Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The first thing we are all going to notice is Kenyon Martin back in the line-up. He is listed as the probable starting power forward and has had such a long and rocky road to travel to the get back to this point in his career it’s hard not to root for him. I predicted Kenyon to win the Comeback Player of the Year in my NBA Blog Preview, and although it’s only game numero uno, I think he is going turn things around this year after having to be away from the game for so long. He’ll be wearing his old number “4” to get back to his college roots too, so hopefully we will be seeing a lot of blue light specials out of one they call K-Mart.
From there you can take your pick of many old familiar favorites off of this Nuggets roster.
Carmelo is definitely going to put on a scoring exhibition. Kobe Bryant opened up the season with 45 points last night and I’m sure that ‘Melo is aware of it. Look for Carmelo to get things going early down in the blocks before opening up that jumper with the jab step.
Marcus Camby is capable of going for 20 rebounds any night. He also will be circling the bucket like a vulture all night swatting shots, hitting jumpers from the top of the key, and leading a couple of fast breaks without doubt. Look for Marcus to set the tone defensively for the Nuggets and take notice of how this team follows suit. Defensive toughness was stressed all training camp and tonight we really get our first glimpse of whether or not the concept was absorbed.
AI is also going to do his thing regardless of what position he ends up playing. It doesn’t really matter if he plays point or shooting guard because I think we would all agree that the ball is going to be in AI’s hands a good share of the time. And keep an eye on his assist total because it will be interesting to keep track of the win/loss record in games that AI does and doesn’t reach double figures in dimes all season long. If there turns out to be a direct correlation in Nuggets wins maybe he does need to adjust his game and become the full-time point guard after all. And while we’re in the backcourt, I’m also interested in seeing who steps up at the other guard position. The Nuggets have J.R. Smith trying to stay in good graces although he is supsended for tonight's game, Von Wafer looking to break through, the strong preseason finish of Bobby Jones, and Linas Kleiza all ready and available.
And the last major thing to keep in mind is an old Doug Moeism that says the first team to a hundred wins. The Nuggets should be able to get up and down the floor putting up points in bunches and should easily score at least a hundred points tonight against the Sonics. My prediction for tonight is Nuggets by eight.
Who’s with me?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Many of you may already know this, but I do not like Allen Iverson, with his historically one-on-one mastery, running the point. He is a creator. And like many creators from the history books before him, he is always near the top of the turnover leaders in the league. Does this diminish his contribution to the team? Absolutely not, but what it takes to be a creator in the game of basketball is not always synonymous with what it takes to be a great point guard.
A true point guard will always bring the ball down the floor and, unless he has an obvious exploitable mismatch, will immediately snap out the first pass of the offensive set and continue to carry out the rest his duties. This may include setting a screen, curling off a screen, flaring out of the paint after a short cut to position himself for an entry to a post player, or directing traffic to most advantageously put his team in a position to score.
Now, with all that being said, can Allen Iverson do this? The Answer, pardon the pun, is an emphatic “yes!” But is that what the Nuggets need him to do? My answer to that is an emphatic “no!” The Nuggets need Iverson to be on the receiving end of the ball and not distributing it. They need AI on the wing, curling off of double screens set by the bigs, stopping and popping, shaking and baking, and dribble penetrating the paint while slicing through defenses like a bird in the wind because Iverson is at his best when passing off to a man that is freed from a defensively rotating opponent after he leaves his man standing as if their feet were in concrete.
The difference, Nuggets Nation is point guards distribute to create, and therefore are not creators. Allen Iverson creates distribution and therein lies the pivotal difference.
So, what do I suggest the Nuggets do?
I suggest the Nuggets start veteran Mike Wilks at point guard and keep Allen Iverson free from having to do too much too early and see how it works. Forget about starting Yakhouba Diawara at shooting guard. Such a move will only slow the team down offensively because he doesn’t move very well off the ball and his shot selection is still in need of a little contextual work. The Yak averaged 4.4 points a game last season while shooting 28% from behind the three-point line with a combined 31.5% from the field in total. Statistically not becoming of a starting shooting guard in this league with the point being he is not ready to start in the backcourt for a team with as high of expectations as the Nuggets. It’s too much pressure for the second year player, and with so much seasoning in a guy like Wilks, why not just save ‘Khouba for defensive purposes? That is where he is going to be able to help this team the most, and in the game of NBA chess… Trying to use a rook for the job of a knight is surely going to leave you with your king wide open.
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Monday, October 29, 2007
1. Allen Iverson - 21.0 ppg
2. Carmelo Anthony - 19.0 ppg
3. J.R. Smith - 16.0 ppg
4. Linas Kleiza - 15.8 ppg
1. Allen Iverson - 6.0 apg
2. Anthony Roberson - 4.4 apg
3. Eduardo Najera - 4.0 apg
4. Carmelo Anthony 3.0 apg
1. Marcus Camby - 15.0 rpg
2. Eduardo Najera - 8.0 rpg
3. Carmelo Anthony- 5.6 rpg
4. Jelani McCoy - 5.5 rpg
1. Carmelo Anthony - 4.2 tpg
2. Allen Iverson - 2.67 tpg
3. J.R. Smith - 2.67 tpg
4. Anthony Roberson - 2.40 tpg
1. Marcus Camby - 2.0 spg
2. Nene - 2.0 spg
3. J.R. Smith - 1.67 spg
4. Carmelo Anthony 1.6 spg
1. Jelani McCoy - 69.2%
2. Steven Hunter - 68.8%
3. Nene - 62.5%
4. Kenyon Martin - 61.9%
1. Bobby Jones - 50%
2. Anthony Roberson 45.8%
3. Allen Iverson - 44.4%
4. Von Wafer - 40%
1. Eduardo Najera, Chucky Atkins, Brad Stricker, and Stacey Augmon - 100%
2. Anthony Roberson - 85.7%
3. Carmelo Anthony - 81%
4. Allen Iverson - 80%
Saturday, October 27, 2007
First off, do you remember Linas Kleiza? You know that Lithuanian guy... Well, It was awesome to see LK break loose and score a game-high 34 points! Linas is going to have a big role this year and you might as well grab him on your http://www.protrade.com/ or fantasy team right now.
Secondly, AI gave the Nuggets 31 points and 10 assists. Big distribution nights for AI are going to be critical to the Nuggets success. Furthermore, anytime the Answer drops 30 you can expect Denver to win.
Next up is how the Nuggets put 133 points on Portland with not a lot of stars on the floor. Denver could very well improve offensively in comparison to last year as they learn to turn up the intensity on defense.
Counter point: Denver allowed Portland to score 125. Still a lot of work to do on the defensive end.
The most amusing part of the boxscore is Steve Blake's eight points. Does anyone disagree that the Nuggets were well advised to let him walk?
And finally, what is everyone wearing to the Pepsi Center on opening night?
Friday, October 26, 2007
I Want to be a Sports Agent
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Thursday, October 25, 2007
Denver, with its starters in for the first half, jumped out to a twelve point lead at the break mainly due to attacking the basket early and often. Kenyon, Anthony, and Iverson all had really nice takes to the cup with the Nuggets in total scoring 22 points on either driving lay-ups or dunks. Shooting percentages were high at this point with 18 more points coming off of the charity stripe, but once the starters were summoned back to the bench all things statistically went down hill.
And so did the defense in the third quarter as the Nuggets allowed Phoenix to score 39 points in total including four three-pointers and only rebutted with 15 points of their own.
A once 12-point Nugget lead was suddenly erased and replaced with a 12-point advantage for Phoenix and George Karl had seen enough. It was time to see if the Nugget reserves could provide the courage to somehow win with a mountain to climb. And to their credit, they did fight valiantly to the end.
Offensively, the Nuggets were paced by the dynamic duo of Allen Iverson (24 points and three assists) and Carmelo Anthony (22 points and five rebounds). Only two other Nuggets, (Bobby Jones and J.R. Smith), scored in double figures in comparison to seven for the Suns.
Up next for the Nuggets are the Portland Trailblazers in Portland tomorrow night. Hopefully a more favorable outcome is in store for the Nuggets Nation.
Surprisingly, the Nuggets are not picked to win their division, (they were last year and as we all know didn’t), but maybe this year it will be a flip-flop from last when the Jazz weren’t picked to win it either. Go check out what the real guys controlling the league think and get at me in the comments section!
So, what do we know about the Suns? Obviously, they have the little go-go Steve Nash, Amare, and the on-again, off-again disgruntle Marion, but this team has also made some moves during the off-season that are of note. First, they landed the ever so fragile, but still very capable, Grant Hill. Another player I like that they have acquired is D.J. Strawberry. I’ve watched a lot D.J.’s game last year with the fighting turtles of Maryland and I can tell you that he is an outstanding player. He has a good shooting stroke, makes smart decisions, and is very athletic despite being a slender 6’5”.
And we can pretty much expect this one to be a barn burner. The Suns led the league last year with an average scoring pitch of 108.4 points a game as a result of Mike D’Antoni’s fastbeaking attack. The Nuggets came in at fifth in overall scoring at 100.3 points per game, however, Phoenix did have a better average margin of victory (5.6 points) in comparison to the Nuggets just barely squeaking by with two tenths separating what they gave up on the other end of the floor.
Other than that, I’m not going to guess as to who is going to play and who isn’t, but the game starts at eight o’clock MST on TNT and it should be a fun one. Also, be sure to check out these great Phoenix Suns sites for more information on tonight’s opponent.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Not too many surprises on this cut list, but I did think that with the point guard situation looking as banged up as it is that Anthony Roberson might have stuck around a little bit longer. Especially since the Nuggets roster now stands at 14 players and the NBA roster limit stipulates that a team must have 12 active players at any given time, but also must have at least one “inactive” player with a maximum of three.
Now the current roster looks a little something like this:
*denotes probable starter for opening night
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Denver was led offensively by Allen Iverson’s team high 21 points and six assists. AI also added five rebounds and a steal in 34 minutes of playing time. Other Nuggets of note were Carmelo Anthony (18 points, six boards, two assists, a steal, and a block), Linas Kleiza (12 points and a team-high seven rebounds), Von Wafer (13 points on 4-4 from downtown), and Kenyon Martin who played all of 20 minutes, but gave the Nuggets 10 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block.
However, the biggest story is the first sighting of Big Brazil this season! Although he only played 13 minutes, Nene was effective with six points, four rebounds, two steals, and an assist. And coming in a close second to the Nene story is how J.R. Smith did not play, surprise-surprise…
From what I could tell from just the play-by-play and the gamecast, Denver dominated from start to finish by leading at the half by six and never losing the lead throughout the entire rest of the game. But other than the straight facts, that’s all I got!
Not to mention if J.R. Smith will even need to get suited up after his three ring circus continues to stop at all the wrong places for the Nuggets!
So, my only point of emphasis is for no one else to get hurt against the Milwaukee Bucks tonight at the Pepsi Center.
At first glance, one would venture to say that Denver’s roster is stacked! Carmelo, AI, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year-Marcus Camby, Nene, and former All-Star Kenyon Martin have all carved out their respective places in the NBA. Denver also has a budding talent in the form of Linas Kleiza, an All-World hustle player in Eduardo Najera, and a new sharp-shooting point guard in Chucky Atkins, but never has a single one of the aforementioned been able to raise the Larry O’Brien trophy. In fact, not a single player on the roster has. So, could this be the year that Denver finally brings it home?
Two things are going to dictate how far the Nuggets travel in the 2007-08 campaign. The first is team chemistry. If the Nuggets can find a way for their players to work together, while also achieving the individual accolades, they will surely go deep into the playoffs. Remember, if the spirit of the late Wilt Chamberlain doesn’t possess Kobe Bryant last March it was Carmelo Anthony who would have probably won the NBA scoring title. In addition to this, the Nuggets added a future HOFer and former scoring champion in Allen Iverson midseason, along with other less notable roster shake-ups, and the Nuggets just never really found a way to ideally mesh all their talent. Furthermore, losing Kenyon Martin for the season after the first two great games he played, and Nene needing to lose some weight after returning from his own season-ending injury and you can start to see just how pivotal this year’s team chemistry is going to be.
Equally important for this year’s Nuggets is to not get bitten by the injury bug. For too many seasons now the Nuggets have had an intricate part of their squad go down in their first handful of games. Vashon Leonard, Nene, and Kenyon Martin (twice) are just a few of the Nuggets in recent memory to become seriously hurt in the infancy of a season, not to mention names like LaPhonso Ellis and Calvin Natt come to mind from Denver rosters from further back in the history books. I’m also looking in the direction of Marcus Camby, who has always had his ups and downs with injuries, despite playing in 70 games (second highest total number of regular season games in his career) last year. In summary, Denver has historically been a hotbed for injured NBA players and the Nuggets can ill-afford this trend to continue if they are going to become a team of destiny.
So, aside from those two biggest contingents facing the Denver Nuggets, this team is a solid ten deep. The starting five of Chucky Atkins (14.2 points and 4.6 assists), Allen Iverson (24.8 points, 7.2 assists, and three rebounds), Carmelo Anthony (28.9 points, six rebounds, and 3.8 assists), Nene (12.2 points and seven rebounds), and Marcus Camby (11.2 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, and 3.2 assists) can match up offensively with anyone in the league. Denver then has the five of J.R. Smith, Linas Kleiza, Eduardo Najera, Kenyon Martin, and the newly acquired seven-footer Steven Hunter all ready to spring off George Karl‘s bench. Round out the roster with a young defensive specialist like Yakhouba Diawara and an offensive specialist like Von “Nilla” Wafer and you can see why the expectations are so lofty in the Mile High City.
Finally, building off their regular season record of 45-37 last year and their frustrating/familiar first round exit in the playoffs, the Nuggets need to take the good and separate the bad to take this franchise further than ever before. Individually speaking, George Karl needs to stop coaching through the media, Carmelo needs to rebound more, AI would benefit this team greatly by having less turnovers, Camby, Nene, and Martin all need to stay healthy, J.R. Smith needs to improve his shot selection, Atkins needs to act as a supercharged motor on the fast break, and Linas, Eduardo, and Steven Hunter all need to find their niche for this team to improve. Otherwise, the team with the third highest payroll in the league, a team of destiny if you will, could become a team of disappointment real quick! And by disappointment I mean just barely being better than .500, limping into the playoff picture with a low seed, and consequentially being bounced in the first round yet again while having to suspend one of their pivotal players.
Destiny or disappointment, Denver. What is it going to be?
Had this happened to anyone else but Eduardo and I would be calling this questionable, but still, how are you going to get hurt on some stairs in your own home? Sounds a little bit like some other Denver athletes who have also been injured in bizarre home instances... Good grief!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Taking it to the Rack
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Sunday, October 21, 2007
And while I was initially upset that a suspension had been handed down by Nuggets brass because I assumed it was a late consequence for his first flare up, I could really care less at this point knowing that J.R. himself is 100% to blame for this one.
So, my feelings are if he wants to be out and doing his thing during the twilight of the night where nothing but malarkey goes down so be it, but then don’t issue a statement saying you don’t want to be a, “team cancer”, if that’s where you want to be the night before traveling to Michigan to play the Pistons the same day. And although it was a measly, meaningless preseason game don’t be surprised when the box score reads 4-14 from the field, (including 0-4 with the long ball), with a game-high four turnovers.
Tom Ziller of the AOL Fanhouse thinks J.R. is on thin ice, but I think a more accurate metaphor would be J.R. has broken through the ice and is now treading the icy water of the Denver Nuggets and their patience.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Why they would sign another man under six feet tall is totally beyond me. We already have Chucky Atkins who is all of 5'11", Allen Iverson at maybe an inch taller than that, and both Anthony Roberson and Anthony Carter who are 6'2" each.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
As if typed bright gecko green, the box score illustrates that the Nuggets were abused on the offensive glass. Detroit hit the O-boards to the tune of 22 offensive rebounds because Jelani McCoy was the only Nugget of any size to enter the game. Plus, Denver didn’t do too good of a job rebounding on the other end either as the Pistons finished with 55 total boards-18 more than Denver overall.
About the only bright spots for the Nuggets were J.R. Smith and Eduardo “The Grout“ Najera. Smith finished with a game-high 33 points on 10-19 from the field, three rebounds, two steals, and an assist. It was the first good shooting night of the season for J.R., but he started slow and only began heating up after a few good takes to the hole. The Grout had another great game by giving the Nuggets a double-double of 12 points, eleven rebounds, and six assists.
I do have to say one thing about Detroit’s Jason Maxiel and it’s that J-Max played like an absolute animal. Maxiel finished with tonight’s most impressive stat line of 25 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and a steal. More than that was how he made countless hustle plays like tapping out loose balls, bodying up Denver’s post players, and altering nearly ever shot from about five feet from the basket all night long. ‘Sheed may be the starting big man for the Pistons, but Detroit should be counting their blessings that they have a guy like Maxiel coming off their bench.
The Nuggets now have a five day break until their next preseason rematch with the Bucks in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center. This duration should be good for the banged up Nuggets to rest and for the healthy Nuggets to regroup and refocus. These five days should also give the Nuggets coaching staff a few more practices to make some roster decisions and work on the team’s chemistry. Five days is a long time to wait after a game like this, but it just may be what I need to forget that this one ever happened.
With preseason minutes being monitored closely by the Nuggets coaching staff, Carmelo Anthony is averaging a team-high 18.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. AI is also having a fine preseason with averages of 16.7 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.3 rebounds. Both men didn’t play in the first meeting against the Pistons.
The injury report on tonight’s game lists Linas Kleiza, Chucky Atkins, and Kenyon Martin all as questionable, but I would be very surprised to see Kenyon make an appearance in tonight’s contest simply because the Nuggets training staff will probably give him a day off to rest his knees after such a great performance last night. However, I would be surprised if Chucky Atkins doesn’t see some burn tonight as he has not played now in almost a week after re-tweaking his groin against the Pistons the first time around. Nene is also listed as “out” for tonight’s game and there is no definitive word right now as to when Big Brazil will make his preseason debut.
The Nuggets are 22-6 during the preseason since 2004 and have won 15 of their last 19 preseason contests. Including the 2003 preseason, the Nuggets have an impressive .750 winning percentage (27-9) over the last four-plus years.
I’m putting the line at five tonight and am predicting a Nuggets “revenge” victory. In whatever minutes the Nuggets big guns do play, expect a spirited effort as the preseason is now officially halfway finished.
The game is on NBATV and starts five o’clock MST. Be sure to check out these fine Detroit Pistons sites for more on tonight’s opponent.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
The first half ended with the Nuggets up by six, 49-43, but it was the third quarter when the Nuggets really started to pull away. With a combination of defensive intensity and offensive explosion the Nuggets limited the Bucks to a measly 15 points and notched 33 of their own. What I really liked about this stretch of the game was Denver totally dictated the speed of the game in the third and from that point on coasted to the easy victory.
Right off the bat you have to love the way that Kenyon Martin gets the nod from George Karl to start in his first game back from microfracture surgery almost a year ago. Martin only played 15 minutes in the game, but when he was in he was effective. Sporting his familiar college number "4", Kenyon scored eleven points, cleared five boards, dished out an assists, and stole a ball. K-Mart also played some solid defense on Yi Jianlian in the first half and disrupted the rookie’s low post attempts by out muscling him.
And if you love the way Kenyon made his debut, you have to be elated to see the hustle play of Eduardo Najera available to the Nuggets now too!
He isn’t going to make the highlight reel very much, but Eduardo Najera’s overall effort is second to none. Tonight, Najera gave the Nuggets a game-high nine rebounds (four on the offensive glass), six points, four assists, three steals, and a block in a very utilitarian effort. I could go on and on about how much I love the game of Eduardo Najera, but instead I think I’ll just give him a new nickname. From here on out, I’m going to refer to Eduardo as, “The Grout”, because the guy just fills in all the cracks!
Then you add in the one-two punch of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson and you can start to see how the Nuggets beat the Bucks by 26 points. AI finished tonight’s contest with a game-high 22 points, six assists, two rebounds, and a steal while absolutely giving the Bucks fits on defense. And his Western Conference All-Star counterpart was just as deadly. ‘Melo gave the Nuggets 16 points, eight big boards, three steals, two assists, and a block in a mere 26 minutes of game time.
Up next for the Nuggets is a preseason rematch with the Pistons tomorrow night. The game is on NBATV and starts five o’clock MST. A game preview chalked full of links and insight will be up tomorrow in the AM. The Nuggets now rest at 3-1 with just 14 days until Halloween’s opening night. You with me, Nuggets Nation?
The Bucks are usually led offensively by Michael Redd. Last year, Redd finished with a career-high scoring average of 26.7 points, but has been struggling a bit this preseason to come back to his old form after a season-ending injury sidelined him in early April of last season. His scoring average so far in the 2007-08 preseason is 11.3 points in 26.3 minutes per game.
All in all though this is the type of game that the Nuggets must win come regular season and I would really like to see them finish strong in the fourth quarter. My final line is Nuggets by six. Tip off is set for six o’clock MST.
(Boulder-CO) The NBA Blog Previews continue to roll on and today's offering is the Central Division. Do your homework, Nuggets Nation.
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Last Year's Record: 45-37
Key Losses: Steve Blake and Reggie Evans
Key Additions: Von Wafer, Chucky Atkins, Steven Hunter, and the return of Kenyon Martin
1. What significant moves were made during the off-season? The Nuggets decided to not resign Steve Blake in a move that I agreed 100% with. He was not the kind of point guard that could take this team any further in the post season than he did and he was looking to make way more than the Nuggets should have considered paying him. Denver needed a shooter and speedier fast break general and I think that Chucky gives them that.
Denver also traded Reggie Evans to the Philadelphia 76ers and in return received center Steven Hunter and guard Bobby Jones. The Nuggets had a log jam at the four spot with Nene, the return of Kenyon Martin, and Eduardo Najera, so it was good for both Reggie and the Nuggets to make the move. Steven Hunter serves as a good, inexpensive back up for Marcus Camby in the middle and Bobby Jones is definitely competing for a roster spot.
But the best move the Nuggets made this off-season was signing Von Wafer from the NBDL Colorado 14ers. Von is a shooting guard that I believe is going to really surprise some people this year because he has proven to be an offensive force at every stop on his way to the NBA. Don’t know much about Wafer? Here’s a crash course! “Nilla”, as he likes to be called, averaged 32 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists his junior season while in Lisbon, La playing for Pineview High School. His senior year, he transferred to Heritage Christian Academy in Cleveland, Texas where he averaged 26 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks per game. And for his achievements on the basketball court, Wafer earned All-America third-team honors from USA Today Newspaper following his senior season. Von also was named a McDonalds All-American and scored 29 points on 13 of 20 shooting from the field while clearing 8 rebounds. He matched up well with King James for much of the game and finished second to James in the slam dunk contest.
He then played two years of college hoop at Florida State University before becoming an early entry in the 2005 NBA Draft. His freshman year at FSU Wafer averaged 7.9 points in 17.5 minutes a game. He ranked third among all ACC freshmen with 43 three-point field goals made and scored in double figures 12 times. As a sophomore, he led the team in scoring with an average of 12.5 points per game and made 65 bombs from long range. He made more than one three-point field goal in 14 games and surpassed the 20-point mark on six occasions.
Many people at this point in Wafer’s career thought it was a mistake for him to enter the draft early and some experts didn’t expect him to be drafted at all. In fact, during one of the only pre-draft workouts he could arrange with the Phoenix Suns, Wafer reportedly was frustrated by the physical play from Jan Jagla and responded by swinging an intentional elbow to Jagla’s nose, walked off the court, and ended the workout at that point. Things at this point were not looking good for Wafer’s NBA chances.
However, Von proved all the pessimists wrong by becoming the 39th overall pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2005 NBA Draft. He was later waived, but then did some serious work in the NBDL while playing for the Colorado 14ers. Wafer finished last season as the D-League’s second highest overall scorer at a pitch of 21 points a game while grabbing 2.9 rebounds and dishing 3.3 assists.
Fast forward to this summer’s Las Vegas NBA Summer League.
Von “Nilla” Wafer led the Nuggets in scoring with an average of 24.2 points, plus three assists, and 1.9 rebounds while coming in third overall in the mid-summer classic's scoring race. Not to mention he capped off his summer showcase with a record-tying 42 points against the New York Knicks in only a mere 26 minutes of playing time.
There, now you have no excuse for not knowing about Von Wafer!
2. What are the team's biggest strengths? Obviously, the Nuggets are an offensive juggernaut. ‘Melo, AI, and the rest of the fast-breaking Nuggets are going to put up major numbers on most teams. I’m also looking for ’Melo to once again be among the league’s leading scorers.
3. What are the team's biggest weaknesses? Defense and chemistry are going to be equally challenging for the Nuggets. Even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Camby, the Nuggets biggest area to improve is defense. They gave up way too many points to teams that struggled offensively last year and lost too many games because of it. Chemistry is also going to be an obstacle to overcome in Denver. AI and Carmelo need to learn how to bring out the best in each other. Plus, the return of Kenyon Martin is going to provide another wrinkle in the roster that George Karl is going to have to manage. Who plays well with who is going to be just as important as who steps up and plays well this year for the Nuggets, and George Karl is going to have his hands full shuffling the full deck of talented players the Nuggets have on their roster.
4. What are the goals for this team? The Nuggets first goal should be to finish in the top four seeds in the Western Conference Playoff picture. This is going to take at least 50 wins in the regular season and would prevent them from running into a buzz saw like San Antonio in the first round. This should also help them in accomplishing what I feel is their second goal of getting out of the first round of the playoffs. From there I feel like the sky is the limit for this year’s Denver Nuggets.
5. Any wild predictions for this upcoming season? Actually, I’m glad you asked that! I think that Kenyon Martin is going to have a big year and win Comeback Player of the Year. He is attempting to be one of the only players ever to come back from microfracture surgery on both knees and he is really refocused on returning to the level formerly expected out of him.
Predicted Record: 53-29 and the Nuggets will march all the way to the Western Conference Finals!
Monday, October 15, 2007
Tomasson also gets Coach George Karl’s take on the incident. Chris writes, “Asked if Smith not playing had anything to do with the week’s events, Karl said, ‘I don’t think so, but you can write whatever you want.’”
Sure, George… We all believe you, but at least you’re not going to talk about it in the media after two preseason games! But just to reassure you that George Karl isn’t a completely changed man he goes on to elaborate on J.R.’s performance in the Nuggets loss to the Pistons and said, "I don't remember (the points) as much as I remember his mistakes."
So what can we take from all this convoluted mixed messaging? I think that while George Karl isn’t going to make a mountain out of a mole hill, J.R. Smith is really toeing a thin line with Karl. It is clear to see in the box scores of the first three games that J.R. has some serious heat on him from Wafer and Linas Kleiza. There has even been more and more serious talk about “finding” a position to utilize Linas in because of the high number of minutes ‘Melo is set to most likely play at the small forward position. And if any one is keeping track of Wafer’s performances in a head-to-head capacity with J.R. Smith. Wafer’s averages for the first three preseason games are 14 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and less than one turnover a game. J.R.’s averages for both games that he has appeared in are 14 points, two rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 3.5 turnovers a game. Oh, and are you wondering how George feels about Wafer’s defense? In the same article, George comments, “I thought Von was awful defensively in the first half and pretty damn good in the second half.”
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Both teams played well in spurts and equaled each other’s output in the first three quarters. In the first, Denver came out lethargic and only managed to score 20 points as the Pistons put 29 on them in return. George Karl started an unorthodox line-up of Yakhouba Diawara, Linas Kleiza, Marcus Camby, and Stacey Augmon with point guard Chucky Atkins seeing his first preseason action and the Nuggets looked out of sync. On the other hand, the Pistons started their usual five of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Antonio McDyess, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace and had no trouble getting into a rhythm early. However, Denver did managed to put together a better second quarter, matching the Piston’s 34 points in the period, and in doing so kept things reasonable going into the second half.
In the third, Denver managed to make up the nine points they fell behind by in the first quarter by outscoring the Pistons, 25-16, largely in part to a tremendous turnaround on the defensive end. Marcus Camby’s impact on the boards,(he had ten huge rebounds alone in the quarter), started it all and the rest of the Nuggets really turned the heat up on the Pistons to tie things at 79 going into the final quarter of play.
The final minutes in the fourth were where the game was decided and it was a lack of execution and poor decisions that resulted in the Nuggets taking the L. For instance, with 90 seconds remaining and the Pistons leading, 103-102, J.R. Smith had a lay-up swatted by Jason Maxiel, an offensive foul resulting in a turnover, and a loose ball frustration foul all in the matter of about 30 seconds. Now J.R. isn’t solely to blame for the Nuggets loss, but this terrible stretch was the straw that broke the camel’s back and it allowed the Pistons to take control of the game because it gave them two free-throws, (which they made good on), and put the Nuggets in an immediate foul situation. And credit has to be given to the Pistons for stepping up to the line and knocking down their final four free-throws to ice the game in the final 20 seconds.
Offensive leaders for the Nuggets were Anthony Roberson with 22 points, Bobby Jones with 17 points, and Von Wafer with 16 points, respectively. Both Roberson and Jones also each passed out four assists and Marcus Camby grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds. It should also be noted that J.R. Smith, while finishing with 13 points, missed all four of his three-point attempts and in doing so has missed the last 23 threes he has attempted carrying over to last season’s playoffs.
The DNP list for the Nuggets was long with Carmelo, Kenyon, Eduardo, Nene, and AI all not entering the game. Denver is now 2-1 in preseason play and faces the Bucks in Milwaukee on Tuesday night.
The J.R. situation intrigues me in so many ways. First, you would think that after the kind of off-season that J.R. had he would want to just focus on basketball and nothing else, but somehow he has found a way to lock horns with Karl again. Only this time, the Nuggets have far more mature options as far as who they can play at the reserve shooting guard position and because of so J.R. could easily find himself sitting at the end of the bench if he is not careful.
Related to this is the pleasantly surprising play of Von Wafer. Von scored 17 in the Nuggets first outing and followed that up with a ten-point showing against the Trailblazers. While neither game was statistically monstrous, Von showed that he can help this team quite nicely in a reserve role and if his defense can continue to improve he will almost certainly lock himself into the good graces of Karl and the coaching staff. A tremendous opportunity is in front of Wafer and I hope he can seize it.
Another bright spot for the Nuggets has been the unselfish play of Allen Iverson. His first showing was a seven assist, eleven point outing and in his second showing he went for 17 points, four rebounds, and four assists. AI is getting the Nuggets started early in the shot clock and his penetration is leading to a lot of buckets both on the dish and the drive. I’m loving the way Iverson is meshing with ’Melo, Camby, and Linas Kleiza because he isn’t trying to individually force things, but instead is allowing his teammates to get involved and they are rising to the occasion. Major kudos are due to AI so far in this preseason.
As far as a prediction on tonight’s game, I’m thinking that the Nuggets probably have not forgotten about Rasheed Wallace’s 60-foot heave that forced overtime the last time the Nuggets were in Motown. And while I think the game will be close, (which the Nuggets need at this point to work on their fourth quarter execution), I’m calling a victory by three over the Pistons.
Be sure to check out these fantastic Pistons sites for an in-depth look at tonight’s opposition.
Detroit Bad Boys
Saturday, October 13, 2007
Now, I’m sure that there will soon be more to this story from the mainstream media, but the main question that I have is how long will J.R. and Coach George Karl continue to be at odds? Other less important inquiries are will J.R. play against the Pistons on Sunday and will George Karl speak through the media on the matter in the next few days to come?
Friday, October 12, 2007
The big story though is how J.R. Smith did not log a single minute of play in tonight’s game. I talked with a few Nuggets insiders this morning and not a single one of them mentioned any kind of injury J.R. might have sustained in practice or in the last contest, so I’m wondering if there may be something else going on behind the scenes, but more on that later…
The big offensive story from my area of emphasis tonight was the play of Linas Kleiza. LK scored 19 points on 6-11 shooting including 6 of 7 from the free-throw line, passed out three assists, and grabbed two boards in 26 minutes of action. Linas also played some pretty solid defense both on and off the ball. His counter part, Von Wafer, while not playing as effectively as Kleiza or scoring as much played as good if not better than on Tuesday night against the Clippers. ‘Nila started tonight’s game and finished with ten points, two assists, two rebounds, and no turnovers in 22 total minutes played. I think that this game was just as solid as Wafer’s first game because his defense was much better despite still committing four fouls. And in his defense he did pick up a couple of those fouls helping out teammates on penetration and did so in a fashion that prevented easy Portland scores.
Another area that I really like for the Nuggets so far is the high percentage they are shooting from the free-throw line. Denver has started this preseason shooting 80.4% from the charity stripe, including tonight’s collective, 35-42, including no player missing more than two attempts. This is just another area in which the Nuggets can improve on from last season because in many cases this is an area that can also translate into a few more regular season wins from tight games here and there that are won and lost at the line.
And as with no effort at all, Carmelo once again led the Nuggets in scoring with 22 points to go along nicely with his seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Sometimes it seems like ‘Melo is pretty much unstoppable offensively, but it is his passing and willingness to hit the boards that proves there is a continued maturation process still going on with the Nuggets fifth year star. More and more, even ranging back to this past summer’s FIBA games, ‘Melo has been rebounding with an increased regularity.
The next Nuggets preseason game is on Sunday in Detroit against the Pistons, but until then I’ll be keeping my ear to the streets and talking to some people who might be able to shed some light on the situation as to why J.R. didn’t play tonight.
But, the Blazers are a team in rebuilding (put on a 12 month hold by the injury to Greg Oden). They have talent at all their positions. LaMarcus Aldridge is an athletic big man with promise, Portland recently acquired Channing Frye from New York in the Z-Ran trade, reigning Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy is set to have another great year, and the ex-Nugget Steve Blake should feel right at home in his second stint with Portland. And, they too beat the injury depleted Clippers on Wednesday, 111-102.
My players to watch in tonight’s game are Von Wafer, Chucky Atkins (if he plays), Linas Kleiza, and J.R. Smith. We all know that the big three, (that’s right Boston- we have a big three too- and they are just as potent), are going to do their work, but there is a crazy little situation developing at the reserve shooting guard spot between J.R., LK, and ‘Nila. ‘Melo is going to play so many minutes this year that I’m now throwing LK into the shuffle for who is going to be the first guard off the bench for George Karl because he is too valuable of a player to collect cobwebs as he waits for Anthony to need a breather.
And the good thing about playing the Blazers tonight is we will be able to evaluate how all three players defend on Roy. Brandon was the Blazers leading scorer last year at a clip of 16.8 points per game and he is equally capable of shooting the lights out of the gym or challenging defenders at the rack. I suspect he will try to drive on Linas and J.R., but will try to test Wafer’s closing speed with his jumper. Remember, George Karl wants to stress defense this year and I think how each one of these three illustrates their commitment to stopping their delegated match-up is going to play a huge role in how the reserve minutes get divided.
My final prediction is Denver by six.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
(Boulder-CO) When it comes to J.R. Smith, sometimes you have to understand that he just doesn’t have that fundamental of a game. He didn’t go to college. He is the product of a streetball culture. He is often times more style than substance. But does that make him a bad player? Certainly not. Does that mean that George Karl is going to put up with less than intelligent play and allow any of the aforementioned excuses to glaze over bad play? Don’t bet on it.
In today’s Rocky Mountain News Nuggets report George Karl says in regards to Smith‘s often times less than cerebral approach to the game, “Last year, we tolerated it. This year, it probably won't be tolerated.”
And why should he?
J.R. is now 0-19 from the three-point line dating back to last season’s playoffs, and if it weren’t for all of his aggressive drives to the basket late in the Nuggets first preseason game against the Clippers- plus foul shooting- his box score would have been even uglier than the 4-15 shooting night he finished with.
And let me also tell you that J.R. has some damn stiff competition in Von Wafer. ‘Nila may be entering his first full year of NBA basketball, but he has proven to be a solid ball player at every level of competition up to this point. Furthermore, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the one thing that remains constant when the opposition gets bigger, more skilled, cagier, and smarter is the goal’s height, size, and the ability to shoot the basketball. It doesn’t matter if it is the Harlem Globetrotters in different color jerseys just as long as you can put the ball in the basket. The rest of a player’s game may have to change due to the level of competition, but if you can shoot in one league, you can shoot in any.
With all that being said, I do not want to diminish what J.R. Smith could mean to the Denver Nuggets. If he can play headier basketball, make the right pass at the right time, and still incorporate all that flashy streetball stuff into the game than I am all for it. He is a player that can put people in the seats because they know that on any given night at the arena J.R. Smith may blow their mind with an incredible play. And it is sometimes those incredible plays that really boost a team’s morale and sway momentum in the favor of the Nuggets, but the key for J.R. is to learn when and where that kind of play is prudent and when it is not. Because this year if he doesn’t… The Nuggets have far better options than last year and he will find his way back into the dog house of one furious George Karl.
Shades of Blue
CelticsBlog NBA Page
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Offensively, the Nuggets were led by ‘Melo who managed to score 17 points, dish six assists, and grab two rebounds in a limited 25 minutes of action. The good news for Nuggets fans is Anthony didn’t look as if he has skipped a beat after leading Team USA Basketball to the gold medal in the FIBA Americas Games. Especially considering recent mention in the local papers that he was, “a little tired”, from the continuous basketball he’s been playing. Overall, ‘Melo continues to abuse defenders at will , both inside and out, and just watching him for a few minutes gave me goose bumps.
Now, speaking of not skipping a beat, or a rebound for that matter, I have to go off the handle for a second about the performance Marcus Camby put on. Camby grabbed 23 humungous boards in 24 minutes, swatted three shots, dimed four assists, and pitched in 13 points. For the last two seasons Marcus Camby has been the defensive backbone of the Denver Nuggets, and if George Karl wants to improve defensively, it shouldn’t be too long before the rest of the Nuggets become inspired by nights like this by the Cambyman. Marcus was crazy good tonight and while his box score is impressive in its own right, his impact on this game went so much deeper. The man flat out owns the area around the goal and I would even go as far as to say the Clippers, at times, looked intimidated when driving the lane knowing that Camby was lurking somewhere on the week side. And if tonight was any kind of a teaser for the season to come for Camby… Let’s just say defending his Defensive Player of the Year title should be no problem.
Other offensive bright spots for the Nuggets were Von Wafer, J.R. Smith, and Linas Kleiza. The big three off the bench all played well in one capacity or another, but I do not feel that any of them had that great of a showing for differing reasons. Von Wafer matched the 17-point team-high set by ‘Melo and grabbed six boards, but fouled a lot on defense and gave up numerous drives to the cup. J.R. Smith started the game and managed to finish with 15 points, but did so on a dreadful 5-14 shooting night which included a 0-7 showing from long range. Linas Kleiza, who probably played the most well rounded game, finished with 12 points on 5-10 from the field while nabbing three rebounds. Linas didn’t really get a chance to do much attacking of the rim and I feel that for him to establish an early confidence that can carry over the entire length of the season. He has to get things going to the basket so defenders have to respect his drive; thus opening up his outside shooting.
Oh, and I almost forgot… Allen Iverson also plays for this team!
The Answer finished tonight’s game with eleven points, seven assists, and a rebound. AI looked very assertive driving the ball into the Clipper defense, willing to dish to the open man, and still capable of finishing at the rim. The Nuggets will benefit tremendously, (not to mention the kind of flexibility Denver will have substituting for different line-ups), if Allen Iverson is concentrating on getting others involved as a point guard instead of a score-first shooting guard. And it is no secret that Denver is light at the point, but if they would be as fortunate as to have a guy like Allen Iverson transform his game into one that serves the situation around him. I truly believe that there are great things in store for the Nuggets Nation this year.
Up next for the Mile High crew is the Portland Trailblazers on Friday night. I slacked off big time today and didn’t post a game preview article, but swear to you that there will be one for Friday’s game.
But for all of you who forgot about ‘Melo’s legendary screen presence, here is a short snippet from the infamous Stop Snitchin video. I wonder how Larry Brown feels about the “big penny” comment?
(Boulder-CO) It is being reported by the Rocky Mountain News that at least five Nuggets will not see any playing time in tonight’s preseason game against the Clippers. Nene will not play due to a calf strain that has been bothering him since the FIBA Americas Games, Kenyon Martin will not play due to a groin strain suffered in practice in addition to precautionary measures stemming from his second microfracture surgery, Chucky Atkins will also sit due to a tender groin, Eduardo Najera will not play due to a strained back, and Anthony Carter will undergo surgery in his right hand to put in a stabilizing screw that will sideline him for at least another four weeks.
I would also be surprised to see much of Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, or Allen Iverson once the second half kicks off.
Nuggets fans should pay special attention to the shooting guard position because Von Wafer, J.R. Smith, and Linas Kleiza are all competing for minutes coming off of George Karl’s bench. All three players should see considerable amounts of opportunity throughout preseason, but it will be the more defensive minded between J.R. and Von that ends up getting the lion’s share of the minutes at shooting guard.
Monday, October 8, 2007
Sunday, October 7, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
(Boulder-CO) The NBA Blog Previews are back and to get things started here is the entire Atlantic Division broken down by some of the best hoops bloggin' maniacs in the business!
New Jersey Nets
New York Knicks
NBA Blog Previews Official Archives