Nuggets News 5.0: The overseas [and UPDATED J.R. Smith] edition

There are currently two major basketball tournaments being played worldwide, and the Denver Nuggets have four players participating in these contests. Gary Forbes is playing for Panama is the FIBA Americas Championship, while Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari and Kosta Koufos are all taking part in the EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania. Follow the link as we dive into each one of these players personal and team results, in addition to finding out what in the world Al Harrington is up to this week.

Gary Forbes and Panama haven’t fared very well in the FIBA Americas Championship to say the least. They’re currently 1-4, with their only win coming against Paraguay by just a few points. Nevertheless, it’s important to understand how Forbes is holding up — even though he’s not technically a member of the Denver Nuggets — so that we can gauge the type of progress he’s making over the summer.

Below, I have linked the box scores for each of Panama’s contests in the tournament, but before you take a look at what’s inside, please be aware of a few things. First, keep in mind that these types of tournaments are low-scoring endeavors and rarely do teams cross the 100-point threshold. Second, understand that international competition generally sees a wider bench implemented, as apposed to the NBA; it’s not uncommon to see 11-14 guys get at least a few minutes of action throughout the game. Finally, know that international ball — the way it’s played specifically — is much more different than the NBA. Here in the States, you usually have a blueprint for how your team is structured — there are well-defined rolls, “franchise players” dominate the ball more, everybody knows everybody, etc. — because teams are put together by a general manager with a specific blueprint in mind. But when you’re playing for your country you kind of get what you get. Unfortunately the possibility of tracking down future couples who will hit the genetic lottery with their offspring and asking, “Hey, can you have your baby in Milan, Italy, around sometime between 1986-90, so Danilo and the boys can all come together in about 20 years and win the EuroBasket tournament?” just doesn’t exist yet. So, people roll with the punches and usually a couple times each year gather together in an attempt to win a few tournaments for their native country. Naturally, games are a little more sloppy, performances are a little more erratic and the fans, a little more crazy. With that in mind, lets take a look at what Gary Forbes has done so far in the FIBA Americas Championship tournament.

In the first game against Puerto Rico Forbes put up 14 points in a 66-99 loss. In that same game Jose Juan Barea scored eight, although it should be noted that he received drastically less playing time than Forbes. In the second game against Paraguay Forbes scored 25 in a 89-86 win, which has been Panama’s only one of the tournament thus far. Then in the third game against Uraguay, Forbes notched a team-high 19, however, it unfortunately came in a 61-77 loss. Finally, against Argentina Forbes had 13 in a 71-90 loss. In that same game Luis Scola had 19, Manu Ginobili had 14, Carlos Delfino had 11 and Andres Nocioni had 18. That was the closing game of the first phase, and in the initial game of the second phase against Dominican Republic, Forbes only had eight points in a 68-92 loss.

The Skinny: Overall, Forbes has had a pretty solid tournament all things considered. While glancing at other box scores, it became clear that even though this was against inferior competition, many NBA players stayed relatively grounded in terms of their numerical performances. All-Stars like Al Horford and Manu Ginobili have occasionally gone off for a big night, but in general, nobody turns into Kevin Durant at the Goodman League and drops 59 just because they felt like it. Seeing Forbes put up points in the mid-to-high teens is definitely respectable, but perhaps the most telling stat of all is his playing time, which is consistently ranks as the highest on his team.

Stay tuned for more Forbes updates and be sure to follow him on Twitter as he’ll be giving away his Team Panama jersey to one lucky recipient at the end of the tournament!

[UPDATE] Forbes recently documented his third entree into the journal he’s keeping for SLAM Magazine and explained why Panama is struggling so much to win games right now. This is a must-read by all accounts, as Forbes gets quite candid throughout the piece.

Timofey Mozgov, Danilo Gallinari (not so much) and Kosta Koufos are the other three Nuggets currently playing the EuroBasket tournament in Lithuania. Here is the like to the tournament home page, where you can find virtually everything you’d ever want to know about EuroBasket. Listed below is each player’s name, followed by their most notable statistics (per game), rank in certain categories overall, as well as the outcome of every game they’ve played up till Sep. 5 and their stats for that specific game. Be sure and check out some of the links, as they all have video highlights, box scores and other interactive features.

Mozgov: 7.4 points (65.2 percent field goal percentage), 3.4 rebounds and .8 blocks per game; currently ranks 12th in turnovers and 16th in blocks

Game 1: Russia over Ukraine, 73-64; four points and three rebounds

Game 2: Russia over Georgia, 65-58; six points and three rebounds

Game 3: Russia over Belgium, 79-58; seven points and four rebounds

Game 4: Russia over Bulgaria, 89-77; 15 points (5-7 from the field), five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots in 24 minutes of action

Game 5: Russia over Slovenia, 65-64; five points and two rebounds

The Skinny: Mozgov’s best game, by far, “coincidentally” was the one in which he received the most playing time. In that contest, Mozgov notched 24 minutes of action, which is about 10 more than he usually gets, and in turn posted the stat line mentioned above while shooting 5-7 from the field. Not one player from Russia who had 24 minutes of action or less posted as many points as Mozgov during that span. When looking at his 66.2 percent field goal percentage overall, it’s clear that Mozgov doesn’t take ill-advised shots; however, he also ranks as one of the most turnover prone players in the entire tournament. So what do all these numbers tell us? Basically, Mozgov doesn’t have good hands just yet, but he still knows the right place and time to be in order to make himself effective while on the floor. The high field-goal percentage is likely a product of wide-open, easy buckets, while the turnovers are a sign that when not directly  presented with a scoring opportunity, Mozgov sometimes struggles. This seems entirely natural for young, bulky, somewhat inexperience player like Mozgov, but given the way he operates when surrounded by more talented players than he, it’s not hard to imagine Mozgov developing a better feel for the game, and in turn more confidence to create his own shot.

With Russia undefeated, and barely edging out Slovenia in a last-second thriller to take the Group D title, they now move on to face Finland in the second stage of the EuroBasket tournament. They’re heavily considered one of the favorites to advance to the final bracket of the tournament, so keep checking back in as we’ll have updates throughout the upcoming weeks.

Gallinari: 15.2 points (37.9 field goal percentage), 6.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game; ranked 15th in points, 7th in field goals attempted, 7th in defensive rebounds, 13th in total rebounds and 18th in minutes played

Game 1: Serbia over Italy, 80-68; 15 points (6-9 from the field) and a team-high three steals

Game 2: Germany over Italy, 76-62; 17 points (4-15 from field), 11 rebounds and two blocks (all team highs), as well as two steals and an assist

Game 3: Italy over Latvia, 71-62; seven points (1-9 from field) and a team-high nine rebounds

Game 4: France over Italy, 91-84; 18 points (5-13 from field) and five rebounds

Game 5: Israel over Italy, 96-95; 19 points (9-20 from the field), five rebounds and a blocked shot

The Skinny: Although Gallinari put up some nice numbers in general, two things are hard to overlook: First, his field goal percentage is atrocious. Second, Italy went an abysmal 1-4 in the first stage of the tournament and was already eliminated by Game 5. Now, it would be irrational and erroneous to place all the Italian downfalls on Gallinari’s shoulders, but we know how basketball works. Winning, maybe more than in any other team sport, is highly valued when assessing individual accomplishment simply because of the level at which on player can impact the game. Nobody is asking Gallinari to be Lebron, and rightfully so (we actually prefer to win a championship), but at this point in his career, Gallo needs to step from away from the understudy role, and into the leader’s circle. Having Andrea Bargnani — one of the better international players in the world — on your side certainly could have made for a dynamic duo, and although nobody can definitively say Gallo didn’t come through, the fact is Bargnani finished off the tournament averaging quite possibly the best stat line of anyone there, while Gallo did basically what was expected of him. I don’t want to make too much out of this, because really, who knows what the hell happened to Italy, but at some point in time we need to see Gallinari take that next step that all successful, top-10 pick in the draft, All-Star caliber players do. He’s been in the league now for four years and still hasn’t averaged over 16 points per game; meanwhile, his Italian teammate, the player he resembles most — Andrea Bargnani — was averaging almost 22 points per game by the time his fifth season in the NBA concluded. There’s no way Bargnani is that much more talented than Gallo, so the time to “fulfill one’s destiny” as they say, has arrived.

Now that EuroBasket is over, Gallinari will likely sign with his old team, Olimpia Milano. Stay tuned for more updates.

Koufos: 9.2 points (70.4 percent from the field), 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game; ranked 7th overall in blocks

Game 1: Greece over Bosnia, 76-67; 10 points (4-5 from field), 10 rebounds

Game 2: Greece over Finland, 81-61; seven points and two rebounds

Game 3: Macedonia over Greece, 72-58; three points and three rebounds

Game 4: Greece over Montenegro, 71-55; 19 points (8-13 from the field), three rebounds and four blocked shots

Game 5: Greece over Croatia, 74-69; seven points (3-4 from the field) and three rebounds

The Skinny: Of all the Nuggets participating in an international tournament, Koufos has undoubtedly been the biggest surprise performer of them all. Way back in the day Koufos used to dominate these types of events, as he was named MVP of the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship tournament in 2007 after leading the entire competition in points, rebounds and blocks. Since then, Koufos has completed one year of college, been taken in the first round of the NBA Draft and promptly been dismissed to the far side of the bench for most of his career. Things haven’t quite panned out as expected for Koufos, but performances like the one he’s having so far, are certainly a step in the right direction. In Game 1 against Bosnia, Koufos was named Greece’s top performer by the EuroBasket website after posting a double-double that consisted of 10 points and 10 rebounds. In the following three games he saw limited minutes and his production dipped, but when finally given more time in Game 4, Koufos delivered by posting a game-high 19 points to go along with three rebounds and four blocked shots.

It’s clear at this point in time that Koufos simply won’t ever be the type of player he was once perceived to be. I’m pretty sure Nuggets fans know and accept this, so when we see small accomplishments like what we’re witnessing in EuroBasket 2011, you get the same type of feeling that winning a friendly game of poker with house money gives you. At this point in time, Koufos’ career has nowhere to go but up. If he can keep maturing, keep developing and keep working his tail off, he might very well turn into a solid (and I mean solid) backup center in the NBA.

As for the rest of the Nuggets that are not currently playing in an international tournament…

Al Harrington recently made an appearance on G4’s “Suits vs. Skins” segment of the show Time 2 Sports. As we all know by now, Al Harrington has dedicated his summer to making as many cameo appearances in front of the camera as possible. His progress as a basketball player is currently unknown, but that’s nowhere here nor there, as his progress as a modern-day Renaissance man is what’s really important. Plus, its not like he has some kind of huge multimillion dollar contract to live up to anyways.

Chris Andersen finds his way to Nuggets News for the first time this summer by making the Orlando Sentinel’s list of the 10 biggest characters in the NBA. Now if you’re giddy to jump to the Sentinel’s main article to view the rest of the lucky recipients of this award, be weary, as it’s really nothing more than a short description of each player without any real reason as to why they made the list. The justification for Birdman according to Josh Robbins, the author of the piece: “Just look at him.” All I have to say is THANK THE LORD for Josh Robbins and his incredibly insightful glimpse into the strenuous world of investigative sports journalism! DAMN BRO, why don’t you make it two judgmental sentences next time and really knock it out of the park!!!

Kenneth Faried was so good this summer at the Drew League that BallIsLife.com decided to go ahead and piece together all of his best highlights for the rest of the world’s enjoyment. This video is a must see if you’re a Nuggets fan as crazy about Faried as I.

SLAM Magazine also took note of all the hype surrounding the 6-foot-8 forward from Jersey, and scored a one-on-one interview with him.

Ty Lawson recently scored 25 points in the same Goodman League game that Kevin Durant dropped 44 in. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe 25 is most amount of points that any Nugget has scored thus far over the summer. I know Faried had 20 or more on a handful of occasions at the Drew, but by my count, I see nowhere where he had over 25. Perhaps what makes Ty Lawson’s performance even more impressive is the fact that he did it against guys like Kevin Durant, John Wall and other All-Star caliber players in the NBA. I keep telling everyone that Ty Lawson is the future of this franchise, and he continues to corroborate my argument with performances like these.

Roughly a week ago Lawson left the US to begin his temporary professional career in Transylvania — err — Lithuania, and before he left, Michael Falgoust of USA Today, scored a nice interview with him. In the dialogue, Lawson talks about those crazy European fans that he can’t wait to play for, why he chose the team he did and his relationship with Chauncey Billups, among other things.

Jordan Hamilton also found himself victim of an interview, this time by ESPN L.A. (Man, it hurts linking to that site!) Naturally, the line of questioning revolves more around his upbringing in Southern California than anything, but it’s still an interesting, insightful read that will get any casual, or hardcore, Nuggets fan acclimated with the rookie wing.

[UPDATE] HoopsHype also managed to land a more “juicy” interview with Hamilton where he talks about comparisons to Paul Pierce, his image and being the leading scorer among rookies next year in the NBA.

Nene is drawing interest from the Miami Heat according to the Miami Herald. Considering the fact that (A) Nene is truly a power forward and Miami already has one of the best at that position in the entire league, and (B) Nene is likely in line to get paid somewhere in the $11-13 million range which Miami simply cannot do thanks to the contracts of a few guys by the names of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, you’d think Miami would abide to common logic and realize that they simply can’t have every player in the entire NBA they want — you’d think. I just can’t wait till next summer when Miami goes after Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard… and lands every single one of them. Ugh.

Finally, one last story by Nuggets’ beat-writer, Aaron Lopez, on the Nuggets’ director of entertainment, Shawn Martinez. This is Roundball Mining Company’s “Read of the Week,” so be sure to check it out!

[UPDATE]

J.R. Smith, as originally reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, is now on the verge of signing the most lucrative contract in China Basketball Association history. The deal would pay Smith more than $3 million to play for Shanxi Zhongyu during the entire 2011-12 campaign, and would not include an opt-out clause due to the CBA’s strict policy forbidding such contract stipulations. If Smith does in fact reach an agreement with Shanxi, he would be the second Denver Nugget, alongside Wilson Chandler, to sign a deal in China for the upcoming season that doesn’t include an opt-out clause; therefore, preventing him to return to the NBA should the Collective Bargaining Agreement be resolved in a more punctual manner than originally speculated. Former NBA players Stephon Marbury and Bonzi Wells are the most notable Americans to have played with Shanxi in years past.

So how does this affect the Nuggets? Point blank: it doesn’t. Remember, J.R. Smith is currently (until he puts pen to paper with Shanxi) an unrestricted free agent. The Nuggets do not own his rights in any way. Had the lockout been avoided, barring any unforeseen circumstances J.R. would have already reached an agreement with another NBA team, or possibly re-signed with the Nuggets. The bottom line is that unlike Wilson Chandler, once J.R. returns from his overseas campaign, he’ll essentially have no ties to Denver, except for the fact that he played most of his career there.

In my eyes, this might very well be the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of J.R.’s career as a Denver Nugget. If he does in fact play the entire season in China, I see no reason as to why the Nuggets would even show interest in him once he returns, as by that time, Afflalo — who appears to be committed to Denver long term, unlike J.R. — will have been our undisputed best shooting guard for an entire season. At that point, it just won’t make any sense to re-sign J.R. when there will be 29 other NBA teams out there looking to make a splash in free agency, many of which would present a more ideal landing spot for the 6-6 shooting guard than Denver.

It’s difficult for me to understand why not one, but two Denver Nuggets have agreed to play in China during the lockout in the span of only a dozen days, especially considering the renewed optimism surrounding the resolution of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Not one established NBA player outside of the Nuggets has yet to take the risks associated with signing their “fortunes” over to the Far East due to the provisions the Chinese Basketball Association placed on contracts this year, yet the Denver Nuggets have had two in only a matter of days. What is going on here? Who is advising these players? And are J.R. and Wilson Chandler trying to make a statement, or is this simply a matter of arbitrary chance?

One thing is clear: J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler, with the way they have bailed on the Nuggets for an entire year, might very well have unintentionally signed another contract right under their noses when scribbling their signature with their respective Chinese clubs — the contract to never play in a Denver Nuggets uniform again. With Gallinari and Afflalo — both of whom remain better in the eyes of the Nuggets brass — labeled as franchise cornerstones, Smith and Chandler were already operating on limited room for mistakes. Making such a recklessly audacious move as knowingly leaving your team for an entire season is one that management will certainly will take into account when assessing these players further. All I can say is Wilson Chandler just better pray he doesn’t end up stranded as a member of the Charlotte Bobcats for the duration of his “prime” in the NBA. And as for J.R., maybe now he’ll finally get the chance to be the center-of-attention superstar he always wanted to be here in Denver. After all, it worked for Stephon Marbury.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • Andrew

    Again, dump/trade Chandler, K Mart and JR, throw the house at Gasol:

    Ty Law/Miller Time
    Afflalo Lalo/Hamilton
    Gallo/Forbes Skin
    Baby Nene/Faried Bound
    Gashouse Gasol/Birdman/Mozilla/Koufos Please

    NBA Championship…ok, maybe not, but a great team to watch!

  • Coley

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/16/gary-forbes-scores-78-pro-am-game_n_927691.html

    Forbes scored the most points in a game of any Nugget thus far this summer.

    • Kalen

      Haha, that’s right! I totally forgot about that one. The crazy thing is I’m pretty sure 78 is the most any NBA player has scored in a summer league game. Good looking out though Coley.

  • Omar

    Wow you really ripped chandler and j.r there at the end. J.r is as good as gone but chandler really back stabbed the organization. I kinda knew he wasn’t going to be a nugget for very long, i just didn’t want to believe it. I really liked his game. o well though….. his loss jordan hamilton will get some more minutes. I just hope now that with the only target left to resign is nene, We can make a splash during free agency and maybe sign someone who can help. i feel like we need to do something with harrington. he does not deserve any minutes. he should be traded asap. but i’m looking forward to this season. it will be interesting to see what happens.

    • Kalen

      Yeah I did — I’ll fully admit that. I mean, I just don’t get it. These guys could have signed ANYWHERE. They could have chosen whatever team they wanted to go to and signed a pretty lucrative contract either way. JR and Chandler to a European league would have been like what Lebron and Wade are here, so I just don’t understand for the life of me why they chose China KNOWING they would forfeit a year in the NBA. Like you said, J.R. I already considered out the door, so he’s not that bad, but Chandler was still a restricted free agent with us and I bet he knew we’d match (we weren’t just gonna let him walk for nothing, and we still aren’t), which is what hurts the most.

      • Ernie

        The answer to why JR signed is money. You forget how quickly these guys spend it. Antoine Walker is broke after making over $100M in his career, do you think JR is significantly better with his finances while making less?

        • Kalen

          You’re right. I think the funny thing is, J.R. might actually lose money by doing this. Even if there is a shortened season, he’s still gonna get a contract that pays him more than $3 million per year in the next CBA. But you’re right, NBA players are the worst with managing their money.Why else do you think they’re fighting so hard right now to keep things how they are?

  • popex_17

    Well, I am looking at things from another perspective. Imagine this scenario:
    The NBA season is cut short, say only 50 games are played. Denver looses Nene, in addition to K-Mart, Chandler and JR. They develop their youngsters and give ample playing time to the 2 rooks, while playing MozGod at center. They fill out their roster with shoe-ins on one year contracts. They fail to qualify for the playoffs for the 1st time since 2004, but unexpectedly land one of the top 3 picks in the lottery in the mouthwatering 2012 draft + they have ample cap space. Not to forget, we’ll also have Golden State’s 2nd round pick + our own.
    We’ll have one hell of a young team + loads of cash in order to pursue some good/very good players.
    This year, if we re-sign Nene, we’ll be too good not to land in the lottery and too weak to compete for the ship. We’ll be stuck with a good team and a good regular season coach and if Masai doesn’t pull a “Masai” out of the hat and land an impact player right away, the Nuggets will not be able to compete for a championship anytime soon.
    I am willing to take a chance and watch a shortened NBA season in which the Nuggies will play an entertaining style of basketball, grow their young players, but find themselves on the losing end more often than not, but then draft a potential superstar in the summer than to watch a good Nugz team make the playoffs and lose in the first round.

  • Nick

    I don’t think Wilson Chandler and JR will actually stay in China, at least not if the season is saved. An NBA agent says (http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-bulls-talk/2011/09/exceptions-to-cba-ruling-possible/) Chandler’s team has a history of shady moves and that he believes exceptions will be made. Hopefully. JR’s time is coming to an end here but I’d like to keep Wilson.

  • Omar

    Hey, kalen what do you think of paul millsap.Do you think he is a piece we could possibly get from the jazz. They already have favors so they might be looking to move him for cheap.

    • Kalen

      Well, usually division rivals rarely trade with each other unless one team is on the upswing and the other on the downswing. On top of this, Paul Milsap is extremely similar to Faried. Both are undersized power forwards, but both have a ton of potential and probably should be starting for their respective teams. For this fact alone, I’d just say Milsap wouldn’t be a good fit. If we traded for him Faried would be in the exact same situation as Milsap is right now — stuck in a front-court logjam. These two guys are just too good to be in a timeshare. I’d much rather go after a guy like Marc Gasol or even Samuel Dalembert because the biggest gap in our lineup right now is at the center position.

      All that said, if we could obtain Milsap and hardly give up anything (not very likely) you definitely wouldn’t see me complaining as I love the type of game Milsap has. He’s a hard worker, no-nonsense, blue-collar type of guy and Denver loves those players.