Denver Nuggets – Real Training Camp

The Denver Nuggets are a staple on the annual series Real Training Camp on NBATV and they already made their appearance for 2009 today.

I love watching the footage, but before I get into what I saw I have to lambaste NBATV for the production. Nuggets fans get to watch a practice once a year. What we do not want to watch during the two hours of televised practice is two guys talking into the camera when there is a five on five drill going on directly behind them. We do not need to see shots of a player leaning against a wall while the team is working on defense. We do need to see as much actual footage of what is going on as possible.

Every year I get excited for real training camp and every year I am left to stew as I miss action on the court that I desperately want to be viewing. Please NBATV, quit broadcasting from a practice without showing us the practice. I promise I will still listen to what Rick Kamela and Bill Hanzlik are saying even if you show the action on the floor.

OK, I got that off my chest, now on to the actual practice. We can finally stop speculating and provide some commentary on real life footage of the Nuggets on the court.

  • For the third or fourth straight year we heard George Karl give his speech about not holding the ball. This time he added in that there are a couple of guys who he allows to hold the ball, but singled out Renaldo Balkman and new guys Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Joey Graham as players who he does not want to see catch the ball and hold it.
  • Afflalo looked good. He ran out and scored fast break baskets on a couple of occasions and displayed his baseline jumper that he has become very adept at. He looks like he has added a little bulk as well.
  • J.R. Smith is traditionally a slow starter, and in past Real Training Camps he has not had good shooting performances. Today he was on fire. In fact, I do not remember seeing him miss a shot. J.R. will be out the first seven games of the season, but hopefully when he comes back for game eight he will be shooting like he did today.
  • Ty Lawson looks very good. He is always very comfortable playing basketball and the fact that he is in his first training camp in the NBA did not faze him whatsoever. The best exchange involving Lawson was during some half court offensive work Lawson caught a swing pass and nailed a three from the left wing. George Karl immediately told the “Rook” that when he has a wide open lane to the rim to pass on the three and go “make a basketball play.” Lawson took the advice in stride, but we will see what the undersized guard who had a problem with getting his shot blocked in summer league does in similar situations during games. I am guessing that the open three looks pretty good to a six foot guard.
  • There remain some disturbing fashion trends on the Nuggets practice court as Carmelo Anthony still likes the dumbo look with the pocket linings hanging out of the pockets of his pants and Kenyon is still partial to the southern girl washing her car look with his practice jersey cinched tight around his chest.
  • I was impressed with how well Malik Allen was moving, but he once again displayed his lack of a post game as he shot turnaround jumpers over guards on two separate occasions on the block and was unable to back Melo down on another.
  • There was little to see in the battle between James White and Joey Graham. White nailed an open three off a kick out pass and Graham scored on a breakaway dunk. I will have to go back and watch the drills closer, but neither player really stood out. Graham did play a couple of uneventful minutes at power forward during one full court drill. He probably has the strength to play in the paint, but does not have the length to pull it off for prolonged stretches.
  • Keith Brumbaugh was mostly a spectator during the five on five full court work. He did make a tough running floater in the half court drills, but during the full court segment only managed to stand out for taking a bad shot on the baseline and for a couple of awkward moments dribbling the ball. He is definitely long and did spend his time playing small forward.
  • The most disturbing scene of the practice was the Nuggets working on switching screens. A lot. Melo, who was wearing a wire, said that he was going to switch every screen no matter who it was he was switching with. Those of you who are longtime readers know of my disdain of switching screens and I was hoping to see more hedging and trapping on pick and rolls.
  • The players were working hard, but there was a lot of levity on display. I saw more smiles today than when I saw Observe and Report. This team is clearly comfortable and confident, but we will not know how mentally prepared they are to meet the challenges of the season until the regular season tips off.
  • I am hopeful that Chris Andersen has improved his jumper to the point where I am comfortable with him taking it when left open. I only saw one jumper from Birdman and the result was not one that inspired confidence.
  • Kenyon did not appear to be any better at shooting 20 footers either.

Look for some intriguing video from the practice to show up here sometime over the next couple of days.

Predicting the 2008-09 Season – How Did I Do?

Before we begin the season previews and start looking forward to next season, I am going to look back at last season. I made a multitude of predictions over the previous 12 plus months and I started wondering how accurate I was. Did I successfully predict how well Chris Andersen played? What about the Nuggets acquisition of Chauncey Billups or how many games the Milwaukee Bucks would win?

The only way to know if I knew what I was talking about is to go back through thousands and thousands of words and pluck out all the things I said would happen no matter how hair brained or how mundane and assign a verdict.

Here is the first of four posts full of things I thought would happen. We will start by looking at my general preseason projections and game by game forecasts. Tomorrow we will look at my projected season records for all 30 teams. We will then move on to my projected personnel moves and then finish with my projections for player performances.

Prediction: I believe the Denver Nuggets must alter their style of play if they are ever to become a true championship contender. I love the Denver Mile High Mystique as much as anyone, but I strongly believe the Nuggets must evaluate the overall philosophy of their franchise.

Verdict: I am going to say correct. The Nuggets still ran, which is fine, but they dropped from their perennial spot of first or second in pace down to fifth, it may not sound like much, but they were closer to the eleventh fastest paced team, Milwaukee, than they were to the second fastest paced team, New York. The greater focus on defense and working for better shots on offense was a great recipe.

Prediction: I might be completely wrong, but if we are ever going to see the best of the Nuggets and the best of George Karl, it has to be this season.

Verdict: Correct, the embarrassing sweep at the hand of the Lakers in 2008 shook the players and forced them to deal with how far away they were from contending. That led them to push themselves to great things last season.

Prediction: The [Western Conference] number eight seed will make the playoffs with 44 to 46 wins next season.

Verdict: Incorrect, Utah was the eighth seed with 48 wins.

Prediction: The lower class [of the Western Conference] will be better. Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Sacramento will fall into the categories of improved to much improved. The Clippers may have lost Elton Brand, but they played most of last season without him anyway and the additions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby (although I have a difficult time buying them as a playoff contender) will clearly make them more competitive.

Verdict: Incorrect, all three combined to win only one more game than the Lakers, 66 to 65. However, the Wolves were 10-4 in January only to have Al Jefferson suffered a season ending injury in early February and the Thunder were a very improved team going 18-27 from January 10 through the end of the season. The Clippers were simply abysmal, but at least I did not pick them to make the playoffs like many others did.

Prediction: Out of the teams that finished outside the playoffs looking in last season the only team that I believe needs to be taken seriously is Portland.

Verdict: Correct, Portland was the only non playoff team from 2007-08 to win more than 30 games in the west.

Prediction: Some believe Golden State can compete for a playoff spot, but I do not see it.

Verdict: Correct, Golden State finished 19 games out of the playoffs. I need to keep making predictions against nebulous conglomerates such as “some.”

Prediction: I believe the Nuggets and Blazers will make the postseason.

Verdict: Correct, both did.

Prediction: This season is the year that they [Denver] will be better off having a representative in Secaucus, NJ instead of having their representatives massacred at the hands of the Lakers or Hornets in the first round.

Verdict: Wildly incorrect, but had they not made the Billups trade, I think that prediction would have been the truth. I was wrong about the Hornets too.

Prediction: If you are looking for a team to fall apart this season how about the Clippers? They have a point guard who is famous for his horrid shot selection paired with a control freak head coach. They lost their best player in what might have been a far more incompetent negotiating process by the front office than anything the Nuggets have been guilty of and God’s Gift to Defense Marcus Camby is not going to play a single game in the preseason due to a heel injury. Oh yea, and do not forget that Chris Kaman is coming off of a season where he played only 56 games plus he put some extra wear and tear on his body by playing for Germany in the Olympics.

Verdict: Correct, they were without a doubt the biggest disappointment in the West other than perhaps the Suns. By the way, that was in response to ESPN.com’s NBA writers naming the Nuggets the most likely team to self combust.

Prediction: [After game 23] they [the Nuggets] face three straight back to back sets against some very good teams which will tell us a lot about how good this team can really be.

Verdict: Incorrect, Denver was only 2-4 in those six games (at Dallas, at Houston, Cleveland, at Phoenix, Portland and at Portland), but the season turned out OK. Of course, I could go the other way and say they only went 2-4 and that showed us they were not going to be NBA champs.

Prediction: The Nuggets have already clinched a tie with the Mavs for the season series, but I believe they will certainly win at least one of the two games left to clinch the tiebreaker in case it should come into play.

Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets swept the Mavs in the regular season.

Prediction: I do not like their chances against the Spurs or the Hornets (especially now that Tyson Chandler is back in the Big Easy) and I would not be very confident should the Nuggets face off against the Jazz [02/20/09].

Verdict: Incorrect, in defense of my lack of faith, this was following a blowout loss against the Bulls and Tyson Chandler was healthy and looking strong and Manu Ginobili had not yet been injured.

Prediction: A big thanks to Detroit and Boston for blowing games against the Spurs and Jazz tonight.  Way to go bozos.  I will forgive the Celtics as long as they lose to the Nuggets next Monday.

Verdict: Incorrect, Boston beat the Nuggets, but I actually found it in my heart to forgive them, but I am not going to count it one against myself.

Prediction: With the talent on this team and with the schedule providing them with a plethora of winnable games I feel very good guaranteeing that the Nuggets will make the playoffs [03/10/09].

Verdict: Correct.

Prediction: With the stink bomb the Nuggets dropped on us the past couple of weeks they have almost completely destroyed any chance of earning home court advantage in the playoffs. I have a difficult time envisioning a scenario where they catch the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets. Plus with the loss last night they have lost the season series to the Rockets making it even more difficult to surpass them in the standings.  In order to earn home court advantage the Nuggets would have to overtake two of those four teams.  At this point almost any best case scenario we can construct leaves the Nuggets playing either the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets in the first round.  Because of that I am afraid there is little hope of Denver reaching the second round [also 03/10/09].

Verdict: Absolutely 100% incorrect. Out of all the incorrect predictions I made, this is the one that bugs me the most. I wrote it following the Nuggets two point home loss to the Rockets that was their fifth loss in six games. Of course they went on to win 13 of 14 to push themselves into second in the conference. I hate that I wrote it, but thank God I did because it clearly turned the Nuggets season around. Honestly, I try my best to not get caught up in the emotion of a season, but I also have to write what I believe. If I end up with egg on my face, well, when life gives you eggs, break them and drink them like Rocky (Balboa, not the mountain lion or the squirrel).

Prediction: The Nuggets will beat the Hornets in seven games because Chris Paul will not lose game 6 at home.

Verdict: Incorrect, although I still do not think Paul would have let the series end in New Orleans.

Prediction: Should the Nuggets win [Game 4 versus New Orleans], I think they win game five to close out the series.

Verdict: Correct…

Prediction: Logic tells me tonight [Game 5 versus New Orleans] will be nothing short of a formality.

Verdict: Correct, Denver rolled over the Hornets by 19.

Prediction: David West will not make another All-Star team.

Verdict: It may be presumptuous of me, but I am going to call this one correct.

Prediction: The Denver Nuggets will beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

Verdict: Incorrect, the Nuggets won in five, but they did win.

Prediction: I expect the Nuggets to close this series out [versus Dallas] just as they did against New Orleans and six hours from now we will be celebrating the Nuggets’ first appearance in the conference finals since 1985.

Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets did indeed close out the Mavs in five games, although it was a little closer than game 5 against the Hornets.

Prediction: My official prediction is the Lakers in seven games.

Verdict: Incorrect, partly due to the Nuggets late game ineptness the Lakers won in six.

Prediction: I do believe the Nuggets will win [game 2 versus the Lakers].

Verdict: Correct, despite literally throwing game one away, Denver won game two.

Prediction: As you would expect I think the Nuggets will win [game 6 versus the Lakers] tonight.

Verdict: Um…really incorrect. The Lakers rolled the Nuggets in game 6 at the Pepsi Center.

The final tally for the first section of projections is 12 out of 23 were correct, good for a rate of 52.2%. Not bad, but not great either. Part two coming tomorrow.

Welcome to the New Roundball Mining Company

Welcome to the new Roundball Mining Company! A true powerhouse team like the Nuggets deserve better than my sad little attempt at creating a nice looking blog so I am proud to present the new look to you. Thanks to Spencer Hall from Salt City Hoops for creating the design. I am not sure why a Jazz fan would help out a Nuggets fan like this, but if the site crashes during the game between the two teams on Thursday, I think we will have our answer.

I would like to offer a big thank you to Spencer and I hope you all enjoy the new look.

Training Camp Signings Featuring Keith Brumbaugh

The Denver Nuggets have signed three players to help fill in during training camp. The three players are Dontaye Draper, Kurt Looby and Keith Brumbaugh.

Draper is a point guard who played for the Nuggets summer league team. He is short and slight at 5’ 11” 180 pounds, but is quick with the ball and is a decent shooter. He is a borderline NBA player, but with Denver possessing thee point guards with guaranteed contracts Draper is bound to serve the role of warm body. Apparently Draper, out of the College of Charleston, did not play organized ball last year as his last appearance on the hoops grid was with the Wizards 2008 summer league entry.

Looby is a 6’ 10” 230 pound center who played in the D-League last season. Looby played collegiately at Iowa and it goes to show how far Iowa has fallen since the days of Dr. Tom Davis since I doubt I ever saw him play despite Iowa’s presence in the Big 10. Looby’s stats suggest he is a Steven Hunter type rebounder/shot blocker.

The real interesting player of the three is Brumbaugh. Listed as a 6’ 10” forward he is actually a shooting guard/small forward. Brumbaugh played in the D-League last year as well and put up uninspiring numbers, but he has a very interesting back story.

Brumbaugh was once a big time high school prospect and according to an SI article prior to the 2008 draft by Andy Staples only the second high school player to be a counselor at Michael Jordan’s camp behind some guy named LeBrum, no it was LeBron, yeah, LeBron James, whoever that is. He entered his name in the 2005 NBA Draft, but withdrew to avoid being drafted in the second round.

After earning a scholarship with Oklahoma State his ACT score of 24 was flagged and he ended up losing his scholarship when he scored a 20, one point shy of the mark required to verify his original score. He also experienced his first brush with the law in Stillwater when he was charged with shoplifting, which may have led to someone requesting the check on his Act score, and things went downhill for Brumbaugh from there.

Since he couldn’t play at Oklahoma State, Brumbaugh returned to DeLand, a small central Florida town that has yet to be swallowed by Orlando’s suburban sprawl. Brumbaugh couldn’t stand the looks he got. At 6-9, he felt he didn’t fit in anywhere but a basketball court. He’d “zombied out” on basketball, and he didn’t know what to do with himself.

One thing that relaxed him, he said, was shooting at a local gun range. “Remember,” he said, “I’m from the country.” That hobby explained why, Brumbaugh said, he had in his trunk a Bushmaster rifle with 56 rounds in the magazine and several hundred loose rounds when he noticed police lights in his rearview mirror on May 20, 2006, exactly a year to the day after his press conference to announce his entry in the NBA draft. Brumbaugh’s cousin, Justin Brown, was in the passenger seat. Brown, a convicted felon, knew he’d get thrown in jail if police found him in the same vehicle as a firearm, even a legally purchased one that belonged to someone else (Brumbaugh’s gun was legal). So he ran. Brumbaugh did the same.

Brumbaugh said he only had the gun and the ammo to use at the range. (Police also found a knife, according to the report.)

When the two boys sprinted away, Brumbaugh’s mind raced. His high-school sweetheart was pregnant with their daughter. Would he have to see her for the first time behind bulletproof glass? Next thing he knew, he was shirtless, sweating and climbing fences to get away. “It was like panic mode,” Brumbaugh said. “I’m (thinking I’m) not going to be able to see my kid. It’s not an excuse. It was very dumb. I’m just trying to explain my reasoning. It’s still dumb.”

Brumbaugh and his cousin were eventually caught and arrested, and a Volusia County judge accepted Brumbaugh’s explanation and gave him only probation. If he stayed out of trouble, he could essentially wipe away his mistake. Brumbaugh then moved to Marianna, Fla., home of junior-college power Chipola. Five weeks into his probation, his car sat unattended, blasting music. Brumbaugh ran for the driver’s seat as a police officer approached. According to the police report, the officer spied Brumbaugh hiding something under the seat. “The guy asked me if I had anything in the car,” Brumbaugh said. “I said yes. I tried to do the honest thing.”

According to the report, Brumbaugh had a little more than a third of an ounce of marijuana in four small bags. “Once again,” he said, “it was very dumb.” Though Florida has a misdemeanor charge for fewer than 20 grams (about two-thirds of an ounce) of marijuana, police used the four bags as evidence to ask the State Attorney’s Office to charge Brumbaugh with possession with intent to distribute, a felony.

Brumbaugh spent time in jail for the incident, but the charges were reduced by a judge on the condition he would find something productive to do with his time. That led him to Houston and John Lucas. While in Houston Brumbaugh learned to deal with his temper which was the major flaw in an individual who Staples referred to as a “witty, whip-smart [then] 22-year-old with a gift for introspection and an ability to put a stranger at ease.”

He then found his way to Hillsborough Community College where he averaged 36.5 points, 10 points, 6.1 assists and 4.8 steals. He then entered the 2008 draft, but went undrafted and joined the Sioux Falls Skyforce. His best performance was a 34 point, eight rebound outing against the Erie Bayhawks.

There seems to be little chance that Brumbaugh sticks with the Nuggets, but he shoots a high percentage and definitely has talent. Stories like his are what make sports compelling and I hope he represents himself well in Denver.

Joey Graham to Sign With the Denver Nuggets

Chris Tomasson is reporting that the Denver Nuggets have agreed to a one year non-guaranteed $884,881 contract with Joey Graham, not to be confused with Stephen Graham.  Graham has played with the Toronto Raptors for all four of his NBA seasons.  He is a solid player and has played in at least 16 minutes a game in three of his four professional seasons.

Graham is a solid player who will not try to do too much.  Graham is not a three point shooter having only attempted 50 over the past three seasons making only 14 and he does not appear to offer a specific NBA skill that will be useful to Denver.

With James White and now Graham on board Denver may be done shopping and as Tomasson writes the two “can fight it out in training camp for a possible roster spot.”  Both are listed at 6′ 7″ and can play shooting guard or small forward, but Graham is considerably more bulky and the two are completely different types of players.

I may be barking up the wrong tree, but the fact that both of these guys have non-guaranteed contracts leads me to believe that if Wally Szczerbiak is still interested the Nuggets will have room for him.  However, as of now it appears either White or Graham could be the backup small forward while the other will be looking for work.

Update: Tomasson is kicking butt today as he is also reporting that Coby Karl is heading to Cleveland despite George Karl pushing for the Nuggets to bring him in to Denver.  All I will say is Cleveland is crazy if Coby does not break camp with the team.

Melo Making the Rounds

Carmelo Anthony has been getting ready for the season by being interviewed on television.

The first clip is from ESPN First Take where Melo addresses the commonly held belief that the Nuggets have fallen behind the other teams in the west due to inactivity.

Melo also appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!  In part one they discuss the role Michael Jordan has played in Carmelo’s life, and no Jimmy Melo is an adult and he can do whatever he wants with his hair.

In part two find out what basketball accomplishment David Duchovny can claim that Carmelo cannot and what could Carmelo possibly have done to coerce Syracuse into naming a building after him?

By the way, Judge Smails called and he wants his jacket back.

Last, and probably least, Kenyon was on FM 104.3 The Fan with Sandy Clough and Mike Evans.  Of course, Kenyon thinks Denver is the best team in the world which is not surprising, but he did yell something interesting at George Karl after seeing Ty Lawson play.

Denver Nuggets Acquire James White

The Denver Nuggets are under compliance. They have acquired James White from the Houston Rockets in exchange for the rights to Axel Hervelle (remember him?) and now meet the league minimum of 13 players on their roster.

White is a high flying shooting guard who has played ten career NBA games between stints in San Antonio and Houston. I have always thought of White as all athleticism and little game, but he did post some impressive numbers last year with the Anaheim Arsenal in the D-League including a 47 point 11 rebound effort on 18-24 shooting.

This is another high upside, no downside deal that the Nuggets are becoming known for. Hervelle was selected in the 2005 draft and played in Summer League one year for the Nuggets to little acclaim. It is clear he will never be an NBA player. White on the other hand has shown growth over the previous two or three seasons. His three point shooting improved to 36.8% and his free throw shooting to 85.6%.

With White landing in Denver it puts an end to the Flip Murray and Keith Bogans (who agreed to terms with the Spurs today) speculation. I suspect White will provide some scoring off the bench over the first seven games of the season during which J.R. Smith will be sidelined. However, could he also fill the role that Wally Szczerbiak was hoping to fill? I think White and Renaldo Balkman could provide a nice offense/defense combo off the bench at small forward. He is undersized, but can run the floor and hit the three. Sounds similar to Linas Kleiza’s old job description, doesn’t it?

To me the big question is can White play defense? Seeing as how he played for the Spurs and Rockets, two of the more sound defensive teams in the league, he should be at least competent. Should he prove to be anything more than that he has a very good chance to care out some minutes in the rotation.

If you are not familiar with what White can do check out the video below. Some of these dunks are just stunning.

Mid September Hodge Podge

It has been a while since I have posted anything and I apologize. I guess the good news is I really have not missed anything. Still, there has not been a word on this blog about J.R. Smith slated to miss the first seven games of the season, former Nugget Allen Iverson signing with the Memphis Grizzlies, the potential referee lockout, heck, I never even finished my player by player recap of the 2008-09 season.

I have made it through another hectic week of work, pieced together two potentially dominant fantasy football teams and I finally have some time to discuss the Nuggets.

Where’s Wally?

Nuggets fans received some good news yesterday as it was announced Desmond Mason had agreed to sign with the Sacramento Kings (read about it at Cowbell Kingdom). The bad news for Nuggets fans is that it reduces their leverage with Wally Szczerbiak.

However, there are still several names on the list as the Nuggets have been linked with Rashard McCants, Flip Murray and now Keith Bogans, but I still think Wally is the guy who will end up in powder blue next season. With Chanucey Billups, J.R. Smith, Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo and Anthony Carter I do not see how McCants or Murray help this team. Chris Tomasson has an excellent article on Fanhouse outlining how J.R. Smith’s suspension (discussed below) is playing a role in who the Nuggets bring in to fill the 13th roster spot.

If the front office signs a player simply because the Nuggets will be short handed for the first seven games of the season, I think it is an overreaction. However, Tomasson reports that Denver offered Murray a minimum deal already. Murray is a nice player and I have no problem with Bogans either. Murray can score and Bogans is a very good defender, but what do you do with them once J.R. returns? Over the long haul Denver will be better off with a player like Szczerbiak who can really help for all 82 games than someone who will only provide a significant boost for seven.

Getting back to Wally, should Szczerbiak end up in Denver both he and the Nuggets are playing things cool. With the Nuggets’ commitment to saving every possible penny they are not about to toss Wally, or anyone else, a salary figure higher than they are willing to pay just to seal the deal. The Nuggets remain the best match for playing time and competitiveness. The only team who could I could see offering anything better than Denver would be the Lakers who have a couple of open roster spots and might not be planning on giving their spare minutes at small forward to Adam Morrison, plus it was announced today they will bring in.

I do believe Wally would be a very good fit in Denver, but if he ends up signing elsewhere, it is not the end of the world. It would actually clear up some playing time at small forward for Renaldo Balkman. I believe Balkman is at his best playing small forward as he struggles to defend many power forwards due to his slight stature.

Denver can also go small with J.R. or Afflalo sliding over to the three. Backing up Carmelo Anthony only assures you about 12 or 13 minutes of floor time anyway.

If the Nuggets sign Murray and Szczerbiak then I will be ecstatic, but they are serious about minimizing their tax payment and carrying more than 13 guaranteed contracts into the season is unlikely.

Training camp starts in less than a week and Denver has to sign someone. This cannot drag out much longer. Denver has options and the race may come down to which player will agree to play in Denver for the minimum.

The Least Popular Number 7 in Denver

For the third season in a row the Nuggets will be short a player to start the season due to suspension. J.R. will miss the first seven games of the 2009-10 season because of the reckless driving incident that resulted in the death of his friend and passenger Andre Bell. Smith was suspended by the Nuggets for three games to start the 2007-08 season because of the accident and last season Carmelo Anthony missed the first two games as punishment for his drunk driving arrest near the end of the 2007-08 season.

My initial reaction when I heard J.R. had been suspended for seven games was that it was far too severe. With the Nuggets likely locked in a tight battle for playoff position again those seven games could be very hurtful. Three of those seven games are back to back sets and the Nuggets will need all the fresh pairs of legs they can afford, even early in the season.

After reflecting on the situation I cannot argue that seven games is too severe. In fact, it is possible J.R. got off easy. I do not mean to keep dwelling on this, but a person lost his life because of J.R.’s actions. How can you say any amount of games is too steep a penalty?

I realize it is not the NBA’s job to punish J.R., after all he spent 24 days in jail isn’t that enough? On the other hand, who among us would still have a job, let alone a multimillion dollar paycheck waiting for us after incarceration?

Seven games is significant suspension, but is it excessive? I do not think so.

A Grizzly Outcome

I wrote a little last year about how interesting Allen Iverson’s free agency would be. I could not imagine him playing for a non contending team, but I could not imagine a contending team being interested in him.

Now he is a member of the Memphis Grizzlies.

What?

I think I am a pretty astute observer of the NBA, but the Grizzlies would not have been a team I would have pictured AI playing for and honestly with players like O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph all wanting the ball, especially Randolph he really wants the ball, I have a difficult time envisioning the partnership panning out.

Iverson signed a one year deal and I doubt AI expects to finish that deal in Memphis. I believe he plans on coming out and proving that what happened in Detroit was not his fault. It was the Pistons that made him look bad, not his declining abilities. If he can play at the level he expects he can, there should be playoff caliber teams banging down the Grizzlies’ door at the trade deadline to add a player that can give them a major boost at a low cost.

I never doubted Iverson’s ability to score, but we have all been waiting for the day when his body would betray his spirit. The Nuggets clearly decided that he had reached that point during training camp last year and what we saw from Iverson in Detroit certainly made Denver look prescient.

Now that his free agency has played out I think what happens from here will be more entertaining than the process that brought him to of all places Tennessee.

Check out the coverage of AI heading to Memphis over at 3 Shades of Blue.

What’s Black and White and Sweaty All Over?

I refereed a few intramural games in college. There were three leagues, A, B and C. I refereed C league games. As you probably figured out A was the top competitive league and C was the recreational league full of people who may or may not have played before. You would think that the C league would be pretty laid back and easy to ref. Some of the guys on my floor played on a team called “Wish There Was a D League.” I am pretty sure they never got on the refs.

On some nights you had teams like my floor mates who just wanted to run around and were happy to make fools of themselves, but on other nights the participants seemed to think they were battling it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy and as a result I took quite a bit of abuse. I remember being glared at days after a game when a guy from one of the games I worked passed me on the sidewalk.

The whole point of this is I do not know who on earth would want to be a referee.

Right now the NBA and the referees union are heading towards a lockout and we are facing the specter of replacement referees. David Stern reportedly pulled out of negotiations on September 8 because the referees backed out on an agreement for pension reductions. The league has agreed to a reduced two year contract instead of the regular five year deal, which means the refs can get a better deal sooner as long as the economy turns around by then, and the referees have agreed to $2.5 million of the $3.2 million in reductions requested by the NBA.

David Stern consistently refers to NBA officials as the best in professional sports and brags about their accuracy. If they are truly only a few hundred thousand dollars apart, how is this deal not done? The union is promoting the idea that Stern is trying to make an example of the referees to try to send a statement to the players heading into their upcoming negotiations.

The NBA is moving forward with bringing in replacement referees and things have the potential to get a little ugly.

Whether we are talking about NBA referees or C league referees, they are whipping boys (and girls). I honestly believe the NBA referees have been doing pretty well the past couple of years. Even so, I am willing to bet the majority of fans would disagree with me. If fans are upset with referees that are supposedly the best, how much more upset will they be watching lesser officials?

I doubt the NBA will let this drag out until the regular season, but when you start posturing, if that is indeed what Stern is doing, disagreements can take on a life of their own. How tough will Stern look if replacement referees are a disaster and he has to cave to the union’s demands?

Denver Nuggets Check Out Desond Mason

Chris Tomasson continues to keep us informed of what is going on in Denver and he has reported on FanHouse that Desmond Mason was in Denver earlier this week. From all accounts Mason is a tremendous individual and with the issues the Nuggets have had and are still having that is nothing to sneeze at. The fact that Mason ever played in the NBA at all is a miracle.

Mason made a guest appearance at the Alliance’s summer camp for burn-injured youth at the Timber-Lee Christian Center in East Troy, addressing close to 90 campers ages 7 through 17. His message hit home, because when he was 3 years old, he felt their pain.

His story originated 27 years ago when he was in the back seat of his father’s car. There was a radiator explosion in an adjacent car, and the radiator fluid flew through the open window of Mason’s father’s car and into the back seat, where Desmond was sleeping. He was scalded. His legs had sustained most of the burns.

Mason spent the next six months or so in a hospital, where he underwent skin grafts, plastic surgery and rehabilitation. His doctors told his parents that he would never be able to run again.

They obviously underestimated Desmond’s determination. Within a year, he was not only running, but playing football and basketball.

Mason not only told the children at the burn camp the story of his traumatic ordeal, but showed them his scars and said, “Look at me now!”

His young audience, according to one observer, was awestruck. Anyone else who witnessed his presentation probably was, too.

“I told them about what I had to go through when I was young and I got burned,” Mason said. “It was in the same situation, and it’s something that kind of messes with your head a little bit. Kids are so young, and they can be brutal and say whatever and make you feel like an outcast sometimes.

“When I visit these camps, I’m around people who are in the same situation I was in.”

Mason told the campers to enjoy their time at the camp, look past their painful experiences and focus on the future. And he stressed to them the importance of working hard and believing that they could accomplish anything they set out to do.

His story is inspiring and I hope he can continue to provide hope to children who have suffered from similar tragedies.

There has been some good discussion here on whether or not Denver should sign Mason. I will only add one thing and that is Mason’s career three point shooting percentage. 26.0%. Ouch.

I believe we can explain Mason’s presence in Denver by looking back to a visit by Rashad McCants. When McCants came to Denver last month it seemed like an odd story. The result of McCants’ trip to the Mile High City was that Anthony Carter realized that there were other players who wanted to play in Denver and he signed his contract soon after.

I believe Denver’s interest in Mason is for him to play the role of McCants in the hopes that Szczerbiak responds the way Carter did. I am sure the Nuggets are hoping to sign Wally to a minimum contract while Wally is hoping to get the $2.1 million balance of Denver’s mid level exception. The thing is both sides know the other side needs them so they are in no rush to act. The Nuggets desperately need a shooter to come in off the bench and there is no contending team with minutes available left for Szczerbiak to sign with.

I do not know what Szczerbiak’s starting salary will be. I would guess that he gets a big chunk, if not all of, the bi-annual exception, which is capped at $1.99 million this season. The bottom line is regardless of who else comes to town, I firmly believe Wally will be the Nuggets’ man.