Game Preview: Nuggets at Magic

When the Nuggets go to Orlando it will be a reunion of sorts. But with Al Harrington targeting a mid-December from knee surgery, Arron Afflalo is the only former teammate they’ll face on the court. It is the Magic’s opening game, and after having traded Dwight Howard, who for years has been the center of their universe, it’s really up in the air how they will look coming out of the gates.

Most analysts have predicted a (more…)

5 burning questions for the 5 remaining Nuggets preseason games

The Denver Nuggets have five preseason games left on the schedule, and tonight versus the Golden State Warriors (7pm/MT) will be the first of only two to be played at the Pepsi Center. Denver did win its first two games, and now that they’ve been played we have gotten the chance to see some of the players in action, and some of the lineups that George Karl is experimenting with. The coaching decisions and player performances thus far point to a few interesting questions, and over the course of the next few games we will hopefully be closer to having the answers. (more…)

Reasons to be Excited for Game Six

I have been chided for being negative and pessimistic.  To me the negative is simply providing objective analysis.  As far as pessimistic, well, you’ve got me there.  I have been a fan of the Nuggets for roughly two and a half decades.  My personal conclusion is that Nuggets fan and optimist are mutually exclusive.

However, heading into game six I have objectively found several reasons why Nuggets fans can feel optimistic encouraged about Denver’s chances to force a game seven.

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Additional Game 1 notes

There was quite a bit to see in Game 1 of the Nuggets first-rounds series against the Lakers. Though we covered most of it in the Rapid Reaction recap, there were still a few notes that went unpublished… until now. Here is some additional food for thought before the Nuggets tee off against the Lakers in Game 2, tonight at 10:30 p.m. EST.

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5-on-5: Lakers preview

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 5-on-5 series we discuss what’s on everyone’s mind: Lakers vs. Nuggets. In addition to our normal trio of contributors (Jeremy, Charlie and I), we’ve asked Brain Kamenetzky of ESPN’s Land O’Lakers blog and Roundball reader Logan Wright to chip in with their take on the series as well.

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Nuggets at Lakers Q & A with Brian Kamenetzky of Land O’Lakers [Updated]

In preparation for the big tilt tonight between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers I had the opportunity to exchange questions and Answers with Brian Kamenetzky, one half of the famous Kamenetzky brothers who have been covering the Lakers for years and who now run Land O’Lakers on ESPN Los Angeles.  You can head on over to Land O’Lakers to read my answers to his questions including the three things Denver must do to win tonight.

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Nene, Afflalo to return against Mavericks + Wilson Chandler [Updated]

According to NBA.com’s Aaron Lopez, the Nuggets will send out a starting lineup against the Dallas Mavericks that consists of Nene, Chris Andersen, Julyan Stone, Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson. This is Birdman’s first start since the 2008 season and Julyan Stone’s first start at small forward since joining the Nuggets. Meanwhile, Corey Brewer is still out due to the tragic death of his father. Our thoughts and prayers are with Corey and the rest of the Brewer family.

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Nuggets depleted against Rockets

As is being reported by Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post, the Nuggets will be extremely depleted on Monday against the Houston Rockets. Three starters including Nene, Afflalo and Mozgov will all be out in addition to Corey Brewer due to the devastating loss of his father. While Mozgov and Brewer will almost certainly miss multiple games, there’s no definitive word out on how long Nene or Afflalo will be sidelined. Starting in place of Mozgov will be Kosta Koufos, who’s coming off a career game against the Blazers in which he netted career highs in minutes played and rebound in route to a 16-point, 12-board double-double. In place of Afflalo will be Julyan Stone and in place of Nene, none other than the “Manimal” himself, Kenneth Faried.

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Nuggets vs Lakers Q & A

In preparation for today’s slug fest between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets I had the chance to do a Q & A with Andy Kamenetzky from ESPN’s Land O’ Lakers blog and ESPN Los Angeles.  You can read my responses to Andy’s intriguing questions over on Land O’ Lakers.  You can also look for a 5-on-5 coming later today on ESPN.com where I weigh in on tonight’s doubleheader with the Celtics and Knicks playing before the Nuggets and Lakers.

1. The Lakers have vastly different home and road records. Experienced veteran teams are not typically so deficient away from home so why are the Lakers having such a difficult time winning on the road?

Well, it’s worth noting the Lakers’ early season road schedule has been very difficult. They’ve had games in Sacramento (always a tough venue), Utah (where they won), Denver (the second end of a back-to-back against the Nuggets), Portland, the Clippers, Miami and Orlando back-to-back, Milwaukee, and Minnesota (a win). The Bucks were an inexcusable loss with Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson out, but the rest of those games aren’t automatic gimmes. Factor in how the Lakers played a boatload of games in the first 3-4 weeks and the lack of practice time to learn a new system, and it’s not perhaps shocking they haven’t been good on the road.

Of course, the obvious response is that elite teams with championship aspirations will find ways to overcome these issues. Of course, the Lakers aren’t playing anywhere close to an elite level at the moment, and it’s debatable whether they’ll ever be capable of that on a regular basis. And therein lies the rub.

2. Pau Gasol, while still playing well overall, has slipped a bit from the stellar level we have come to expect from him. Is it a matter of the difficult schedule or is it possible the trade rumors are bothering him more than he has let on?

I don’t think rumors are a factor. Pau certainly wasn’t thrilled with being part of the scuttled CP3 deal, but he showed up to practice the next day, and rode out an awkward situation. I’ll give his ability to block out lingering whispers the benefit of the doubt. The schedule, however, has probably been an issue. Gasol hasn’t just played a lot of games, but a lot of minutes as well. Mike Brown’s defensive schemes demand bigs show hard and recover on pick-and-rolls, and nobody’s been pushed harder than Pau. Doing this for 37-ish minutes a night will take a toll.

There’s also a matter of Pau’s role, which hasn’t been fleshed out to his liking. There was a long stretch where he was basically parked at the elbow and used primarily as a facilitator and jump shooter, and he expressed displeasure about it. Since then, there’s an effort to get him more low post touches or just call his number, but the results have remained erratic. At times, the blame falls on teammates not looking enough for him. Others, the blame falls on Gasol’s indecisiveness and lack of unwillingness to occasionally force the issue himself.

This hasn’t been an easy season for Pau, who entered the year determined to rebound from an awful playoffs. If anything, fans are only more down on him.

3. Derek Fisher continues to wallow in his own mire on the court.  Even with his horrific percentages, it still seems like he has hit a few big shots for them this season.  Is he more important to the team than his numbers would indicate or does L.A. need to ditch him ASAP?

A little of both. Fisher’s importance as a leader can’t be overstated. He has everybody’s ear, including Kobe’s. Bryant’s said, without any hint of facetiousness, Fish is the only teammate he’ll always listen to. He also trusts Fisher unconditionally. Beyond success draining critical shots, Derek’s completely unafraid to step into those situations where someone other than Kobe needs to be clutch.

Of course, the Lakers might encounter fewer tight fourth quarters if their starting point guard produced more during the first three. Fisher’s dwindling percentages plays a role in the scoring issues this season. (To be fair, he’s also averaging about 4 assists a night, and has done a nice job initiating the early offense.) This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to put Fisher out to pasture, but limited minutes would be helpful. And that had been the approach before Steve Blake went out with a rib injury. Until Blake returns, the PT will naturally increase, and the Lakers will have to make the best of it.

Either way, Fisher doesn’t kill the team quite as much as advertised, but less is typically more.

4. Ty Lawson has done quite well against L.A. in his career. Is he the player the Lakers must focus on, or is there someone else who poses a bigger threat?

The short answer is, “anybody who can operate in transition” is who the Lakers need to key on. And since that includes virtually every significant player on Denver’s roster, nobody can go unaccounted for. Plus, at the end of the day, the Nugs are a very deep, balanced team with plenty of legit threats. Lawson, as you mentioned, is certainly a potential issue for the Lakers, given how quick guards can provide fits. But Andre Miller can be just as tough backing down opponents in the post. Danillo Gallinari can be deadly from outside or on run-outs. Al Harrington was a dizzying cover for Gasol in space during the first meeting. Nene’s spin moves around the basket are ridiculous. Arron Afflalo, if playing like himself, is among the best “3 and D” players in the game, which means he can hurt the Lakers on both ends.

Bottom line, Lawson makes me nervous, but he’s hardly alone.

5. I will spare you the Dwight Howard question, but stick with a hypothetical trade scenario for my final question.  If Mitch Kupchak could have a mulligan on the Lamar Odom trade, would he take it?  At the time it seemed sending Odom to Dallas was part of a larger plan, but as of yet no such plan has come to fruition.

I’d certainly like to think so. On the court and in the locker room, LO’s absence has left gaping holes still unfilled. Even recognizing his struggles in Dallas (caused in part by an admitted lack of offseason conditioning) and emotional nature (exacerbated by legitimate offseason tragedies), the guy would help the Lakers a lot. Were a time machine — hot tub or otherwise — made available to Mitch Kupchak, I’d be stunned if he didn’t set it to “Dec 11, 2011,” then told Lamar to take a few extra days to cool off because he’s staying put.

Thanks to Andy for the time and I hope everyone enjoys tonight’s 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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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 at 76ers Game Preview Q & A

With the Denver Nuggets heading into a huge matchup with the suddenly dominant Philadelphia 76ers Carey Smith from the TrueHoop Network 76ers blog Philadunkia hit me with a few questions.  Follow this link to check out what I have to say regarding Denver’s historical road woes, Gallo and of course the Manimal!

 

Nuggets News: Mini Road Trip Preview

After three straight solid home wins, the Nuggets are carrying nice momentum into their second road trip of the season. It’s a quick back-to-back in New Orleans and San Antonio against two teams which provide unique challenges for this new Nuggets team. While the Hornets and Spurs appear to be reeling from injuries, let’s not forget these are still road games against well-rested opponents.

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Lakers preview with ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky

Sitting at a comfortable 2-1 record coming out of the gate, the Denver Nuggets is about to face its toughest test of the season with back-to-back bouts against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday and Sunday. To better prepare for this all-too familiar foe, ESPNLA’s Brian Kamenetzky graciously offered up his insight on this year’s Lakers team in exchange for Roundball’s take on the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets. Be sure and check in with ESPNLA’s Land O’ Lakers blog tomorrow for our analysis on the Nuggets upcoming back-to-back series against the Lakers, but before you do, first read world-class journalist, Brian Kamenetzky’s exclusive interview with Roundball Mining Company regarding his thoughts on the current Lakers squad and its chances of contending for a title this season.
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Nuggets vs. Jazz

After trouncing the defending world champion Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the 2011-12 campaign, the Nuggets will look to capitalize on a young Utah team coming off a late-night loss against the Lakers on Tuesday. Though both teams have an above average amount of depth that will be on clear display throughout the evening, the Nuggets simply have more talent intertwined within its roster than the Jazz. Being that tonight is the home opener for the Nuggets, look for the boys in blue and yella to come out firing on all cylinders. Also, be sure and keep an eye on the front-court battle between Nene, Mozgov and Birdman versus Favors, Kanter, Jefferson and Milsap. Last night against the Lakers all four of the Jazz’s big men received ample playing time with the rookie and No. 3 overall pick, Enes Kanter, logging over 20 minutes of action. Should the young, 6-11 Turk receive roughly that same amount of playing time tonight, it would be wise for our bigs to exploit this opportunity and take advantage of Kanter’s inexperience. Please post your in-game comments, thoughts, observations and whatever else is on your mind here.

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