just say that the Nuggets are going to be favored, HEAVILY!

Tonight was hopefully a catalyst for things to come. Face it, Denver is legit even without the most dominant scorer in the league today and if things get any creamier in the Mile High City do not be surprised if the Nuggets start to get mentioned with the big boys of the NBA.

One step at a time though, and now that the Nuggets have shocked the world by acquiring AI, trading a fan favorite in Earl Boykins, and finished a critical stretch without ‘Melo 7-8. I think that the sky is the limit! And don’t forget about the favorable stretch that I outlined in my ESPN Power Rankings update or that the Nuggets have won three straight because if you get caught slippin’. The Nuggets WILL embarrass you!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nuggets vs. Rockets Preview: Again and Kinda

(Boulder-CO) Since the Nuggets already played the Rockets last week, I feel that I would be redundant to go into how I feel about the Rockets, their weaknesses and strengths, again at nausea. My feelings about this game are that the Nuggets need to continue to play like they did last night if they want to be in this one in the final quarter with the Rockets tonight.

Instead I would rather share a couple of things about this Nuggets team that I found while sleuthing around http://www.espn.com/’s NBA statistics. A couple of the things I found point to some interesting dichotomies about the Nuggets that are fitting for the over personality of the team, figuratively speaking.

The Nuggets are currently the fourth highest scoring team per game in the NBA at a good clip of 104.9 points nightly. I find that this stat is pretty amazing and feel that credit is due to the guys that have stepped up during all the suspensions that had to be served. If you would have asked me what was going to happen after a month of Carmelo-less basketball in Denver. I would have expected the Nuggets to drop out of the top ten. The only problem is that the Nuggets philosophy has been too one sided as they are fourth worst in the NBA in points allowed (103 points per game). They have the defensive capabilities to be much better if they decide to take stock in the other side of the floor, and such commitment is the difference between championship contender and pretender.

The next area of concern is rebounding. The Nuggets are a walking contradiction because they are the second best rebounding team in the NBA, behind the Knicks, but they seem to also have trouble keeping the other team off the boards. The Nuggets are snatching 44.7 rebounds a game, but once again like in scoring, are allowing the sixth most boards to be cleared on them (42.9). So, either both teams more often that not shoot poorly when Denver is involved or the pace of the game is fast when Denver is involved and the extra rebounds are just a result of more possessions. I’ll let you make the call.

The same kind of story seems to be with assists too. The Nuggets are fifth in the league in team assists while being fourth worst defending the pass. Once again, this is a result of not committing to the defensive end of the floor. If the defensive intensity were to be raised the opposition wouldn’t have those easy passes to make.

Now let’s take a look a steals. True to form the Nuggets are first in creating steals, but also last in giving them back. At least they are stealing 8.7 and only getting robbed 8.3 times a game, right? Hey what can I say, I like to be optimistic! Unfortunately there is no optimistic way to look at the statistical category of turnovers, but the same type of dichotomy exists. The Nuggets are the second best team in the NBA when it comes to creating turnovers (16.9 per game). However, they should be ashamed of themselves for being careless with the ball so often to be ranked dead last in the league in coughing it up (16.6 per game).

So to return to the overall conclusion that I wanted to share with the readership is this: The Nuggets, while being very good in some aspects of the game, are lacking the discipline it takes to understand both sides of their own concepts. It is frustrating for me to watch a team that works so hard stealing the ball to be so consistently careless with it. Likewise, it is just as tedious to watch a team that could win by ten points a night with their offense be in so many close games because of their lack of defense. This helter skelter style is not going to get it done against the playoff bound teams because those teams find ways to cut you with both sides of the blade. The Nuggets have the personnel, and the chemistry is obviously developing, but it will be fine tuning that this team is in need of that will put them in with the elite teams, and ultimately, in the hunt.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Win Six Minus Carmelo

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets played fast and aggressive from the opening tip through the final buzzer against the Cavaliers and came out with another much needed win, 110-99. LeBron James recorded his tenth triple-double of his career with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists, but it just wasn‘t enough. Cleveland has been victorious in all of LeBron’s previous triple-double performances, but tonight was stymied by the duo of Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson. This was a good win for the Nuggets because they executed an agenda for the most part and domineered for the majority of the game.

At halftime of this contest the Nuggets were looking poised as they boasted a 64-45 lead behind a monster first half by Marcus Camby. Camby would finish the game with both a team high in rebounds and points, 26 and 17 respectively, but what Marcus did in the first half, despite nearly giving the Nuggets a double-double, was set the tone defensively for the rest of the night. He was altering shots, clearing rebounds at a dizzying pace, and hitting his outside jumper from the top of the key.

After playing the Cavaliers essentially square in the third period, the fourth quarter was a bit of meltdown. With about three minutes remaining in the game the once larger than 20 point lead the Nugget were coasting on was chopped down to five after the Cavaliers hit five three-pointers in a row. After a great pass by Allen Iverson, Nene missed a dunk and was sent to the line for two free-throws. He probably wasn’t thinking this at the time, but this was the beginning of what is hopefully a trend for Nene. The big man hit both his free-throws and put the Nuggets back in the driver seat for good in what was a crippling blow to James and company. He would later get a touch pass from Marcus Camby that he would two-hand-tomahawk slam to put a cherry on top, but it was those two free-throws that really sealed the deal. The potential is there for Nene to round out this team as a real contender in the Western Conference and hopefully with tonight’s win, and Nene’s performance down the stretch, the confidence will be there for “Big Brazil” in games to come.

It should also be mentioned that Allen Iverson is setting up his Nuggets teammates beautifully. AI finished tonight’s game with 25 points, nine assists, and three rebounds, but it is the way that he is picking and choosing his times to dribble penetrate and his knack for finding the open teammate when double-teamed that is really making this team coagulate. He is finding players in their preferred positions and it is really paying dividends so far for the Nuggets. I think if there were still any questions about his selfishness as a point guard that they are quickly being silenced as he is routinely eclipsing or coming close to eclipsing double figures in assists every game.

Tonight the Nuggets shot 50% from the field, 40% from the arch, and 88% from the charity stripe and it all added up to a win. Now the Nuggets will be looking for a little payback against the Houston Rockets tomorrow night as they travel to Houston to complete the tail end of this back-to-back. However, what is more important down the road is that it will be the last game without Carmelo. I think that the Nuggets are going to be scary good when ‘Melo comes back. Less than 48 hours to wait, Nuggets fans. Let the NBA be put on notice!

Smart Money is on Dicky B

(Boulder-CO) In a game that I was watching about a month back, Charles Barkley was doing what he does best, ehh hmm, and making bold statements where he decided to point his southern twang at the one and only Dick Bavetta. Charles said something to the effect that the older Bavetta couldn’t beat him from one baseline to the other. Charles’ main arguing point was that Bavetta was too old to beat him in a footrace.

Anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile knows that Dick Bavetta is my favorite referee of all time and that I am not the biggest Sir Charles fan. So, some time has past since the comments were made, but a new twist is being added to what was just another incident of Charles being Charles. A twist worth about 10,000 to any charity Bavetta deems worthy of his foot speed.

Allegedly, Charles Barkley is willing to part with 10K to any charity that Dick Bavetta wishes if he can win the race! When and if the race is to occur is still foggy at this point, but one would have to think that it would be a lock for Dicky B. The NBA’s All-Time leading games officiated referee is in incredible shape, spry as the day is long, and without doubt possesses a quicker first step than the overweight and out of shape Barkley.

So I say make it an All-Star weekend event and get rid of the WNBA/NBA/celebrity what-ever-the-hell it is challenge and make way for the footrace! That is one thing that I would definitely not miss. Bavetta Power!

Nuggets vs. Cavaliers Preview

(Boulder-CO) This might be the easiest preview I have had to write to date. When I look at the Cleveland Cavaliers, it is pretty blatant as to how the Nuggets will need play to emerge the victors. If the Nuggets can play fast, get out and run, move the ball, and shoot better than 40% from the field they should win. Cleveland is a team that wants to slow the pace and play half-court basketball at all costs.

The reason why I say this is Zydrunas Ilgauskas may be the slowest center in the league and Drew Gooden isn’t exactly a speedster either. Both men play more than 25 minutes a game and do not like to get into a marathon. Cleveland as a team is averaging just a shade over 92 points per game and if LeBron James can be held to his average while playing an up-tempo game it has been proven that Cleveland struggles. Of the 15 games that the Cavs have lost this year, seven of those losses have been to teams that score more than 100 points in the contest. Denver, who almost routinely hit’s the century mark in scoring, needs to run, run, run like an antelope out of control.

It’s a toss up whether you watch tonight’s game on Altitude Sports and Entertainment or ESPN, but one way or another, the tip is set to be thrown at around seven o’clock. Go Nuggets!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Getting a Little Bit Impatient

(Boulder-CO) Is anyone else getting a little bit impatient waiting for the Nuggets to take on the Cavaliers tomorrow night? I am having Nuggets withdrawal in the worst kind of way right now despite there being some pretty good games on NBA League Pass lately. Sorry LP, you just doesn't seem to fill the void in the way that the Nuggets do.
By the way, I watched the Cavaliers play the Trailblazers last night and have to say that Cleveland looked like shit. They lost 94-76 after only scoring nine, that's right, nine points in the first quarter. I like Lebron James, seriously, but I would be lying if I said that I am not enjoying a break from everybody slobbering all over him like bum on a bacon sandwich. He is currently having his worst year statistically since his rookie campaign as his points, assists, and rebounds are all down. Cleveland however is still looking pretty good overall as they are in first place in the Eastern Conference's Central Division with a record of 23-15. That record is also good enough for the number one playoff seed in the dicey East if the post season were to start today.
More to come in my game preview set to drop sometime early tomorrow morning.

Chicken, Fish, and Turkey… Yum

(Boulder-CO) The weight of “Big Brazil” is still generating news as of today. I have been covering the extra weight that Nene has been carrying with ideas, some funny, and an honest opinion now for quite some time, but with today’s report in the Denver Post it would appear as if the Nuggets are finally getting down to business. And that business is, drum roll please, a DIET! Whoopee! Nene is going on a diet. What a tremendous idea!

Marc Spears of the Denver Post reports today in his article, “The Nuggets have determined the best option for his return to prominence is to watch more carefully what he eats. Hess met over the weekend with Nene, his wife, his manager and personal chef to go over a diet plan. Hess has also talked to the Nuggets' chef at the Pepsi Center about what food Nene should and shouldn't be eating.” This must means no more stadium nachos, French fries, or hot dogs. Alert all the vendors; do not serve the 6’10” Brazilian!

Spears goes on to report, “Hess has Nene on a plan to eat more vegetables, aid his workouts with carbohydrates and add protein by eating more fish, chicken and turkey and less fatty meats. On nongame days, Hess wants Nene to eat more often but less quantity, at 8:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and conclude with a vegetable snack at 11 p.m. On game days, Nene will eat on the same schedule but also have a protein shake after games.”

The rest of the article can be viewed by clicking this link:

Trainer Steve Hess definitely knows what he is talking about because he is a body builder and competes in said field. What I am having a hard time coming to grips with is this news is just now breaking and the Nuggets are already nearly halfway through the season! Is the report telling me that it took 35+ games to realize that Nene needed to go on a diet? I think that many of the critical eyes that belong to Nuggets faithful could have told you this about five games into the season when Nene was getting lay-ups blocked whereas the younger/skinnier Nene would have been trotting back to the free-throw for an and one after throwing it down in the opposition’s face.

I’m just glad that the problem is now being addressed, but still fairly confused as to why this is NOW just being reported as news. Good luck, Nene. Not that you will need it, but because it is the cliché thing to say at this point. Just try to lay off the bolinhos de estudantes for awhile and I think everything will work out just fine.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coaches Say ‘Melo to be an All-Star

(Boulder-CO) Before I get into all the reports of certain Western Conference coaches saying they will vote for ‘Melo to be an All-Star, let me say that tussles haven’t stopped previous NBA greats from being included in the All-Star weekend festivities of yesteryear. Greats like Kareem, Larry Bird, and Julius Erving have all been All-Stars despite mixing it up on the court. More current players like Shaq, Kobe, Tracy McGrady, and Charles Barkley were also still All-Stars despite their brouhahas a few years back. So why should Carmelo get treated any differently? The answer is he shouldn’t, and he will not, in my humble opinion.

Marc Spear of the Denver Post writes in today’s article, “From interviews done by The Denver Post, with help from reporters in other Western Conference markets, in addition to Dunleavy, the other pro-Anthony coaches include San Antonio's Gregg Popovich, Houston's Jeff Van Gundy, New Orleans-Oklahoma City's Byron Scott, Minnesota's Dwane Casey, Memphis' Tony Barone Sr., Utah's Jerry Sloan, Portland's Nate McMillan, Seattle's Bob Hill, Phoenix's Mike D'Antoni, Golden State's Don Nelson, Dallas' Avery Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers' Phil Jackson. Sacramento's Eric Musselman declined comment. Such support for the NBA's leading scorer could be instrumental in Anthony becoming a first-time all-star.”

And rightfully so, because Carmelo deserves to be an All-Star without a doubt. I am not sure if the league’s leading scorer has ever been left off an All-Star team, but it would be an overreaction if it were to be the case this year. Carmelo was snubbed last year where I felt that his numbers, and other factors, were overlooked and it would be another flat-out snubbing if he was left off again this year (check last February's archives for the snubb article).

Carmelo had this to say in the same aforementioned article in today’s Denver Post, “I thought I lost a lot of people out there, but I think everyone understands what I was doing before the suspension. Everybody who has played the game of basketball before knows how intense it is. I just want to say thank you to all the coaches for still having faith in me and not let the incident that happened in New York cause them to turn their heads on me.”

The fan voting determines who is an All-Star starter, but if, and when, Carmelo is an All-Star this February I don’t think I am going out too far on a limb when I say that I would expect him to be in during the fourth quarter when the game gets serious. It’s no secret that the first half is for the fans, but pride is for the players and when the game starts to get close to completion the teams respective coaches are going to play the players that give their team the best chance of winning the game. Carmelo is that kind of player and that makes me confident that in the waning minutes of this year’s mid-season classic he will most likely be one of the players that gets a touch if the game is close. Free Carmelo! Previous NBA stars have been pardoned for similar altercations so let’s not make him an example of a bad double standard.

The complete Denver Post article written by Marc Spears is available by clicking this link:
http://www.denverpost.com/sports/ci_5027411.

I leave you now with the http://www.youtube.com/ video evidence of some of the league’s brightest stars in some of their not so brightest moments. Notice the All-Stars, basketball fans and remember that they are humans capable of less-than perfect actions and should be granted the same forgiveness as anyone else.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Even While Suspended He Gets Awards

(Boulder-CO) It never ceases to amaze me sometimes when it comes to the popularity rise of Carmelo Anthony. Despite being away from the NBA now for nearly fifteen games, Carmelo has received yet another honor by USA Basketball. He does everything you ask him to do on the court and then goes home and oversees charitable foundations and other worthwhile causes. ‘Melo is just that kind of superstar I guess, and now he gets honored as 2006 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, despite being in the NBA slammer.

Carmelo Anthony is being honored with such an award for his performances this summer while playing in the FIBA games where he was the sole American to be named to the five-man All-World team. ‘Melo accepted the award and made this statement taken from http://www.nuggets.com/, “I’m very honored to receive this award, I want to thank Mr. Colangelo and Coach K and his staff for giving me the opportunity to play for this team. I worked extremely hard over the summer to prepare because I take great pride in playing for my country. I also want to thank my teammates. They're a great group of guys and we had a lot of fun playing together. I look forward to continuing to work hard for USA Basketball and helping us get that gold medal in '08.”

The rest of the article sums up Carmelo’s numbers and offers some very high praise from USA Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski. This honor should be a nice fit with the rest of the other trophies in Carmelo’s office.

Nice work, Carmelo. You certainly were worth waking up at 3:30 in the morning to watch this summer!

Welcome Doc's Sports Service

(Boulder-CO) I would like to extend a Nugg Doctor welcome to Doc's Sports Service as the newest advertiser on The Nugg Doctor. Doc's is a full-service sports site and a big thanks goes out to Wade for teaming up. As you all know, the Nuggets are not set to tip-off again until Friday, so until then, I encourage you to go get yourself "checked-up" at Doc's Sports Service.

New Power Rankings by ESPN

(Boulder-CO) Marc Stein has dropped his latest update to the ever-so-popular NBA power rankings and what else would you expect other than the Nuggets being under-rated, pessimistically evaluated, and basically given no respect for a team that has two of the top three scorers in the league?

Stein writes, “How much is Melo missed? In this favorable stretch of schedule, Nuggets are just 4-8 with Iverson. They might pay for it at season's end, with 13 of final 18 on the road.”
He must have meant "favorable" like having to play his third ranked Rockets twice, fourth ranked San Antonio Spurs, fifth ranked Lakers, and the number one ranked Dallas Mavericks all in the same eleven game stretch, right? The answer to all this is what in the world does Marc Stein mean when he says, “favorable?” My apologies for answering a question with a question.

Realistically, the next ten games following the rematch with the Houston Rockets is going to not only include the return of Carmelo Anthony in the following game against Memphis, but in my opinion is the MOST favorable ten-game stretch the Nuggets have on the schedule. In said ten games, the Nuggets will only have to face two winning teams (Phoenix and Utah).

Keep this in mind too, the Nugget will be playing three bottom-feeders in the Memphis Grizzlies, Seattle Supersonics, and Charlotte Hornets and will also have back-to-back match-ups with a near cellar dweller in the Portland Trailblazers. Only two of those five games are away from the Pepsi Center, (Seattle and one of the Portland games), and I might have mentioned this, but the Nuggets are anxiously awaiting the return of the game’s most potent scorer! And Stein called the last eleven game stretch, “favorable.” You must be joking me, right?

Don’t go out and get yourself all worked up, Nuggets fans. That is my job, but seriously, the Nuggets are going to be just fine and should bounce right back into the top ten after this upcoming month of action. Carmelo is going to come back with a vengeance after he took his punishment from Stern like a true pro should, (without an appeal), and has been reportedly working like a man possessed in practice.

It should also be mentioned that Stein ranks the Nuggets the 16th “most powerful” team in the league. Right behind the losing records of the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat. The Nuggets are also the only winning team ranked above the rest of the sub .500 bunch. This all after a couple of major trade shake-ups, the grapple in the apple, and the aforementioned nightmare stretch of facing the NBA’s best teams, at least, according to Stein…

Monday, January 15, 2007

Wanna be Friends with Carmelo?

(Boulder-CO) Today, I have been asked to link up with Carmelo Anthony's MySpace page. Needless to say... I couldn't turn it down! I mean, this is CA, the 'Melo one, the league's leading scorer, NCAA champion, and the face of the Denver Nuggets franchise! The official link is www.myspace.com/carmeloanthony and will be stashed away near the top of the blog roll with the rest of the Nuggets relevant sites. Go check it out!

I Got Sources, Baby!

(Boulder-CO) Thanks to Tymes Rhymes, a long time Nugg Doctor reader, for pointing out a rumor that Nene allegedly wants to be traded. I think that it is fair to say that the Nuggets management is not afraid to shake things up. We have already seen the maneuver to land AI, shake-ups that sent Earl and Julius Hodge to the Bucks just mere days after beating Milwaukee, and the all of the moves this summer. So, if Denver does trade Nene what is to be expected in return is a hot topic right now.

The rumor stems from this link and is said to have come from Peter Vescey:
http://multimedia.rockymountainnews.com/forums/index.cfm?frmid=62&tpcid=5438.

I personally do not think that anyone will want to roll the dice on a player like Nene at this stage of the game. I would love it, but let’s be honest… He has a 60 million dollar contract, is out of shape, and is nothing but a huge question mark right now when his knee is concerned. If there is a team willing to throw their fate in the wind we should see if they want to take Kenyon Martin too! The Nuggets could sure use some draft picks, or young talent at center. Marcus Camby isn’t going to be able to play forever and it would appear that center is our most shallow position.

Now We are Talking about Practice

(Boulder-CO) The Nuggets have momentarily found the right path and now have until Friday night to wait before their next game with the Cavaliers. Chris Marlowe and Scott Hastings reported after last nights game that the Nuggets will have Monday off to do as they wish, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be days with practice. That's right Allen, we are talking about practice!
I think that the extended practice is going to be extremely positive for the Nuggets because it gives them some much needed time to continue to incorporate Steve Blake's obvious talents into the offense. Along with that, the practice sessions should also be good for the entire Nuggets roster to continue gelling with Allen Iverson so that when they do return back to their full repertoire of personnel it will not be so much of a fire drill.

I would like to see the following depth chart implemented when the Nuggets return to action on Friday.
Blake - J.R. - Diawara
Iverson - Is there a need for a back-up for a guy who plays 40+ minutes?
Kleiza - DerMarr Johnson
Evans - Najera
Camby - Nene

Insert Carmelo where you see Kleiza and if Blake isn't hitting the open look bring J.R. Smith in and you have yourself a damn fine team on your hands. The Nuggets have scoring, defensive specialists, monsters on the boards, and blue collar types that love to get dirty. Things are looking on the up and up, Nuggets Nation. Hold tight for two more games and we are really going to see where the Nuggets really stand.

In Honor of MLK

(Boulder-CO) Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This post serves as my honor to a great man that has continued to teach this country, and the world, about brotherhood, embracing difference, and civility even after his passing. His words and teachings embody the notion to not overlook our unique differences, but to rather acknowledge that they exist and to accept that such differences are what truly makes us strong. For all the struggles of the past and for all the struggles ahead, try today to make the world you live in a better place for yourself and for others. Love, respect, and eminent being for all.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

How’s That Knife in Your Back?

(Boulder-CO) Steve Blake was once a Portland Trailblazer back in the 2005-06 season. Tonight, he put a well placed shank right in the lower lumbar region of his old team that shipped him to Milwaukee before the Bucks traded him to Denver just last week. That shank was a career-high 25 points to go with his four assists and three rebounds. And I almost forgot, the Nuggets won 109-93.

It was a tough first half that concluded with the Nuggets down 56-49 after a second quarter falter on both ends of the court. In that quarter the Nuggets scored only 18 points while allowing the Portland Trailblazers to score 37 points. I was about to bang my head against the wall till concussion, but decided to not flip out as sometimes I deem appropriate. Yes, Nuggets Nation, I am quite a passionate Nuggets fan and I am not afraid to admit it.

Thankfully, I was totally conscious for the second half because a totally different Nuggets ball club showed up to play in the third quarter. Denver erupted for 41 points while tightening down a vice-like grip on the defensive end. Portland only managed to score 37 points in the entire second half and Denver easily rolled to a much needed win. And this win couldn’t have come at a better time. Carmelo is set to return in two more games and then the rest of the NBA can be put on notice. The memo is simple. It says: Don’t sleep on the Denver Nuggets because now that they are at full-strength. They are going to be able to not only beat you, but will now be able to embarrass any team in the league if they do not take them seriously!

The offensive continuity was definitely there tonight for the Nuggets. Allen Iverson torched the Blazers for 33 points, many in circus fashion, nine assists, and three rebounds. I already told you about Steve Blake, but I didn’t tell you about J.R. Smith scoring 13 points in a better showing than his first game back. Nor did I tell you about Marcus Camby rejecting two shots, ripping down 14 rebounds, coming up with a steal, and scoring seven points in a dominating defensive effort.

Reggie Evans didn’t have the most impressive game statistically speaking, but he did do a tremendous job, with help, of slowing down Zach Randolph to a near stand-still. Z-Ran only scored four points in 22 minutes of play and was 1-12 from the field thanks in part directly to Reggie Evans. I love the future line-up of Blake, Iverson, ‘Melo, Evans, and Camby because it allows George Karl to bring J.R.’s scoring abilities off the bench while also having the availability of the defensive minded Diawara if the situation calls for some defensive support.

Denver now only has to wait till after they play Cleveland and Houston before they get their true franchise face back. If there is any team in the league that I feel bad for it is without a doubt the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies will have to suit up in the Pepsi Center to what will without question be a packed house to see Carmelo and Allen Iverson make their debut as a tandem. As juiced as Denver will be is one thing. As juiced as Denver will get when Carmelo throws down his first dunk will be another. Be afraid, NBA. Be very afraid!

Reggie Evans is a Starter

(Boulder-CO) This just in mere moments away from tip-off: Reggie Evans will start tonight against the Portland Trailblazers. At least someone is paying attention around here... Go get 'em, Reggie!

Nuggets vs. Trailblazers Preview

(Boulder-CO) I am going to call this a must win game for the Nuggets. The Portland Trailblazers are a team that is struggling, just like the Nuggets, but will be struggling for much longer after the Nuggets right the ship. The Nuggets, on the road, are 7-7 this year and when you figure that Portland only scores 92 points a game on average should make a strong case for favorite in this game.

A www.nuggetshoops.com reader is suggesting that George Karl may start Steve Blake tonight and leave the ice cold shooting of Diawara and Smith on the bench. This would not be a bad move in my assessment, regardless of the fact that the Nuggets have changed their starting line-up more than ten times since the suspensions transpired, because it gives Iverson the maneuverability to play the two spot and move freely without the ball. Blake is more than capable of handling all the pressure that Portland wants to throw at him in the backcourt and he should be juiced up to play against a former team.

The Trailblazers are a pretty easy team to figure out in all honesty. Their scoring and rebounding bulk is managed by Zach Randolph, Jared Jack is dishing a handful of assists every night, and the Nuggets just have to keep an eye on Joel Przybilla when driving to the rack. They do not have any set guys that are going to kill you night-in and night-out with huge numbers, but they do have a bunch of players that contribute equally. They nearly have five guys averaging better than seven points, so if the Nuggets can just keep Randolph around 20, they should be alright as long as they keep everyone else in check.

I am lobbying for Reggie Evans to play far more than his average 20 minutes tonight against the Trailblazers. I think that he is the only guy we have that can realistically match-up with Z-Ran, and to be quite frank with you, should get more minutes regardless. He is fourth overall, second when you take out two guys that only play a combined eight minutes on average, in rebounds per 48 minutes at a wicked clip of 20.3 boards a game. Granted his offensive abilities are limited, but isn’t that what we landed AI for? Isn’t that why we maneuvered for J.R.? And isn’t that why we all love Carmelo? We need to start playing guys that do not care about touches on the offensive end and who roll up their sleeves protecting our basket. Reggie is one of those guys and I can guarantee you that he will not be launching any flat-footed threes (as I look in Najera‘s direction)…

I love Eduardo Najera’s hustle, but after a while I just get sick of the lack of tangible numbers he puts up. They ALL hustle, folks, and it is time that George Karl gives the guys that are being more productive a larger slice of the pie. I personally would like to see the starting five of AI, Blake, DerMarr Johnson (for defensive purposes), Evans, and Camby tonight, although it’s not going to happen. DJ will most likely not get off the bench, just like against the Rockets, while Karl watches everyone else post grotesque shooting percentages instead of even thinking of rolling the dice.

So here is what it all boils down to, the Nuggets are like a badly wounded animal that is cornered and defending their young. If there was ever a game that was both winnable, and drastically critical this is that game. I’m predicting the Nuggets put up a crazy intense showing, maybe even draw a couple of technicals, and win against the Trailblazers. Period and point in case!