Wilson Chandler – Apply Pressure Here

Former Denver Nuggets beat writer Marc J. Spears has posted a story on Yahoo! Sports that Wilson Chandler wants to resign with Denver at the close of his service in China.  While on the face of it, a quick return appears imminent, I think some caution is in order.

The quote from Chandler’s agent, Chris Luchey, that caught my attention was this one:

“The ball is in their court. If Wilson is comfortable, he will be a part of their core group.”

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 95 Dallas Mavericks 105

Dallas Mavericks 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 Denver Nuggets
Nene, C 36 MIN | 6-12 FG | 4-5 FT | 10 REB | 2 AST | 16 PTS | -10
Nene had a harmless double-double. I was surprised he produced this much because he continues to have trouble finishing at the rim. Nene had an incredibly difficult cover in Dirk Nowitzki but that is not an excuse to completely neglect defending the weak side. No blocks, no steals, and too many turnovers. The one thing Nene did well was keep his head in the game instead of expending all of his energy arguing calls.
Julyan Stone, G 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | -8
I don’t know why the Nuggets went away from Stone. Karl keeps putting him in a terrible situation where he’s not in a position to make plays or develop his point guard abilities. I like the way Stone defends, but it’s hard to ignore how he helped the Nuggets get off to a horrid start on both ends of the court. I’ll give Stone an incomplete. The starting lineup experiment couldn’t have gone much worse and Stone suffered the most for it. He was not given a chance to play after 8 uneventful minutes.
Chris Andersen, C 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -13
Birdman is like that cheap, no-name vodka occupying the bottom shelf of your favorite liquor store. Are the cheap thrills of a good night once in a while worth the ensuing week-long headache? No, and consistently going there is a sign you may have a serious problem. Starting him was Karl’s strangest decision yet. He hasn’t started since 2008 against the Hawks, where he also struggled mightily and the Nuggets lost. I like Birdman in small, infrequent doses when the team is exceptionally flat. Starting him flat out didn’t work.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 4-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | -21
It’s tough to settle on a good grade for Afflalo, because he showed some fight coming off another horrendous start. There was a stretch in the third quarter where he looked to be asserting himself as a leader while imploring the Nuggets to work harder on the defensive end. Unfortunately, Afflalo was just way too up and down. He missed every big shot he took and just didn’t consistently play up to his talent. He finished with a game worst -21, a stat not indicative of his true play but a strong sign that he just doesn’t have it together. There are signs he is getting there.
Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 5-16 FG | 4-5 FT | 1 REB | 10 AST | 16 PTS | -4
Lawson wasn’t aggressive enough, but it’s totally unreasonable to expect him to just start taking over games while trying to grow into his long term role as a starter. A double-double from your starting PG should be more than enough for any good team in the league to get a win, especially one with as much depth and scoring talent as Denver. It’s imperative that Lawson get way more aggressive going to the rim, but at least he is improving. The main problem is the defense and Lawson can’t fix that. Ty has the right idea in trying to make this haphazard offense work by not forcing too many shots, but he simply needs to get meaner and be relentless attacking the paint.
Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 6-10 FG | 3-5 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 17 PTS | -5
Great stats, but just one of those hollow efforts as you never got the sense he had much of an impact on the game. To be fair, the game was pretty out of hand by the time he came in. Al Buckets is at least making shots and not afraid to take them when needed. With the Nuggets suffering a crisis of confidence at the moment, you have to appreciate what Al brings to the table. Unfortunately Harrington is a big part of the Nuggets giving back way more points than they are able to put up. I had to dock Harrington’s solid production because he ultimately didn’t make plays when the Nuggets needed it most. Al’s effort does not go unnoticed though, I love how hard he’s playing and this team’s problems are much bigger than him.
Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 3-5 FG | 4-4 FT | 7 REB | 6 AST | 11 PTS | +4
His defense is so bad, you need a nightly double-double just to compensate. Miller can’t guard anyone and the team seems to know it. Karl seems okay with having him lay off his man while praying he can cut off drives to the rim. The problem is teams are finding the open shooter and Miller can’t be bothered to close out. Outside of the defense, Miller struggled again with turnovers but played about as well as he can offensively. This may be the best you can get out of Miller in a nightly bench role and I’m not sure giving a 36 year old this many minutes is the wisest idea.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 29 MIN | 6-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | +4
Fernandez had the hot hand early and helped close out the second half on a mini Denver run. The Nuggets then curiously went away from him while the starters lost all momentum. His shot selection was much better and his gambling defense continues to be frustratingly hit or miss. Still, Rudy played with a lot of passion and showed resolve on a night the rest of the Nuggets looked scared.
Kosta Koufos, C 20 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | +3
Koufos is impressing me more with each game. He still makes a lot of mistakes getting caught on switches and trying to guard the perimeter, but the guy is only 22 years old and still learning the most difficult position in the NBA. He usually produces whenever he gets minutes, so I don’t understand why he was removed from the starting lineup. Koufos may have been the only positive in terms of the defense tonight and he barely played. I was wrong about the guy — he’s a surefire rotation player and the Nuggets need to live with some rookie mistakes while developing him.

Wilson Chandler to the Rescue? [Updated]

Upon hearing the news that Danilo Gallinari experienced more than just an ankle sprain against the Houston Rockets and might miss one month every Nuggets’ fan response was, “When can Wilson Chandler get here?”

As everyone who cares about the Nuggets knows, Wilson Chandler chose to sign a contract to play in China despite the lack of an opt-out clause which would allow him to return to the N.B.A. should the lockout end prior to the cancelation of the 2011-12 season.

Projections for Chandler’s availability have ranged from March to April.  The way I understand it, Chandler will be freed from his service to the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions as soon as their season ends.  While the truth is that could be anywhere between February 15 and sometime in April, there is an ever so slight chance that the Lions season could end on the fifteenth.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 90, Houston Rockets 99

Houston Rockets 99 FinalRecap | Box Score 90 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +1
Time to temper the high expectations surrounding the Manimal. All things considered, he had a very solid debut in his first real NBA game. Despite some foul trouble, he showed a lot of promise defending Scola and Dalembert. Faried even skied high for a spectacular block and his high energy play energized the crowd in a painfully ugly game. It was not the most productive jaw-dropping debut, but Faried simply needs to take baby steps towards becoming a better player and he did so tonight.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 20 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -5
I thought Gallo still showed signs of fatigue but battled hard in the 20 minutes he was able to play. He rolled his ankle badly in the third quarter and it was later revealed he suffered a possible chip fracture. It’s just a terrible injury at the worst possible time. Gallo hasn’t always played like the Nuggets best player but he’s clearly been one of the toughest. Assuming he’s out for a few weeks this is an incredibly costly loss.
Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +1
Koufos couldn’t keep up his solid production as a spot-starter. Despite having a size and quickness advantage over the Rockets front court, he clearly doesn’t know how to assert himself on the block. What’s worse is he fouled out in 23 minutes. Despite notching some impressive blocks, 2K showed he’s a work in progress on the defensive end. Although Koufos is in his fourth year it’s hard to forget just how raw he still is.
Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 13 PTS | -2
Lawson had a tough time matching Lowry, one of the most overlooked guards in the league. It was tough for him to create with Houston packing the paint and doing a solid job getting back in transition. There was no post up threat on the floor and no consistent pick and roll options to work with. Ty tried his hardest to get others involved without forcing shots, but he could have been a lot more assertive with his own offense. Considering how talented he is, it’s tough to see him go passive even for small stretches of game.
Julyan Stone, G 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -4
Stone has trouble hitting an open jump shot and I thought it was a curious decision to start him. Although I’m a big Stone fan, Andre Miller seems more motivated as a starter and has played poorly off the bench. Stone’s length and quickness contributed to a solid defensive performance, but he had trouble fitting in on the offensive end where Miller and Lawson assumed most of the point guard duties, relegating him to becoming a spot up shooter.
Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 5-16 FG | 2-6 FT | 15 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -8
Harrington was asked to step way outside of a reasonable role yet again. He played close to 40 minutes twice in the past week and tonight he pulled the majority of the duty at power forward. 15 rebounds is pretty fantastic, but it cost him on the offensive end where Al couldn’t hit a shot or make free throws down the stretch. I give All all the credit in the world for his effort, but he just didn’t look good in the defense and rebounding glue guy role. Buckets is at his best when he’s living up to his namesake as a reliable bench scorer.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -13
I get a lot of criticism for being hard on on Miller, but I expect a lot of out of him. He’s clearly capable of orchestrating the offense and yet consistently puts up duds every couple of games. He’s supposed to be the steady veteran hand guiding this young squad and showing them how to win. Miller opened the game with four first quarter turnovers, three of which were credited to him but all due to errant Andre passes. Miller just didn’t look like he was into it tonight and he just can’t set that kind of example for this team.
Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
Birdman clearly took exception to being benched and responded with one of his most productive outings of the season. As the game wore on Birdman’s defense faded a bit, but for a guy who hasn’t been playing his energy was a valuable shot in the arm to a lethargic defensive team. All in all Bird made the most of his minutes and you can’t say that for anyone else who received significant playing time
Rudy Fernandez, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -8
Fernandez used up a ton of crucial possessions this game and just didn’t deliver enough. It was a huge opportunity for him to assume a larger role and play big minutes with no Brewer and Gallo out with an injury. Rudy doesn’t offer spacing and hasn’t developed into a potent playmaking threat. The worst part of his game is the defense where he inexcusably jumps the passing lanes without regard for his teammates. Rudy was abused by every Rocket he attempted to guard tonight.

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!

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 112 Los Angeles Clippers 91

Denver Nuggets 112 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Los Angeles Clippers
Nene, C 22 MIN | 4-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +19
Nene fought through early foul trouble and thankfully he got a comfortable amount of rest with another back-to-back coming up. Although you’d like to see a better shooting percentage and fewer turnovers, Nene getting the ball opens up the rest of the offense and he got plenty of touches tonight.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 27 MIN | 7-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 21 PTS | +24
Gallo was on fire. I had no problem with his benching in Memphis and was confident he’d respond with a solid game just as he did after his first bad performance in Philadelphia. Without Gallo providing a spark the game was headed towards becoming a blowout in the wrong direction.
Timofey Mozgov, C 22 MIN | 5-5 FG | 1-3 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +12
He’s improving. Made Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan work much harder than they wanted to on defense. The key stat is only one turnover. His weak side defense could be much better but he continues to do a solid job contesting perimeter shots and putting pressure on the opposing guards.
Arron Afflalo, SG 36 MIN | 3-6 FG | 8-8 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +12
How bad did Afflalo need a game like this? I missed some of the first quarter where he apparently got off to a rough start, but Arron found a way to fight through it. 8 free throws are outstanding and most impressive was the ball-pressure he applied on Chris Paul, often picking him up at full court and crowding his space all night.
Ty Lawson, PG 32 MIN | 6-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 18 PTS | +23
Much better game. Not spectacular, but a normal Lawson performance Nuggets fans love to see night in and night out. Turnovers have been a problem and although many of them haven’t been Lawson’s fault, he had much better control tonight. Made some spectacular hustle plays to stretch the lead at critical moments.
Al Harrington, PF 21 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +8
Al started slow but eventually found his stroke in time to put the game away. His minutes finally returned to a reasonable amount and he wasn’t stuck trying to do to much. Harrington could be better guarding the rim but he was somewhat effective against Blake Griffin managing to pull the chair out a number of times.
Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 3-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 8 AST | 8 PTS | +17
Five shot attempts is a much healthier game out of Andre Miller. Didn’t take a three or force shots and bad passes. Not being switched onto Rudy Gay definitely helped him stay fresh and effective throughout the night.
DeMarre Carroll, F 5 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -2
Carroll is still on the team. He’s also back and finally healthy after a hamstring kept him out much of the season. Don’t read too much into the grade, C means incomplete in this case
Rudy Fernandez, SG 19 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +5
Rudy can be a very effective weapon off the bench. The Nuggets need to play him and get him shots more consistently. I’ve been hoping for him to look for his shot more aggressively and resist trying to make the spectacular play. Fernandez did both tonight.
Kosta Koufos, C 12 MIN | 1-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 4 PTS | -3
Koufos could do a little more with his minutes, but I’m glad he came in ahead of Birdman. I liked his energy on defense in Memphis and he was okay tonight. Perhaps with more of a role Koufos’ game will come around and we can get a better idea of what he brings to the table.
Kenneth Faried, F 7 MIN | 2-3 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | -5
Raw is the only way to describe him. The team needs to teach him the fundamentals of playing on offense rather than just throwing up long range lobs when he enters the game. Needs to set better screens and post up some, but I’m probably expecting too much of the Manimal. He was still a beast in the paint and finished everything around the rim. I also think Faried has potential to draw a lot of fouls should he end up seeing more minutes.
Jordan Hamilton, G 7 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 3 PTS | -5
Hamilton showed off his quick release and smooth jumper. He also showed flashes of passing ability off drives to the rim. I am excited to see what this guy can do in the future.

Too Much Depth?

Let’s be clear about one thing — at 14-7 even after two straight losses the Nuggets’ greatest strength is their depth.

When the Nuggets assembled a roster featuring two starting lineups and a couple of NBA-ready rookies behind them, they instantly gained a big advantage over every other team in a lockout-shortened NBA season. They’ve dealt with injuries better than just about anyone and built the second-highest scoring bench in the league.

Denver is going to be a great regular season team behind their depth. They can afford to limit their starters to 20 minutes per night if need be. In many cases there is little to no difference between the second and third string guys at every position.

I still think there is an intelligent debate to be had about whether too much of a good thing can actually turn out bad. George Karl has said the first 20 games of the season are essentially training camp, and at about one-third of the way into the season we’ve reached that point. The rotation should be shaping up nicely and guys should be settling into their roles as the Nuggets prepare to really start hitting their stride.

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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: 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…)

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.

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

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!

 

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