Benjamin Hochman is reporting ”George Karl was told by someone in the league to prepare without Nene.”
Now that “someone in the league” may have been Byron Scott, but I doubt it. If that is the message he received I have to expect Nene will in fact be suspended for tonight’t tilt in New Orleans. More to come in the game preview.
The Denver Nuggets are showing signs of frustration, both individually and collectively, and it is to their detriment. We all saw Nene lose his cool on Louis Amundson. I wish I could post some video showing what had been going on between the two leading up to Nene’s meltdown, but my DVD recording of the game somehow came up empty.
Ultimately, to me it does not matter what Amundson did or did not do Nene cannot respond the way he did. I do not care if he went Reggie Evans on Nene’s undercarriage what he did was unacceptable. The really sad thing is Nene got away with his little head butt. Had he left it at that no harm done, but it was not enough. He had to drop his elbow on Amundson’s noggin too.
Amundson was not content with Nene getting kicked out of the game, he wants to set up a futon and move into Nene’s head full time. He kept needling Nene after the fact calling him a “fake tough guy” and even a “dirty player” in an interview with Chris Tomasson of In Denver Times.
“I’m playing hard and with a lot of energy, and Nene took exception to the fact that I was going to play physical back with him,’’ Amundson said. “I play hard, but he was playing dirty the whole game. He was elbowing me. … He was hitting me in the head and the neck.’’
Once again I am as upset as you I do not have video of what was really happening, but I believe Nene has let the frustration of missed calls build inside him over the season to a point where after every play he is looking at the referees in disgust. He has to let it go. Where has all the complaining and glaring gotten him? After a while you are only hurting yourself. I have written it before, but if you make a scene after every play it makes it easy for the ref to ignore you. If you are more judicious with your protests it will make a much stronger point.
However, even more important than Nene’s fractured relationship with the officials is that he allowed that frustration to provide the fuel for his actions last night. Amundson may have been the recipient of the tantrum, but he was the just the spark that ignited the primed frustration based fuel.
Tonight the Nuggets face the Hornets in a game that will be even more difficult than the one they lost in Phoenix and there is a possibility they will be facing the Hornets without Nene. If Nene ends up being suspended I am guessing a big reason for it will be his reaction to the flagrant foul call when he tried to get in Bill Spooner’s face. Of course as Scott Hastings pointed out on the broadcast Spooner certainly did not try to avoid a confrontation almost reveling in Nene’s reaction to the call. Regardless of whether or not Spooner welcomed the confrontation Nene must control himself.
Should Maybyner end up missing the Hornets game the Nuggets’ chances for a win fall from unlikely to get ready to play Dallas.
Nene is not the only Nugget in the news for flipping his lid. Linas Kleiza has been fined $25,000 for going off on an official or officials. At this time there are no details. The report states that the confrontation occurred after the Wizards game.
I may have a blank DVD of the Suns game, but thank God I do have all of the Nuggets/Wizards tilt on a DVD so I went back and checked to see if I could see anything. Dahntay Jones shot two free throws with 11 seconds left and Kleiza was paying no attention to the officials and seemed quite docile. Following the final horn Kleiza paid his respects to countryman Darius Songailia and the last I saw him he was turning to walk to the locker room near midcourt. There was one official who was potentially in his path, but a few seconds later when we get a shot of the entire court I could not locate Kleiza, but he was definitely not lingering on the floor and there was no sign of the referees either.
Once again whatever frustration Kleiza felt was most likely due to the fact he has not hit a non sky hook three point shot in a couple of weeks. Fortunately for the Nuggets the only problem is Kleiza might continue his downward spiral, but as long as his minutes keep shrinking, no harm done.
Above and beyond these two incidents I am seriously concerned about the mental state of this team and I am not only talking about the players. George Karl has been up to his old tricks downplaying the importance of any single game or series of games. The Nuggets “stated goal” for the three game road trip is to win two of the three games.
What on earth is wrong with saying our goal is to win all three games, take advantage of the way the Spurs have opened the door for us to challenge them for the second seed and take the second seed for ourselves? I would love to hear my team talk like that. It would fire me up. This may sound a bit wacky and forgive me for thinking such ridiculous thoughts, but maybe that type of attitude might even spill over into their play on the floor. Instead of coming out flatter than the back tire of Charles Barkley’s scooter maybe, just maybe, they would be fired up to meet a challenge instead of lulled into a false sense of security.
I strongly believe organizations win championships and as long as the Nuggets are managing risk by aiming for ten win months or hoping to split these games or those games the players will never be pushed to excel and mediocrity will rule the day.
This team has always been a little too content with itself. Last year the reasoning was “So what if we are only the eighth seed and have to play the top seeded Lakers, we won 50 games and that makes us a special team.” Never mind the fact that on average there are six 50 win teams in the Western Conference every season. How special is that? If you end up in the top 40% of something is it a cause for celebration? In fact the Nuggets were not even that good. They were eighth out of 15 teams, but the season was still seen as a feather in the organization’s plucked cap.
If someone told me I was in the top eight out of the 15 Nuggets blogs on the Internet I would not be patting myself on the back even if I had just made my first post the day before. If my daughter tells me I am in the top eight dads of the kids in her class I am not going to tell everyone how there were a lot of great dads I had to compete with.
We have talked at length about how Denver has struggled after the All-Star break. Let me put it in perspective for you. Out of the nine teams vying for a playoff spot in the west Denver has far and away the worst record. Thanks to their five game winning streak against the Thunder, Clippers, Nets, Grizzlies and Wizards (woo-hoo!) Denver is 9-9 since the break. Utah is 14-3, New Orleans is 14-5, Houston is 15-5, Portland is 12-8 and even the Mavs (13-7) and Suns (13-8) have better post break records. The Spurs are the only team who is close to slumping as badly as the Nuggets and they are still 11-8 even though Manu Ginobili is out and they have been resting Tim Duncan.
The Nuggets are practically in a dead heat with the six teams fighting for the three up for grabs home court positions and they are the only team who is in a state of disarray.
After the loss to the Rockets I proclaimed I believed the Nuggets were heading for another first round exit. With their sloppy play over their five game winning streak and then the loss in Phoenix last night I still stand firmly behind that post.
Actual quote from Carmelo Anthony:
“People want to touch their fans.”
Thanks Carmelo, but I have never thought of you in that way. I am trying to be nice, but I do not want you to get the wrong idea, it’s not me, it’s you.
Fortunately, Melo was talking about Twitter and why NBA players want to tweet during halftime.
For a big picture breakdown of last night’s game click here and go to item number two. I will post some additional nuggets with the game stats later this afternoon.
- Finally Updated -
Additional Game 71 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 97.9
Defensive Efficiency: 120.5 – The Suns have been on fire lately, but there is no excuse for the kind of performance the Nuggets put forth. The only reason their defensive efficiency was not higher was the Suns committed 20 turnovers.
Offensive Efficiency: 117.5 – That should be good enough to win.
Once again the Denver Nuggets have to prove it. I consider a prove it game to be a pivotal game against a good team where you need to prove that you are as good as you want people to think you are. Denver has not done too well in “prove it games” this season.
Prove it game number one – Game 13: The Nuggets were 7-1 after acquiring Chauncey Billups including the big win over Boston as they headed into L.A. to face the Lakers. They were absolutely demolished in a game that was nowhere near as close as the 104-90 final score.
Prove it game number two – Game 20: After recovering from the loss to the Lakers by winning five of six the Nuggets were poised to send a message to the visiting Spurs and were rolled 108-91.
Prove it game number three – Game 26: The Nuggets bounced back from the loss to the Spurs by winning four straight before losing a game at Houston. Denver returned home to play the Cavs and Cleveland won so easily they probably thought it was just a scrimmage.
Prove it game number four – Game 53: The Nuggets predictably bounced back from the 44 point drubbing at the hands of the Nets to wipe out the Heat. The next night they were in Orlando where they had not won in years. Denver pulled out a huge 82-73 win.
Prove it game number five – Game 63: The Nuggets finally beat the Lakers and then promptly dropped games at Indiana and at Detroit, but bounced back to beat the Trail Blazers in Denver. Denver then traveled to Utah and the Nuggets got off to a great start only to get shredded by the Jazz in the closing minutes of the second and then the third quarter.
The Nuggets now have three straight prove it games on the road starting tonight in Phoenix and we are running out of season to bounce back from a poor performance.
The one thing you need to know about Phoenix is the offense is back. It may not be as flashy as when Steve Nash was running a three point circus with Amare flying down the middle for monster dunk after manhood stealing monster dunk. John Hollinger recently pointed out that even with the plodding Shaq and an aging Nash since Alvin Gentry took over the Suns are on a league record pace for offensive efficiency posting a 117.7 (as of March 17).
The Nuggets have won five straight games, but their play has not been what you would call exemplary. I especially have not been pleased with their defense. They have been content to play a solid quarter of defense here and there and then coast to a victory. They cannot afford to do that against the Suns.
Leandro Barbosa is out, but over the past couple of games Jason Richardson has looked like he did in Golden State with point totals of 31, 25 and 35. They may not have Joe Johnson, Quentin Richardson, Jim Jackson or Casey Jacobson anymore, but they can still hurt you with the three thanks to Nash, Richardson and yes, Matt Barnes. The Nuggets have been struggling to defend the three and over the month of March the Suns have bumped up their three point attempts to 20.9 per game and are making 39.1% of them. They also have the surprisingly spry Shaq roaming the paint who is capable of either overpowering you or making a crafty pass to take advantage of any out of position defenders. The bottom line is if you miss on your rotations, fail to cover the pick and roll, fall asleep on the weak side or just flat out get out of position, the Suns will torch you and the Nuggets have struggled in all of those areas recently.
Keep in mind the Suns will have to stop the Nuggets as they can certainly put the ball in the hoop pretty well themselves. The Suns do not have any good defensive matchups for Carmelo Anthony or J.R. Smith and Chauncey will need to make Nash work on defense as well.
We have seen the Nuggets play lockdown defense this season and they are certainly capable of holding the Suns in check, but as I have said, this is a prove it game. I am going into tonight not expecting anything from Denver. They will have to show me they are ready to win.
Take this with you: The Nuggets have lost eight straight games at Phoenix. If you think that is bad, they have lost 17 of their last 21 in Phoenix too. And just to make sure you are not overconfident they have lost 37 of their last 44 contests in Phoenix. I do not care if Phoenix is currently ninth in the conference a win tonight will be a nice accomplishment.
Apparently the Denver Nuggets did not learn much from their battle against the Grizzlies. Despite cruising to a relatively easy 116-105 win against the Washington Wizards the Nuggets played incredibly soft defense in the first quarter and allowed the Wizards to get off to a very good start.
Antawn Jamison shredded Kenyon Martin with his typical variety of offensive talents. From awkward push shots to long range bombs Kenyon had no shot at slowing down Jamison. The sad thing was at least he was trying to defend Jamison because neither he nor any of the other Nuggets seemed interested in playing any team defense.
Kenyon may have had a difficult time with Jamison and I do not think anyone will think any less of him because of it, but Nene was the real problem on defense. With 7:57 left in the first quarter Kenyon faded back into the lane as James dribbled away from a screen set by Jamison. James passed it back to the wide open Jamison, but J.R. Smith rotated very crisply and Jamison passed to Dominic McGuire, who J.R. left to cover Jamison. Kenyon was still in the lane and Nene was covering Darius Songaila in the corner. Kenyon started drifting towards the corner expecting Nene to rotate up to McGuire. Nene never budged and then Kenyon just decided that if Nene was not going to cover McGuire neither was he and he just hung back in the lane. McGuire drove into the lane and hit a runner over Kenyon all made possible by Nene’s decision to impersonate a statue.
To make things worse the Nuggets were switching a lot of screens. Nene allowed a layup by Jamison on a pick and roll when he started to switch with J.R. and ran towards the weak side with McGuire even though J.R. was right there. Songailia then set a screen for Jamison and Nene was nowhere to be found.
Kenyon was called for his second foul at 3:05 of the first quarter on a sequence where James cut through to the right corner and Jamison cut up to the right wing. Instead of sticking with their men Chauncey and Kenyon switched. Jamison cut to the rim and Chauncey was not big enough to defend him. Kenyon was having to play further from the lane than normal due to James’ ability to hit the three. When Jamison received the pass Chauncey could not stop him and Kenyon was too far out to help at the rim.
J.R. Smith was the real story of the night though. His play on offense was nothing short of exceptional. He posted his second career 40 point game and what was most impressive about it was it was not due to a barrage of threes. He only scored nine of his 40 points on threes. His career high 43 points were generated largely by his 8-15 performance from behind the arc. We should have known J.R. was in for a big night when he scored the first bucket of the game from the post. I think it was the first time in his career that Smith scored from the block. He caught the ball, spun baseline on the bigger McGuire and laid the ball in on the far side of the rim.
J.R. was in the lane all night long. He scored 22 points in the paint on a variety of drives, dunks and short jumpers. He even dropped in a running hook. His defense has been better ever since the last Laker game where he took the challenge of guarding Kobe Bryant. Offensively he has taken his game to another level since being named a starter.
If there is something that can push the Nuggets to a higher level down the stretch and in the playoffs it would be J.R. taking another step forward on offense.
While the Nuggets did capitalize on the recent five game stretch against inferior opposition to get back into first place in the Northwest Division and back to 20 games over .500 they only played two quarters of exceptional defense, the first quarter against the Nets and the fourth against the Grizzlies. They now embark on a crucial three game road trip that takes them to Phoenix, New Orleans and Dallas. They may have a five game winning streak, but they will need to raise their level of play on defense in order to earn success in any of those three games.
Additional Game 70 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 101.0 – Highest pace factor since game 45 at Memphis (101.6). The 42 combined turnovers played a factor in that as did the fact the Nuggets really ran the floor well in the last three quarters.
Defensive Efficiency: 104.0 – Solid, but not great. They did force 23 turnovers. Denver had not forced more than 16 turnovers in a single game since the game in Orlando immediately preceding the All-Star break.
Offensive Efficiency: 114.9 – Chauncey was pretty bad and 19 turnovers did not help, but the Nuggets did shoot 53.0%.
Featured Blog: Bullets Forever
The Washington Wizards return to the Pepsi Center missing four players who would be starters under normal circumstances. Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood are all out and Caron Bulter is unlikely to play due to an inflamed hamstring.
The last time the Wizards were on the court was in Los Angeles and the Wiz watched helplessly as a 95-95 fourth quarter tie rapidly morphed into a 123-108 loss. The kicker is they did not sacrifice the game at the altar of the Lakers. It was against the Clippers that they gave up the game deciding 28-13 run. It was so bad that a perpetually disinterested Baron Davis collected 20 assists.
It all adds up to what should be the easiest win of the group of weaker squads who have been lined up in the Nuggets path during their four game winning streak. The only question is will the Nuggets jump out to an early lead, give it back and then roll late in the game (a la the Clippers, Thunder and Nets games) or will they fall behind and be forced to storm back (thank you once again Memphis)?
The Wizards are not devoid of talent. Antawn Jamison is a true professional giving it his all night after night when most veterans would be mailing it in. I still hold out hope that Andray Blatche will turn into a more dominant Lamar Odom and Dominic McGuire does a great job of corralling rebounds and handing out assists while possessing a complete lack of ability to score. Plus JaVale McGee is a good energy player with some nice potential. (I also still think Javaris Crittenton could turn into a nice player, but good luck getting me to admit it in public. Ah, dang it.)
From the Nuggets perspective, look for Carmelo Anthony to be licking his chops at another shot at the Wizards. The last time Washington was in town Melo hung 49 on the Wizards and by the end of the game Antawn Jamison was on one side and another Wizard player (Andray Blatche? I do not remember who it was) was on the other and they basically bear hugged him in order to prevent him from getting another shot off and potentially scoring 50.
The Wizards also have no one capable of hanging with Nene in the paint or with J.R. on the perimeter. Heck, the Wiz even gave up Dahntay Jones’ season high of 18 points just a few weeks ago.
Look for Kenyon Martin to play once again and to probably test his back again in the second half.
In more disturbing news Stumbleweed pointed out that George Karl has said that Linas Kleiza deserves more minutes. Kleia has had roughly 65 games to get out of his months long slump. If we lose Renaldo Balkman to Karl wanting to give Kleiza an even greater opportunity than he already has I may have to quit blogging. I realize Kleiza has been a good weapon off the bench in the past, but the team is bigger than Kleiza’s search for his wayward shot. Anyway you look at it empirically or statistically Balkman is the superior player. I would go on, but I do not want to get too bent out of shape over something that has not even happened yet.
The only thing that concerns me (other than Kleiza supplanting Balkman in the rotation) is the potential for the Nuggets to be looking forward to the huge three game roadie coming up following tonight’s game. The chance that they might overlook Washington is there although the dog fight they experienced in Memphis should help remind them of the importance of focusing on every opponent from here on out.
Previous Matchup: Game 50 – Den 124 Was 103
Featured Blog: Bullets Forever
I know you all have been waiting with baited breath to see the green jerseys the Nuggets will be wearing on April 2nd and 4th to promote NBA Green Week.
Photo courtesy of the Denver Nuggets
I have to say as far as green Nuggets jerseys go, this one is pretty cool. I like the fact they kept the yellow accents and did not go with a lighter green. Now if we can just get the black rainbow jersey in the rotation I will be happy.
Photographed by: Rick Stewart/Getty Images
What do you guys think?
I mentioned in my game recap of the Denver Nuggets 121-96 victory over the New Jersey Nets that Denver played very strong pick and roll defense. I purposely left the details out because I was planning on putting together some video evidence so here you go. Take note of how the Nuggets defended as a group and every movement was done deliberately with a purpose behind it.
The frustrating thing is watching them defend the pick and roll correctly it really is not that difficult. No one is doing anything superhuman or spectacular. To be fair, defending the pick and roll against Keyon Dooling is slightly easier than when Devin Harris has the ball, but the same principles apply no matter who is dribbling the ball.
Is the back back to normal for Kenyon Martin?
According to Chris Tomasson of InDenverTimes.com Kenyon Martin is hoping to return to his regular minutes as soon as tomorrow against the Washington Wizards. When asked how much he would play Kenyon responded, “Probably regular minutes. I think so.” The reason Kenyon thinks he is ready to expand his role once again is based on how well his back responded to playing the final 33.2 seconds against the Grizzlies last night.
George Karl might not be quite so quick to push Kenyon back into his regular court time saying, “I’m not going to go from playing him one game 15 minutes and one game (24) minutes to all of a sudden playing him 35 minutes. I’m going to feel out the situation.’’
I agree with Karl. Kenyon’s health is too important to suddenly decide that he is fine and jump back into his old routine just because his back responded well to a 30 second cameo. Especially in a game against the Wizards when the Nuggets should be able to earn a relatively easy win with Kenyon resting comfortably on the courtside padded chairs.
Doug Moe spreading his Doug Moe-ness
Did you know that the NBA celebrated Heritage Week a couple of weeks ago? Me neither. Anyway as part of the festivities Doug Moe was interviewed on NBA TV by Andre Aldridge and Eric Snow. Moe discusses his early coaching days with Larry Brown, if the old timers really were more fundamental and of course, if you can win a title with a running team.
Check out the full interview by clicking here.
Benjamin Hochman shared some quotes he has collected from George Karl on some timely topics, although they may not be so timely a day later. Nothing too earth shattering, but Karl does hit on a “cockiness” that may have lead to the Nuggets recent road failures and wonders if some players try too hard to draw a foul instead of make a shot from time to time.
The Nuggets are going to break out some green uniforms as part of the inaugural NBA Green Week. They will wear the green duds against the Utah Jazz on April 2nd and against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 4th. The uniforms will be unveiled this evening (March 19th) by George Karl when he represents Kronke Sports Enterprises and their Play Clean: Eco Friendly Entertainment initiative at the Sustainable Opportunity Summit being held at the Colorado Convention Center.
I will pass on a picture of the green unis when I see one. All I know is it ain’t easy being green (warning graphic muppet content). I am glad the Nuggets are not playing the Celtics because it was weird seeing the Chicago Bulls wear green in their game against the Celtics on St. Patty’s Day.
They do not really actually train anyone though, do they?
The Nuggets announced the 2009 winners of their Excellence in Athletic Training in Colorado High Schools program. Nuggets head trainer Jim Gillen, who began his career as a high school trainer, presented the awards to winning schools Cheyenne Mountain High School trainer Shaun Carmody and Alameda High School head trainer Dominic DiManna on March 14th when the Nuggets beat the Clippers. Both schools receive $2,000 to support their training programs. There were also two runners up, Chaparral High School and Ignacio High School, who each received $500.
Ignacio recently knocked Heritage Christian High School out of the state basketball tournament the game after Heritage ended my son’s high school basketball career so I am not sure if I should like them or not.