Denver Nuggets – Real Training Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training Camp Signings Featuring Keith Brumbaugh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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