Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 97 Memphis Grizzlies 100 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 Memphis Grizzlies
Nene, C 33 MIN | 6-9 FG | 2-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -16
It’s tough to put a lot of blame on Nene for what transpired tonight, especially because he’s carried the Nuggets throughout the last two games. While Nene’s production trailed off it’s hard to ignore just how badly he was outplayed by Marc Gasol. Although Nene had a decent individual performance, he took a grand total of three second half shots and disappeared late when the Nuggets sorely needed him to step up
Danilo Gallinari, SF 25 MIN | 1-10 FG | 6-6 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +2
Did not show up to play. It’s a simple as that. Hardly worth mentioning anything he did because it was just a bunch of terrible jumpers. Gallo found himself benched for most of the fourth quarter and entire overtime (for the second time this season).
Timofey Mozgov, C 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | -8
Five fouls in 10 minutes is too much. He started off on Speights instead of Gasol so it’s actually hard to even credit his defense on the Memphis bigs. While he was more physical in terms of defending the rim and blocking shots, he just looked lost and couldn’t stay on the court long enough to help. The turnovers need to stop at some point too.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -9
He’s regressed big time. Afflalo was one of the best role players in the game last season and he’s currently lost with no idea what his role should be. The shots he is taking are indefensible. Fadeaways with 20 on the clock and contested turnaround jumpers over Rudy Gay? Welcome to this year’s Arron Afflalo. He’s hardly looking for his three point shot anymore which makes spacing a big issue too. More importantly, he just isn’t having the sort of positive impact on defense we’ve all been accustomed to.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 12 PTS | -11
There was a stretch in the third quarter Lawson came alive and looked poised to take over the game. Unfortunately it didn’t last very long as Lawson spent most of his time struggling to find a rhythm after missing nearly three games with an ankle injury. The turnovers keep piling up and although his threes started falling, Lawson looked tentative going to the rim. He lacked his usual bursts of speed off the dribble and let’s hope he continues to work himself back into form for the upcoming stretch of three games in a row.
Al Harrington, PF 38 MIN | 8-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 10 REB | 4 AST | 23 PTS | +3
The Nuggets can’t waste a game like this from Al Harrington. He was outmuscled and outmatched on defense and still managed a double-double with 24 points off the bench. Harrington’s primary role is to score and he delivered. Buckets nearly made what could have been the play of the game by almost taking a charge on Memphis final possession of regulation that ended up tying it. Harrington badly wanted to win this game and it has to be disappointing seeing his teammates lacking the same resolve.
Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 6 REB | 6 AST | 20 PTS | +5
It’s a tough grade to give Miller, because he really played pretty well. Except of course for the most crucial moments where he made a ton of uncharacteristic mistakes as the Nuggets melted. Missed free throws, untimely turnovers and just flat out bad decision making. It might be a little unfair to say this, but if he just makes one less bad play the Nuggets win – and he certainly had every single opportunity down the stretch.
Chris Andersen, C 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +6
Birdman gets an incomplete. At some point this has to stop — either give him a role or take him out of the rotation. Although I was disappointed in Birdman’s defense, it’s not fair to expect him to play well under these conditions. George Karl needs to show some faith in him or just put him behind Koufos in the rotation. This can’t continue.
Corey Brewer, SF 13 MIN | 3-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +1
A little too high? I really don’t think so — Brewer was a part of the big runs that gave the Nuggets every opportunity to close out this game. He outplayed both Afflalo and Fernandez. Although he was in for defensive purposes late, it was disappointing to see him have such a good game and be off the court for the most important stretches of play. Brewer’s body of work is starting to suggest he should be seeing close to 20 minutes every night.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +6
Rudy was the only Nugget to go scoreless and clearly didn’t have it tonight. Although he’s coming off two solid scoring performances his defense has been incredibly erratic and unreliable. Combine this with turnovers and he just had a pretty disastrous overall game.
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 1 PTS | +6
Koufos played only a few minutes in the second half due to Mozgov getting in foul trouble. Although he played nine minutes, one rebound is the only evidence he isn’t actually the invisible man. Although the stats are lacking, Koufos played respectable defense and I was impressed with his hustle in the limited minutes he received. I wouldn’t mind seeing Koufos get regular minutes as the first big off the bench as he’s had his moments and a little confidence might go a long way into making Koufos a more reliable option.

Rapid Reaction: Los Angeles Clippers 109, Denver Nuggets 105

Los Angeles Clippers 109 FinalRecap | Box Score 105 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 38 MIN | 9-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 18 PTS | -8
You really can’t give Nene anything less than an “A” when he posts the numbers he did and comes up with such big baskets down the stretch. He also showed a willingness to attack the post which is always beneficial to the Nuggets as a whole.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 5-14 FG | 5-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | -11
Gallinari came on hot during the second half but faded down the stretch when the Nuggets needed him most. For some reason George Karl had him playing point guard to close out the game, and although he played excellent defense on Chris Paul (for the most part), he still couldn’t stop what ended up being the game-winning shot. If it weren’t for Blake Griffin’s shifty defense to close out the game, Gallinari likely would be looking at another 20-plus point performance to go along with yet another impressive win. One thing we must not overlook was his brilliant rebound followed up by a full-court run that eventually led to a monster dunk in the early part of the third quarter. Gallo essentially started up, conducted and finished the fast break offense all by himself.
Timofey Mozgov, C 24 MIN | 4-7 FG | 1-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -3
Mozgov has steadily progressed and is finally developing into somewhat of a threat at times. He is now looking to score in post and is following up shots with purpose. His three blocks were huge and his defense on the inside was certainly helpful before he begged out of the game because he was gassed.
Andre Miller, PG 36 MIN | 6-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 16 PTS | 0
Miller certainly missed his fair share of shots, had trouble guarding the Clippers guards and once again refused to let anybody take the last shot of the quarter, but his penetration and overall court awareness was a key element that helped keep the Nuggets in the game. His heads-up foul on DeAndre Jordan in the closing moments of the game gave the Nuggets a chance to win. This is now his fourth double-double in a row after filling in for Ty Lawson.
Arron Afflalo, SG 20 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -8
So how long exactly is it going to be before the Arron Afflalo who has improved every year since he’s been in the NBA shows up this season? He still has yet to hit the 20 point mark and after following up a scoreless performance against the Raptors (in 20 minutes of action nonetheless) he managed a measly five points against the Clippers (in the same amount of time). Maybe his injury is still nagging him, but if that’s the case he shouldn’t even be playing.

Al Harrington, PF
25 MIN | 6-16 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +8
Big Al struggled to find his shot throughout the game but made up for it with his hustle. Still, there were countless shots he missed downy he stretch, and though we can’t expect him to hit them all, we also can’t expect him to miss them all either.
Corey Brewer, SF 21 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | +4
Brewer’s defense, energy and hustle allowed the Nuggets to come back and ultimately string together countless leads in the process. Though he tends to get a little out of control, his effort simply cannot be underestimated.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 31 MIN | 5-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +2
Fernandez had a solid performance all around. His tip-in to end the third quarter was the epitome of “never giving up” and was truly one of the better plays I’ve seen in the NBA this year. Rudy appears to finally be finding his stroke after struggling early on and has really helped the Nuggets second unit put points on the board of late.
Julyan Stone, G 12 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -4
I thought Stone was phenomenal in his brief 12-minute stint, evident in the first 60 seconds alone where he stepped on the floor and immediately blocked a shot. His overall defense was hands-down (even though he had them up!) the best on the team and suffocated whichever opponent he was guarding. When playing alongside Corey Brewer, the Nuggets offer up a backcourt tandem capable of defending anybody in the league. Though Stone likely won’t see many minutes going forward, it would be wise of Karl to insert him in the lineup when defense is lacking as Stone possess the type of defensive drive that can change the outcome of a game.

Clippers game a bittersweet homecoming for Chauncey Billups

It’s early in the Denver Nuggets 2011-2012 season, but the story so far has no doubt been the inspiring double overtime win against the departed Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Tonight’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers doesn’t feature the same hype and excitement surrounding the Knicks contest, but it’s no less symbolic for Nuggets fans witnessing Chauncey Billups’ first return to the Pepsi Center since the infamous trade marking the end of the Melo era.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 96 Toronto Raptors 81

Toronto Raptors 81 Final
Recap | Box Score
96 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 10-14 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 20 PTS | +25
The Raptors were extremely physical with Nene despite lacking anyone remotely capable of guarding him. Nene didn’t shoot particularly well and was fouled whenever he found himself in good position down low. He still had a solid 20 and 10 in 33 minutes behind improved free throw shooting. More importantly, he was a dominant presence on the floor and the Raptors simply had no answer.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 36 MIN | 7-18 FG | 5-7 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Gallo’s scoring opportunities didn’t come as easy without Ty Lawson starting alongside him. He reverted to shooting too many threes and generally looking awful when trying to create for himself. Defensively, Gallo struggled defending the post but continues to show potential as a reliable team defender. Gallo’s grade gets a bump thanks to his ability to close out the game after Toronto made a late push against the Nuggets reserves to get back in it.
Timofey Mozgov, C 17 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +16
Mozgov made a welcome return to the starting lineup and continues to develop into a more physical presence down low. He had his two finest blocks of the season and rebounded well for the minutes he received. He did struggle to work himself back into an offensive rhythm and mishandled a few too many passes. Nevertheless, Mozgov was a big part of the solid defensive effort that held Toronto to 12 first quarter points.
Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 6 REB | 12 AST | 13 PTS | +18
Miller had too many turnovers, but several of them were due to Mozgov and Birdman being slow, out of position or just not ready to receive a pass. His erratic wandering on defense can be frustrating and the Nuggets did struggle to maintain pace with him running point. This is the first time Miller has been in the starting lineup at the point guard position and he produced outstanding numbers as expected. The luxury with Miller is that he’s more than capable and perhaps better as a fill-in starter.
Arron Afflalo, SG 21 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | +11
I’m not gonna dock Afflalo too much for struggling to ease himself back into the rotation after nearly a week off. He’s still taking questionable shots and not making very many of them. The bottom line with Afflalo is that he has such a positive effect on the Nuggets defense you can live with whatever he does offensively as long as he’s not a total black hole.
Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 3-10 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -3
Harrington had a bad day. He came into the game with little energy and by the fourth quarter he was exhausted to the point of parking himself at the three point line with his hands on his knees and spectating. He played entirely too many minutes and made only one of five shots in the second half while struggling to make any sort of impact on defense. Buckets also got into a childish spat with Linas Kleiza and needlessly extended the game’s conclusion.
Chris Andersen, C 8 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +2
Birdman’s playing harder, I’ll give him that. His energy and his effort were sincere. Andersen continues to be a disaster guarding the pick and roll as he struggled staying in front of the smaller Raptors in the first half. Birdman wasn’t putting up numbers, but I did not think his performance warranted benching him in the second half. He was engaged and active, but Birdman is just not a reliable guy for George Karl right now and he seems to be losing the coach’s trust quickly.
Corey Brewer, SF 20 MIN | 1-2 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Brewer had another confusing game. After launching 18 shot attempts against Sacramento he barely attempted anything, which I think is a good thing. He flew around the court with his usual energy creating chaos and extra possessions. Offensively, Brewer is scary and unpredictable and he’ll need to be a bit more consistent to gain more regular playing time off the bench.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 33 MIN | 9-11 FG | 0-1 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 23 PTS | +9
Thank God for Rudy. He looked great upon his return from an Achilles strain and his hot shooting singlehandedly held off the Raptors’ furious second half surge. Rudy also did a great job chasing the feisty Raptors guards all over the court. Bayless was able to shake him loose a couple of times but his offensive game was so brilliant it hardly mattered. Not only did Rudy handle the ball some as a backup point, he was fantastic off the ball – juking out Barbosa for one of the most poetic wide open threes of the season. Magnificent game from Rudy and all the more impressive considering he hasn’t played in quite some time.
Kosta Koufos, C 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -12
The decision to pair Koufos with Harrington in the middle was a head-scratcher to say the least. Kosta didn’t receive any minutes in the first half and calling on him to stem the tide during Denver’s worst stretch of play might have been asking too much of the seldom used 22-year old. He had a rough go from the moment he stepped on the floor, immediately being hit with a questionable blocking foul and worsening Denver’s stagnant offensive attack. Defensively, the Nuggets completely fell apart with him on the floor and while you can’t put the blame solely on Koufos, Toronto seized total control of the game and it’s hard to defend the decision to bring him in.

Can Young Men Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?

The Denver Nuggets management team of Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke has figured out a new way to use cap space.  Some teams throw all their money at a big name free agent and ultimately end up overpaying.  Denver fans know that approach first hand thanks to Kenyon Martin.  Some teams will preserve it and play let let’s make a deal collecting players and draft picks by facilitating trades for less fiscally responsible teams.  This approach is made popular by Oklahoma City.  Some will hemorrhage out all their money towards a few mediocre players for no apparent reason (see the New Jersey Nets from the summer of 2010).  Other teams just sit on their cap space because their owners are too cheap to spend money and/or no players are desperate enough to take their money.  The pre Blake Griffin Clippers and the current Sacramento Kings are examples of this style of cap management.

The Nuggets have shown us a new way.  (more…)

The current New York state of mind

After last week’s historic battle with the New York Knicks that saw countless Nuggets and Knicks players face their former team for the first time since what we’re now referring to as “the Danillo Gallinari trade,” we caught up with John Kenney to answer some questions. Kenney is a contributor for the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate blog of the New York Knicks, KnickerBlogger.net and has a Twitter handle for you to follow @JohnbKenney.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 122, Sacramento Kings 93

Denver Nuggets 122 FinalRecap | Box Score 93 Sacramento Kings
Nene, C 26 MIN | 6-9 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 16 PTS | +30Nene was aggressive on Wednesday. He was looking to score and often times achieved this goal when he received the ball in the post. His defense against the Kings’ big men was also admirable.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 8-12 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 23 PTS | +30The first half of basketball by Gallinari was not only the best half of ball I’ve ever seen him play while in Denver (yes, including the Knicks game) but it might very well have been the best half of basketball any Nuggets player has displayed this year. It was nearly flawless. He never once forced a bad shot and time after time made the correct “basketball play” that was needed by the team in order to score — even if that meant passing (evident by his five assists). Had this game been closer Gallinari would be looking at back-to-back 30-point outings for the first time in his career. If you can score 30 points back-to-back in an NBA game, you’ve arrived.
Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 3-7 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | +11I’m a Koufos guy and his performance against the Kings proves why. Early in the third quarter he had already passed Mozgov’s full-game averages and continued to play sound basketball (for the most part) until the final whistle. His passion for the game was on clear display as he wrestled for rebounds with the feisty DeMarcus Cousins late in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of hand. Though Koufos does take the occasional bad shot, this is to be expected from your third-string center; however, should Koufos see more time (which he deserves) he might very well develop into a nice, strong backup center option by next year.
Andre Miller, PG 32 MIN | 7-9 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 15 PTS | +27It’s probably safe to say Miller is over his “mini slump.” He was as solid as solid gets in terms of taking over the game once Ty left. His passes were pinpoint, his court vision, outstanding, but his leadership was what stood out most. Miller never stopped moving his jaw the entire night and his teammates seemed to benefit.
Ty Lawson, PG 15 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 11 PTS | +7I give Ty a “B” because he was firmly on pace to score over 20 points tonight, even though it wouldn’t have been needed. Bottom line: His aggressiveness early on set the tone for the blowout that shortly followed.
Al Harrington, PF 24 MIN | 5-12 FG | 0-1 FT | 5 REB | 4 AST | 10 PTS | +16Though his field goal percentage dipped as the game rolled on, it’s important to note that going into the half Harrington was one of the leading catalysts that blew the lid off this game. He was shooting an extremely efficient clip yet again and at one time had more points than he did minutes. Downgrading him for a blowout he helped create seems wrong.
Chris Andersen, C 17 MIN | 4-4 FG | 1-1 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | +2Andersen played well. His sprightly enthusiasm for blocking shots didn’t necessarily pay off numerically, but he did send a message to the Kings that as long as he was patrolling the paint, no easy buckets would be had. I’ll take a performance like this from “Birdman” any day of the week.
Corey Brewer, SF 32 MIN | 7-19 FG | 1-3 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 15 PTS | +16Kind of a mixed bag from Brewer. Taking 19 shots is “Melo-esque” and not in a good way. He couldn’t hit an open three if his life depended on it and made a few knucklehead plays that, fittingly, one could label “J.R.-esque.” His botched dunk on a breakaway in the first quarter was one of the worst I’ve seen in a while and his reckless dribbling got a bit out of hand. However, Brewer’s defense was again fantastic and often led to fast break opportunities which the Nuggets thrive off. If he can limit his mistakes next time around, all will be forgiven.
Julyan Stone, G 20 MIN | 3-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | +9For his first real outing, Stone played extremely well. His defense was pure genius, especially the block he had on Jimmer Fredette in the fourth quarter that looked like it shot out of a cannon. His hustle on 50-50 balls was like nothing the Nuggets have seen this season and his ability to come in and absorb the “pass-first” concept of the Nuggets offense was beyond refreshing. Stone will never be a scorer, but if he can play the type of defense he did against the Kings while distributing at a high level, there will certainly be a place for him in the NBA.
Kenneth Faried, F 11 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-3 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | 0The “Manimal” made his long-awaited third appearance of the regular season and did not disappoint. In the first three minutes he collected four rebounds (three of them being offensive boards) and was infectious with his energy level. Faried looked much, much better in terms of knowing his place on the floor than he did in his previous games and had the type of defensive fire the Nuggets are deprived of at times. If he can continue to improve, he should find his way in a few more games as the season progresses.
Jordan Hamilton, G 5 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -3I actually thought “J-Ham” played excellent in his NBA debut. Though it was only five minutes and though he did miss three of the four shots he put up, Hamilton still played solid defense, collected three boards and didn’t make any glaring mistakes. He looked like a totally different player than what I saw in his brief D-League stint and displayed an ability to score the rock that the Nuggets will undoubtedly need in the future. Hopefully we see more J-Ham soon.

Breaking [UPDATED]: Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos agree on extensions with Nuggets

According to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, the Denver Nuggets have agreed on a four-year, $42 million dollar extension with Danilo Gallinari as well as a three-year $9 million dollar extension with Kosta Koufos. It had been made public that the Nuggets wanted to re-sign Gallinari before Wednesday’s deadline to extend restricted free agents passed and it appears they have achieved this goal. This now ensures the Nuggets will have Arron Afflalo, Nene and Gallinari locked down for the foreseeable future. Next in line would seemingly be Ty Lawson although because he doesn’t become a restricted free agent until after the 2012-13 NBA season concludes, the Nuggets have time to work with him.

As for Koufos, this move is quite the surprise. It’s not often that third-string players get multi-year extensions, however after this signing it’s clear the Nuggets front office has the utmost amount of confidence in Koufos and his role on the team moving forward. Now if only George Karl shared this same amount of confidence in the young center and actually gave him minutes, this deal would seem more apt.

Candid thoughts: The Gallinari signing was an excellent move and only further corroborates the notion that Masai Ujiri is a “players” general manager. On his watch, not only have the Nuggets pulled off a phenomenal trade for its superstar who could have easily walked for nothing, but they’ve also managed to re-sign the best player that came to Denver in that deal, in addition to Nene and Afflalo.

So what’s the next big move for what is now one of the best front offices in the entire NBA? As mentioned above, Lawson needs to be re-signed in order to fully secure this young, improving roster for the future. Nene, Afflalo, Gallinari and Lawson are undoubtedly the franchise pillars with guys like Harrington, Brewer, Koufos, Mozgov, Faried and Hamilton acting as the other young role players (excluding Big Al; he’s the veteran leader) to compliment Denver’s solid starting rotation.

But even before Lawson is addressed, current restricted free agent, Wilson Chandler, needs to be first. As I’ve mentioned in the comments section, if the Nuggets desire is to re-sign Lawson (which it rightfully should be), that doesn’t leave much room for Chandler. In fact, it doesn’t leave any room for Chandler unless Masai Ujiri can somehow convince him to take a backup role and accept less money along the way — which certainly isn’t likely. As of right now the Nuggets have roughly $57 million committed to 12 players on the roster for next year, which obviously leaves three more spots that will need to be filled before the start of the 2012-13 campaign. The Nuggets do have three draft picks in the 2012 NBA draft, which in all likelihood they’ll need to hit on, as rookies are by far the best bargain in the league when it comes to salaries.

So, where does this leave Chandler?

My guess is the Nuggets will try and shop him. Current rules set forth by the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement disallow teams to match a restricted free agent’s contract offer from another team, only to then turn around and trade that player; therefore, the Nuggets will have to work with Chandler and teams who are interested in his services to come up with a beneficial sign-and-trade that will see him moved in return for assets most likely in the form of future draft picks given the Nuggets nearly-full roster and lack of financial flexibility. One thing is certain however: The Nuggets, under no circumstances will allow Chandler to walk for nothing. Ujiri proved this sentiment correct with the Carmelo Anthony trade last year. If for some reason a deal cannot be struck Ujiri will have no problem signing Chandler then reissuing one of the Nuggets two second-round draft picks to another team for a return pick down the line. If the Nuggets are forced to pay a small amount of luxury tax for one year, I’m pretty sure Kroenke would understand, especially if the Nuggets keep on the up their current pace.

3-on-3: Buy or sell?

At this juncture in the season it’s not hard to find yourself wondering which aspects of the Nuggets team are real and which are nothing more than a fleeting trend. In our latest 3-on-3 we’ve decided to tackle some of the most prominent “buy or sell” candidates through the first 17 games of the 2011-12 campaign in order to better gauge Nuggets Nation’s perception and expectations of these issues. As always, we invite you to weigh in on the questions we pose by leaving your answers in the comments section below.

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More Than Just a Victory?

Thank God Carmelo Anthony finally made a few shots.

Regardless of how you felt about Carmelo’s forced departure from the Mile High City the first contest between the Denver Nuggets and their former franchise player it would not have been as enjoyable had Melo ended the game without having made it a challenge.

I am on record as saying I wish Carmelo well in New York.  There was no benefit for Denver to have him stay any longer.  We can argue all day if the Denver Nuggets need another player like him to reach their ultimate goal.  What there is no doubt about is this team is easy to cheer for and they play in a way that is endearing.

Many times fans get the feeling that the players they cheer for do not care about what happens on the court as much as they do.  Last night there was little doubt that the Nuggets players and coaches cared as much as the fans, and probably even more.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 119 New York Knicks 114 (2OT)

Denver Nuggets 119 Final
Recap | Box Score
114 New York Knicks
Nene, C 45 MIN | 5-13 FG | 2-6 FT | 13 REB | 5 AST | 12 PTS | +3
Made the two biggest free throws of the year after going 0-4 from the line to start the game. Nene routinely found himself on smaller players and was not as aggressive as he was against Philadelphia. You can’t deny his improved rebounding and despite some trouble guarding the rim, he played very respectable late in the game when it mattered most.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 52 MIN | 9-19 FG | 18-20 FT | 11 REB | 2 AST | 37 PTS | +5
Incredible. 37 points on 19 shots. Did not even play his best game and clearly didn’t have his legs under him as he settled for too many long two pointers. Outplayed everyone else on the floor and is making me rethink my assessment of Gallo having true star potential. His game was so good I don’t have any room left to gush about his phenomenal defensive performance against Melo.
Timofey Mozgov, C 30 MIN | 6-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 16 PTS | +5
Deserves minutes, and thankfully he’s finally getting them. Tyson Chandler turned in dominant rebounding performances his past two games and was a non-factor against the shorthanded Nuggets. Mozgov scored 16 points, but his true impact came on the defensive end where he stayed on his feet and routinely rescued his teammates from getting beat and giving up layups.
Andre Miller, PG 49 MIN | 6-14 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 14 PTS | +6
I know, everyone deserves a great grade for this one, right? I really didn’t like much about Andre’s play through more than half of the contest. Then, he goes all Philadelphia 76ers and throws in the most amazing basket of the season to seal the win. He inbounded the ball perfectly three separate times on crucial possessions late. Miller honestly didn’t play great but had an easy double double. Miller’s poise is what makes him shine.
Ty Lawson, PG 49 MIN | 3-12 FG | 4-7 FT | 8 REB | 7 AST | 10 PTS | +8
He was a spectator in the win. I hate being so hard on a Nuggets player in such a great win, but I have never been more disappointed in Ty. He made only three shots, all of them assisted by others who fed him wide open looks. Ty needs to be better. He did not hit free throws down the stretch, failed to stay in front of the Knicks guards and allowed rookie Iman Shumpert to get the best of him. Ty’s numbers were fine but the boxscore belies the fact he had no impact on the win. I don’t grade the boxscores.
Al Harrington, PF 41 MIN | 10-24 FG | 0-1 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 24 PTS | +2
Al Buckets did it again. After a dreadful start he might have been benched by a lot of other coaches in this league. Harrington delivered in the clutch yet again hitting most every big basket down the stretch. He scored 15 points in the fourth quarter and exuded nothing but confidence when it looked like Denver was going to lose.
Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -4
You can’t ask for much more from Brewer in the limited minutes he received. He came in for defensive purposes late and forced Melo into a difficult shot he had no business attempting. Melo made it and Brewer learned the valuable lesson that sometimes it does not matter how well you play defense. Brewer ultimately didn’t have more of an impact because he was extremely clumsy on the offensive end, where he still needs to prove his worth.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 108, Washington Wizards 104

Denver Nuggets 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Washington Wizards
Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +3
Koufos didn’t see much time against the Wizards, but his six rebounds were third most on the team despite playing only 15 minutes. It’s still a mystery as to why he’s not seeing the floor more often, especially given his rebounding prowess which the Nuggets still desperately need at times.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 21 PTS | +3
Gallinari had a strong first half and mellowed out as the game progressed. But going 7-11 from the field while collecting four rebounds, five boards, an assist and a steal is a great all-around stat line for the Rooster.
Timofey Mozgov, C 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov certainly played much better against the Wizards than he has in other games where he’s logged heavy minutes. Though you’d still like to see more rebounds and just a better overall feel for the game and his positioning, it’s obvious that he’s trying to improve which is good to see.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | +11
Afflalo didn’t have his best game of the year but he didn’t have his worst game either. His defense against Nick Young was decent, but he wasn’t the “stopper” he can be at times. He had a few nice mid-range jump shots that he knocked down coming off screens and a few good cuts to the basket, but in general Afflalo must do these things more often in order to make the kind of impact we all know he can.
Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Lawson had one of the his better games this year against the Wizards, putting up All-Star numbers across the board. His nine rebounds and six assists were both team highs and his 3-for-6 shooting from downtown helped the Nuggets out tremendously in such a tight game. Though Lawson is shooting a pretty low percentage from the field over the last week, his aggressiveness is still appreciated and largely the reason why.
Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 10-16 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 29 PTS | +4
Seriously, what more can you say about this guy? His 29 points were a season high and his seven boards, the second most on the team. His .362 3-point shooting percentage is above his career average and his 2-point field goal percentage is supposedly the highest in he league according to Chris Marlowe. Additionally according to 82games.com, Harrington leads the team in cumulative plus-minus at plus-109 and Nuggets’ points per possession when he’s on the floor at 1.13. Al is also second in the team in PER behind only Corey Brewer who hasn’t really played all that much this season. Currently Al is either sitting atop or near the top of the Sixth Man of the Year award race.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 PTS | -7
Miller was frustrated all evening with the lack of calls he and the Nuggets were receiving from the refs. He spent more time complaining than he did playing — although, after the incredible performance he had against the Sixers, this can be excused for one night. Still, Miller needs to find some sort of consistency in his game moving forward. He’s just too talented to be struggling this much.
Chris Andersen, C 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-7 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -6
Though numerically speaking, Andersen had a pretty good game, I still didn’t see how he was contributing to helping the Nuggets win. His negative-six on the plus-minus scale was second worst on the team — probably due to the fact that he was constantly fumbling the ball (like always) and letting McGee run wild, which led to numerous easy buckets. At this point, it’s really hard to believe that Faried would be anywhere near as bad as Birdman is.
Corey Brewer, SF 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | -3
Hard to give a grade to Brewer when he was only in for such a short amount of time, although his defense and energy were there yet again. It’s anyone’s guess as to why he didn’t play much in a tight game where defense was nowhere to be found. After the way he’s played lately, you would think he would have earned himself a spot in the rotation, but apparently not.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 12 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -2
Fernandez played excellent ball for only seeing 12 minutes of time. It appears as though he re-injured his achilles which forced him to exit the game.

Five Things We Saw

  1. The Worst First: The Nuggets allowed the Wizards to score a season-high tying (for opponents) 37 points in the first quarter on Friday. To put things into perspective, the Wizards are 27th in the league in points per game at roughly 88 and have scored 30 in the first quarter only once all season — and that was against the Knicks. In the last nine games, the Nuggets have held its opponent to under 25 points in the first quarter only twice. This frightful trend does nothing but compound the Nuggets defensive woes even more and is solid proof that the Nuggets are coming into games mentally unprepared. While the Nuggets need to address its defensive shortcomings immediately, fixing the opening-game defensive strategy should be paramount.
  2. “Arc” Nemesis: Right after the Nuggets work on their defense to open up the game they should then concentrate on their perimeter defense as it’s some of the worst in the league and will end up costing them one of these days if not repaired. Right now Denver ranks 16th in opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage, 27th in opponent’s 3-pointers made and 29th in opponent’s 3-pointers attempted. It’s no secret that the Nuggets have had all kinds of problems this year with switching screens and closing out on defenders, what needs to be avoided at all costs however is letting this become a staple of the team rather than just an early season struggle.
  3. Fundamentally Flawed: Sticking with the theme of defense (since that is in fact the primary “thing I saw” on Friday), it’s also important to note just how terrible the Nuggets are when it comes to executing the most basic elements of basketball. Everything from boxing out, to running precise plays, to crashing the boards — it’s all rusty at best. But this is perhaps most evident on the defensive side of the ball. Honestly, watching the Nuggets play defense is painful these days. Other than Afflalo, nobody seems to take pride in their one-on-one defense which leads to penetration, which leads to abuse of help-defense, which leads to kick-outs, which leads to open 3-pointers, which leads to the Nuggets getting in holes they shouldn’t be in. I know Denver is currently sitting at 11-5 but that doesn’t change the fact that it also ranks 26th in opponents points per game, 29th in opponent’s field goals per game, 26th in opponent’s field goal percentage, 24th in opponent’s adjusted field goal percentage, 23rd in rebounds per game, dead last in offensive rebounds per game and 23rd in opponent’s assists per game. So sure, winning in the regular season by outscoring the opponent is fun and all, but this type of basketball simply won’t cut it come playoff time. At some point the Nuggets are going to have to clamp down on defense and start playing fundamentally sounds basketball if they want to continue their success in the postseason.
  4. The Four Amigos: Al Harrington, Nene, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are becoming quite the force. Not only are these the top four leaders in points per game on the roster, but according to 82games.com when they’re on the floor together along with Andre Miller they’re also Denver’s best defensive squad, allowing only .63 points per possession to the opponent. This specific five-man squad leads any other combination of Nuggets players in plus-minus and has outscored it’s opponent 5-to-1 every time it steps on to the floor. Between Al’s Sixth Man of the Year push, Lawson’s fringe All-Star status, Gallinari’s “do it all” type of game and Nene’s improving aggressiveness, the Nuggets have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, but again, defense must become a top priority in order for post-season success to come to fruition.
  5. Road Warriors: After going 3-0 so far on the current road trip, the Nuggets now are tied for the seventh best record in the NBA and sit in second place in the Western Conference behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder. The road has always given the Nuggets trouble, but perhaps this year will be different given the shortened schedule and roster depth. Denver will always take care of its business at home, but if the Nuggets can manage to finish the year above .500 away from the Pepsi Center, they will almost certainly put themselves in position to finish as a top four seed in the West, securing a much-needed home court advantage in the process.

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Game 16 Advanced Stats (and thoughts by Charlie)

Pace Factor:  100.8 – A fast game against a struggling defensive team
Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 – A fine performance on the road
Defensive Efficiency: 103.1 – Not good at all. This could become a big problem if not addressed

  • I’ve been waiting for Ty Lawson to start looking for his jump shot more. Teams are clamping down hard on him in the paint and Lawson’s efforts to draw contact on drives have not been rewarded all season. Lawson can hit pull up jumpers with or without a screen, he can create space and step back with his range or simply spot up and take set shots from three. Ty is unstoppable when he gets more aggressive and more confident with his shot. Right now he’s taking a few too many floaters and off balance jumpers at the end of the shot clock and his efficiency is taking a serious hit. Tonight was a step in the right direction. Ty, for whatever reason, continues to get little respect from officials compared to other small point guards in the league.
  • Kalen mentioned it, and the Nuggets’ perimeter defense was indeed atrocious in this game. Rotations were slow and anytime the Wizards swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other someone was guaranteed to be open for three.  Part of the problem is the fact Andre Miller sags way off his man, allows him to see the entire floor and doesn’t close out on anyone. Chris Andersen is indifferent in terms of hustling out to disrupt a shooter. Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton were on their way to career nights and the Nuggets were lucky Washington was fairly passing-averse and took enough bad shots to bring their field goal percentage down considerably.
  • I was very surprised Rudy played. He wore a thick sleeve over his achilles and didn’t last long before having to leave. He has a nagging injury that needs rest; the Nuggets play tomorrow, Corey Brewer is playing great so there wasn’t exactly a pressing need to get him in. Let’s hope Rudy’s setback was not serious.
  • Al Harrington won the game. He not only hit threes but without Nene, him and Afflalo were asked to post up more. Harrington was the only one having any sort of success. Al Buckets showed leadership and poise at the end of the game and he continues to be one of the most consistent and important pieces on the team.
  • Koufos isn’t giving the Nuggets much. It’s not a coincidence he’s only produced at the Center spot and I believe he should only be getting Center minutes. The guy deserves court time, but it seems Karl is rewarding him charity minutes and starts without any intention of giving him an actual role. Birdman did have one of his better games of the season production-wise, but Washington had absolutely no threatening post presence and it really pained me not to see the Manimal get a shot. There was never any reason to start two slow, offensively challenged seven footers when the plan all along was to go small. Denver fell behind 37-27 in the first quarter.
  • That being said, I credit Karl and the team in this one. It’s clear they were a little flat with Nene out and this was not a win to like, but one to accept. The Nuggets did claw back and fend off the Wizards nicely despite their offense struggling bad in the second half. Andre Miller wasn’t useless, but he went scoreless while playing 20-plus minutes for the second time this season. For a guy as immensely talented as Andre, I don’t understand how that happens and it’s incredibly disappointing. Nevertheless, what a great road win as long as the Nuggets learn from it.
  • The only thing I will say about the coaching is that the Nuggets should take a strong look at getting Al some help at the Power Forward spot, especially against more physical teams. And I don’t mean Koufos.

Nuggets without Nene against Wizards

The Denver Post is reporting the Nuggets will be without Nene tonight against the Wizards. After coming off an injury of his own, Timofey Mozgov will likely start alongside Kosta Koufos in the front court. Additionally, Rudy Fernandez will attempt to play after missing the last several games due to an achilles problem. It should be noted that over the last four games Nene is averaging 17.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while playing some of the most aggressive basketball of his career with the Denver Nuggets. Nene will no doubt be sorely missed against one of the taller front lines in the NBA. Let’s just hope this is a legitimate injury and not simply a “rest day,” as even though the Wizards don’t have greatest of records, they’re still an NBA team that has a lot of talent, and one that just beat the team most consider to be the best in the league: the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nuggets News: The Association and Stiffs Night Out

Courtesy of Benjamin Hochman, details are emerging on the latest season of NBATV’s “The Association” which will follow the Denver Nuggets through the 2011-2012 season. The first episode airs next Wednesday on NBATV and you can find the full schedule in Hochman’s Nuggets Ink post. For those not familiar with the show it is a fascinating look into the grind of an NBA season from the perspective of the players, coaches, front office executives and trainers. The Nuggets were last featured on NBATV’s “Real Training Camp” two seasons ago and that was a must-watch for Nuggets fans as I’m sure “The Association” will be as well.

We’d also like to post a friendly reminder to attend Stiffs Night Out for the upcoming New York Knicks game. It will no doubt be a fun time and a great opportunity to hang out with fellow Nuggets fans. Our friends at Denver Stiffs are also giving away prime seats to an upcoming home game and if you’re in the Denver area, I strongly suggest you go! Follow the link on Denver Stiffs for all the details.

On to the latest news and links.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 108 Philadelphia 76ers 104 (OT)

Denver Nuggets 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Philadelphia 76ers
Nene, C 38 MIN | 8-15 FG | 4-4 FT | 14 REB | 3 AST | 20 PTS | +9
It wasn’t the prettiest game, but Nene stuck with it and finished. Yes, he still shoots way too many underhand line drives at the rim, but Nene was the lone reliable big in this game. He secured the rebound that led to the game-winner and played the best defense he has all year.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 33 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | +14
It’s hard to give Gallo anything other an ‘F’. He was benched for the final play of regulation and the entire overtime. He did nothing but tentatively stand around and hoist threes on offense. Gallo couldn’t even hold his own defensively against the wiry Thad Young and he was absolutely torched on every switch. He folded and turned in a truly spineless performance. Let’s hope it was a one time thing.
Kosta Koufos, C 7 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -6
The slow-footed Koufos had a rough start against the rookie Vucevic who simply overpowered him. He shoots too many soft hooks and floaters and simply wasn’t physical enough for his presence to be useful in this game. He didn’t see any action after the first quarter as the small lineups delivered the win. I’ll give Koufos a break as he hasn’t played in a long time, but he needs to be tougher.
Arron Afflalo, SG 44 MIN | 5-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -1
Another frustrating performance by Arron, who was on track for his best game yet with a solid first half. He disappeared in the second half and reverted to forcing shots and generally being un-clutch and clumsy with the ball in his hands. Afflalo did make a big pull-up jumper late and hit two free throws to seal the win. Like Nene, he kept his cool and finished strong despite some poor stretches of play. That kind of guts and character goes a long way to winning games like these.
Ty Lawson, PG 45 MIN | 6-16 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 7 AST | 13 PTS | +13
Lawson was frustratingly inconsistent all night long and was thoroughly outplayed by Andre Miller. He is unable to get in a any sort of rhythm and is struggling mightily to finish layups. His turnovers are up and his scoring is down, but Lawson continued to play with confidence and kept attacking when the team looked ready to pack in it.
Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -9
Harrington continues to do his job – stretch the floor and defend the post as best he can. Unfortunately he had to team with Birdman in the second half and with the Nuggets switching every screen after the first quarter he had trouble staying in front of the Sixers. I can’t fault Harrington’s performance and ultimately he stepped in for Gallo in overtime and played a huge part in gutting out the win.
Andre Miller, PG 39 MIN | 12-20 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 10 AST | 28 PTS | +18
He was clearly motivated against his old team and flat out dominated. Make no mistake, the Nuggets were dead in the water after a second half defensive meltdown fueled by turnovers – and Andre decided to go out and win the game. This was the best performance of any Nugget this season and I’m still fairly shocked at what I saw the 35-year old Miller just do to his old team on a back-to-back.
Chris Andersen, C 15 MIN | 2-4 FG | 4-6 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | -5
Andersen turned in another sub-par effort and the Nuggets won in spite of him. He played an acceptable first half and followed it up with his worst effort yet, which is saying a lot considering how up and down he has been. He mercifully fouled out early but otherwise played cowardly defense and contributed very little offensively after a first half in which he at least got to the line and scored some.
Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -13
Brewer knows how to play only one way and it’s all out chaos when he’s in the game. Things are either going great or god-awful terrible when he’s in and there’s no in between. Overall I liked Brewer’s energy a lot although the team defense was wildly inconsistent with him on the floor

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