End of an era: One fan’s struggle to embrace a Hall of Fame coach

I can’t lie. I’ve thought about writing this article for years. Years. After each futile, heartless, disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, I was so ready to write this article that I couldn’t sleep. This year was no different. This year I wanted it just as bad as I have for the last several years. And yet, here it is, less than a week since Karl was let go, and I’m not sure I even want to write it anymore.

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JaVale McGee – The Stain Masai Ujiri Leaves Behind

If you’re a chocolate enthusiast you’ve probably experienced the irritating stains the delectable dainty can often leave behind. I’m sure most people have one or two white shirts in the wardrobe with subtle traces of the brown substance imprinted onto the fabric, which refuse to vanish no matter how many times they’ve been washed. In the NBA, general managers come and go, but their errors often linger even when they are long gone. Thus the pressure on a GM is excruciating, as one careless decision can set a team back for years to come, and even if they end up losing their job, a stain of their tenure often remains as a constant reminder of their regime. (more…)

Danilo Gallinari back on the court for Italy – Is he “Injury Prone?”

After missing all of the warm up games heading into the qualification round of EuroBasket 2013 Danilo Gallinari played in Italy’s opening contest against Portugal.  Gallo compiled ten points and nine rebounds in only 15 minutes as part of Italy’s 97-45 victory.

It is very promising to see Gallinari back on the court and performing effectively.  The Rooster has only appeared in 63% of the regular season games the Nuggets have played since arriving as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade in 2011 (57 performances over 90 contests).

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5-on-5: Iguodala trade talk

With a new contributor, Roundball Mining Company will likely be doing more 5-on-5 pieces in the coming days. This means more opportunities for you, the reader, to participate by being featured as the fifth analyst in this series of articles, however this can only be achieved by following each of us on Twitter. In our first of many new 5-on-5s we highlight, what else, but the Andre Iguodala trade. T.J. McBride joins us this time around, but don’t let that stop you from posting your answers to these five questions in the comments section below!
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Denver Nuggets Big Board: Outliers

In Roundball Mining Company’s first Big Board of the year we covered six prospects likely to be available with the 20th pick in the Draft. The second installment of this series will explore more higher-rated prospects who shouldn’t, but may fall to the Nuggets first-round selection on Draft night. This is the Denver Nuggets Big Board: Outliers edition.

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2011-12 Denver Nuggets season review (and future outlook)

Heading into the 2011-12 season the Denver Nuggets were a mystery waiting to be solved. After coming off the most chaotic seven months in franchise history the team made monumental strides in the offseason to remain competitive even after parting ways with Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups. In addition, the NBA lockout saw key contributors Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martina and J.R. Smith all vanish to the opposite side of the world until midseason, leaving even more questions marks about who would be with the team moving forward. But as the season progressed, piece by piece Nuggets fans collected clues about the identity and subsequent standards the team would possess, which ended up being very similar to years past.

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3-on-3: Past, present, future

In Roundball Mining Company’s first postseason reflection piece we’ll be taking a look at the evolution of the Denver Nuggets over the last year and examine what we’ve learned about the team throughout the process. Though the Nuggets have laid the foundation for the future through savvy front-office dealings there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding the roster. Therefore, our most recent 3-on-3 aims to analyze certain aspects of the present, past and future. As always, feel free to hand out your answers to these questions in the comments section below.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 101, Orlando Magic 74

Orlando Magic 74 Final

Recap | Box Score

101 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 30 MIN | 5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | +19
Faried wasn’t overwhelmingly impressive but like always, his energy made a difference. His defense is slowly coming along as well. Now if he could just set more solid screens…
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | +26
It seemed the Nuggets made a point of getting Gallinari involved early and often. He had numerous isolation plays in the first quarter and didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on his shot. This was the type of game he needed to get back on track. Now that he’s got one under his belt it’s time for him to step up more in the last two games of the season in order to prepare himself properly for the playoffs.
Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | +14
Koufos continues to improve. His hands will always be partially made of stone and his movement around the rim never be the quickest, but he’s showing strides in his game that Mozgov simply wasn’t. He showed off a few hook shots on Sunday that were really pretty and was efficient in only 15 minutes of time. If he can keep providing this type of production in limited minutes the Nuggets will be in good shape with their center depth.
Arron Afflalo, SG 37 MIN | 7-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +19
Once again Afflalo logged the most minutes of any Nugget and quietly dropped 15 points in the process. His game is so professional and sound. He rarely takes a bad shot and lets everything come to him. Nothing is forced. He only missed one 2-point shot the entire night.
Ty Lawson, PG 34 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 10 AST | 13 PTS | +23
It was nice to see Lawson get aggressive, if only for a few plays. There are times (usually when coming off a big performance in the previous game) that Lawson has a tendency to take a back seat in a major way. He was heading that direction before kicking it into gear in the second quarter. He took advantage of open lanes and gave the Nuggets a dimension to their offense they desperately needed: speed.
Andre Miller, PG 25 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 11 AST | 6 PTS | -1
This was one of Miller’s best games in while. It doesn’t matter that he only scored six points on 3-10 shooting from the field; what matters is that he was engaged with his teammates, talking and dishing out some excellent assists, mostly to JaVale McGee who he’s developing some great chemistry with. The Nuggets are at their best when Miller is distributing first and scoring second, which is what he did on Sunday.
Corey Brewer, SF 25 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-1 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | +14
Brewer won’t wow you with his stat line but his energy was certainly palpable. He still took too many outside shots, and in the playoffs that might cost the Nuggets, but against the Howard-less Magic, it can be overlooked. As long as he keeps getting out on the break and playing good defense a few bad shots can be tolerated.
Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | -2
Mozgov is tough to grade. He didn’t do much offensively — in fact, he was pretty awful — but he did play solid defense when called upon. For that he deserves credit.
JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 8-11 FG | 1-3 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +7
Story of the game. One of the best performances I’ve seen from a Nugget big man in a really, really long time. Nene was able to put up impressive numbers from time to time but there was always one key aspect missing from his game: He never actually played like a big. On Sunday, McGee played like a big man is supposed to play. He took his fair share of isolation shots, showed a variety of different moves and most importantly, finished around the rim with authority and power. That’s what a true big man does, and when it’s done properly, it’s a thing of beauty. This was without question McGee’s best performance in a Nuggets uniform and one of the more encouraging performances we’ve seen from any Nugget this season. As I tweeted during the game, it was pure, unfiltered, sexy athleticism. Chocolate Thunder would be proud.
Julyan Stone, G 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | +8
Stone showed a desire to set up plays instead of run recklessly, and for that I salute him.
Jordan Hamilton, G 2 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | +8
Hamilton was pretty productive in two minutes time. Should Harrington not be able to go in the next several games, he might be called upon again.

Big men equal big contracts

One of the more delightful aspects of being a Nuggets fan these days is knowing how competent the team’s front office is. Masai Ujiri and Josh Kroenke have proven to be a dynamic duo that isn’t afraid to make a bold move when necessary. Through his first year and a half as the Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, it was as if everything Ujiri touched turned to gold. But in his most recent transaction, sending long-tenured veteran Nene to Washington in exchange for the young, enigmatic JaVale McGee, he might very well have put the first blemish on his otherwise near-perfect track record.

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3-on-3: Remaining season outlook

In Roundball Mining Company’s latest edition of our 3-on-3 series, we examine what lies ahead for the Denver Nuggets in the near future. There are 13 games remaining on the schedule: seven on the road and seven against teams currently at or below the .500 mark. Right now the Nuggets sit in seventh place in the Western Conference standings and would face the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the Playoffs. Is this the same position the team will find itself in roughly three weeks from now? If so, would it be able to handle a well-coached Spurs team in a seven-game series? These questions and more are detailed inside.

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Nuggets sign Wilson Chandler for 5 years, $37 million

Closure can be a wonderful thing.

One of the stranger free agent pursuits in recent history has finally come to an end. As first reported by the Denver Post, restricted free agent Wilson Chandler agreed to a five year contract with the Nuggets worth $37 million.

There’s no doubt this is a big win for Wilson, who missed out on true free agency by signing to play in China during last summer’s NBA lockout. Wilson’s only option in terms of rejoining the league this year was to sign with Denver.

Chandler’s deal averages $7.4 million a year and is nearly identical to the base value of Arron Afflalo’s new contract. Afflalo’s deal contains incentives that could bump the value up to $43 million over five years.

My initial view is that this is fair deal, but an incredibly generous offer to make to someone in Wilson Chandler’s position. There’s no doubt shedding Nene’s $13.5 million annual salary and the amount given to Arron Afflalo in restricted free agency were key factors in the long, drawn out negotiations that finally culminated in today’s deal.

More reaction and analysis to the Chandler signing will be coming soon, but I personally believe this a solid move for Denver and something they needed to get done. To put it in perspective, both Chandler and Gallo’s new contracts add up to roughly the max salary figure Carmelo Anthony makes over the life of his extension, which was reportedly being offered to him by the Nuggets brass (although I seriously doubt it after watching Masai and Josh run things the way they have over the past year and a half).

Chandler is one of the more unique threes in the league, who excels on the wing offensively but is probably best suited to defending the post, where he has the strength to match up on taller players and the defensive instincts to provide much needed weak side help. Chandler should be in great shape having played ball virtually all summer long and I wouldn’t be surprised if he immediately picks up starters minutes.

Analyzing the Nene for JaVale McGee Trade

In order to wrap my head around the trade that sent longtime Denver Nugget Maybyner “Nene” Hilario to the Washington Wizards I had to compartmentalize my thoughts and feelings into several different categories.  I will go through them one at a time in order to attempt to break down a trade that took everyone by surprise.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 90 Oklahoma City Thunder 103

Oklahoma City Thunder 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
90 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 20 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | -7

There wasn’t much to write home about in a game like this, but Faried was clearly a bright spot. Great energy, great hustle, and nonstop aggression on both ends of the court. The fact he saw the fewest minutes of all starters is a travesty. With Nene out of the picture, George Karl has to come around to him eventually for the Nuggets to have a chance at success.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 32 MIN | 6-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | -5

32 minutes is a great sign. Physically, Gallo looked much better than he did in his first few games back from injury. It’s tough to complain about this performance, but I do think 7 three pointers and no free throw attempts is a bit too unbalanced. Gallo is ready to be more aggressive with his offense and the Nuggets need him to take on a larger role.

Timofey Mozgov, C 12 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -11

Tough to watch. Seriously brutal. Way too many minutes. Needs to pick it up soon. Running out of short sentences here. At some point he has to learn how to not body check his man every time he’s defending the ball.

Arron Afflalo, SG 30 MIN | 4-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 10 PTS | -1

A really poor shooting performance, but I saw him giving significantly better effort than most of his teammates on both ends. Afflalo is at his best when he’s moving with out the ball, cutting to the basket and shooting off screens. There was no off-ball movement for Denver tonight and just looking at the box score doesn’t tell you how hard he was playing.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 4-9 FG | 1-2 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 9 PTS | -8

Lawson started slow and was never able to get himself going. He’s always been bothered by the Thunder’s interior defense which is part of the reason OKC is such a a terrible matchup for the Nuggets. Let’s hope JaVale McGee can run a pick and roll because Ty could use an occasional screen and some kind of effort by a big man to help him create.

Al Harrington, PF 26 MIN | 1-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 5 PTS | -15

Harrington’s worst shooting game of the year, and another instance in which the Thunder just badly exposed the Nuggets for playing him so much. He was either stuck on Kevin Durant, Nick Collison or Serge Ibaka, none of whom he has any chance of guarding. Al also got hurt in the fourth quarter and I feel bad for him, but he played a brutally bad game.

Andre Miller, PG 24 MIN | 7-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 17 PTS | -14

Probably Andre Miller’s second best game of the season, and it comes with 4 turnovers and a -14 in 24 minutes. This kind of outcome when Andre Miller has a good game isn’t all that unusual, and that kind of tells you the whole story when it comes 2012 season and Andre Miller.

Chris Andersen, C 15 MIN | 1-3 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +1

Birdman did his job. He provided energy off the bench and outside of Faried, was the best Nuggets big on the floor.He took several shots you did not want him taking, but Denver just had way bigger problems than Bird in this one.

Corey Brewer, SF 10 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 6 PTS | -5

10 minutes, 3 fouls, and not a whole lot else. Brewer can be so wildly up and down each possession which makes it very difficult to evaluate him. With Rudy returning to the lineup, it seems like Brew is getting lost in the shuffle a little bit.

Rudy Fernandez, SG 18 MIN | 2-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -9

Took some really questionable shots, made some really questionable passes, played some really questionable defense. On the other hand, Rudy did provide a nice spark off the bench in the first half. Can his presence have a consistently positive impact over an entire game though? That’s questionable.

Kosta Koufos, C 16 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 5 PTS | -1

It’s good to see Koufos healthy and back in the lineup. He made some nice hustle plays and also appeared to have a bit of rust on his game thanks to his extended absence from the rotation.

Julyan Stone, G 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | +5

Got some good news that he won’t be waived to make room for Chandler. It looks like Rony Turiaf will be bought out of his deal to free up a roster spot for Wilson Chandler.

Jordan Hamilton, G 1 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 3 PTS | +5

Garbage time hero.

Three Things We Saw

  1. It’s tough to feel good about where the Nuggets are at right now. They’re amazingly 6-3 since the break, but aren’t playing inspiring ball. I mentioned in the last recap how the defense is so broken it’s a miracle Denver wins as many games as they do. I really don’t see a consistent effort on both ends of the floor, especially on the Nuggets’ home court. A roster shakeup was probably the right thing to do as this team just hasn’t developed any cohesion or trust. They win games when they run out and score a lot of points in transition, which just isn’t going to happen every single game, especially against the better teams.
  2. Part of the reason I believe the trade was made is the Nuggets realizing they can’t realistically compete on the Thunder’s level with what they have. It will likely take several years of first finding an identity and then figuring out how to build a system for success around that. Retooling and reshaping the team that was formed after the Melo trade never made very much sense. There just wasn’t enough evidence to suggest a team like that could win anything.
  3. Half court offense remains a big obstacle in terms of Denver improving with McGee and (possibly) Wilson Chandler coming on board. Without a post up threat or anyone who can create their own shot, Miller and Lawson are stuck playing 1 on 1 a majority of the time. Gallo is a player who I feel doesn’t really create his own shot and needs other playmakers on the floor to succeed. There will be plenty of touches for Chandler and McGee whenever they do come on board, the big question is whether or not they will actually help Lawson and Miller create better looks, something they are not able to do with this group.

Nuggets Trade Nene for JaVale McGee [Updated]

In a shocking trade deadline move the Denver Nuggets have agreed to trade Nene for Wizard’s center JaVale McGee.  Nene has been struggling this season and his contract is bound to get onerous as he gets into his 30′s and McGee is a uber-athletic center who will be great running the floor and is a much better rebounder and shot blocker than Nene.

In the long run it probably is a decent trade for Denver, McGee is entering his prime while Nene is exiting his, but McGee has shown significant shortcomings on both ends of the floor.  Plus he wants a contract averaging $14 million a year after this season.

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Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 118 Atlanta Hawks 117 (OT)

Atlanta Hawks 117 Final
Recap | Box Score
118 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 25 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 8 PTS | -10

His numbers were solid and the foul trouble was kept at a minimum. However, you got a dstinct sense Faried was trying to avoid whistles as he was occasionally exposed against Josh Smith and the Hawks’ many perimeter scoring threats. Faried did do a great job running the floor and going after rebounds like he always does. You’d like to see him work on a shot that isn’t a dunk, but his pure hustle makes it easy to overlook a lot of the rookie-type flaws in his game.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 37 MIN | 6-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 19 PTS | +4

Hands down, that was one of the craziest game winners I’ve seen. Gallo is getting to the rim like he used to but the elevation and finishing ability just don’t look right. Karl finally realized Brewer does not need to be starting even with a half-functional Gallinari available, and Gallo responded with his usual “starter” numbers. Defensively Gallo was better than the rest of the Nuggets so it’s easy to crown him as the undisputed hero of tonight’s game.

Nene, C 39 MIN | 8-16 FG | 6-6 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 22 PTS | -3

This is a really tough grade to give, because Nene made the game winning free throws and after Josh Smith fouled out, he was far and away the best big on the floor. Unfortunately I cant overlook the fact Nene played soft against Smith, who flat out embarrassed him. The only thing worse than his late game defense was watching Nene settle for jumpers nine times out of ten against Zaza Pachulia. It was one of Nene’s best games of the year, but I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth trying to evaluate his overall night. That just… wasn’t good.

Arron Afflalo, SG 35 MIN | 3-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 7 PTS | -3

The leadership isn’t there. If the Denver Nuggets are going to fix their perimeter defense, it starts with Arron Afflalo. He is the only one capable of setting a good example. There are games where he’s clearly more concerned with getting his offense going rather than holding himself and his teammates accountable on defense. I could care less how many shots he takes — the Nuggets need more out of him from a leadership standpoint, because right now nobody cares about guarding the perimeter.

Ty Lawson, PG 35 MIN | 8-11 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 7 AST | 21 PTS | 0

Lawson’s early offense carried the Nuggets to a big lead, but his aggression seemed to be missing for a good part of the game. There’s no way you can complain about Lawson’s production, but he’s capable of a lot more. Lawson deferred to Andre Miller and Al Harrington way too much in the fourth quarter, and whether that’s a coaching decision or Ty’s refusal to demand the ball remains unknown.

Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 8-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 19 PTS | +15

Al Buckets was once again the steadiest player on the court for the Denver Nuggets. You know exactly what you’re getting out of Harrington and his production rarely wavers enough to call him out. The story of the game was the fact he was perhaps the most important Nuggets player in terms of containing Josh Smith, for nothing more than the simple fact Harrington forced Smith to play defense. Smith would later foul out of the game in OT.

Andre Miller, PG 21 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 8 AST | 5 PTS | -3

My feelings on Miller are well-known, and it needs to be said right away Dre played his best individual game in weeks. He played probably about as well as he can play and was not in the game during the worst stretches, during which Denver really fell apart. The simple assessment I reach time and time again is only further affirmed by every game I see. When he comes into the game, Denver goes from a middling defensive team with potential to a terrible defensive team with no hope.

Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 5-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 12 PTS | +3

Brewer thrived in a much more appropriate bench role. His production remained constant while his efficiency improved. It pretty much validates the fact Brewer is better suited to coming off the bench. The major problem I had with Brewer was his reach-in foul on Kirk Hinrich late in regulation. He just can’t seem to wrap his head around the fact you don’t need to go for a steal or deflection every single time you attempt to defend the ball.

Rudy Fernandez, SG 16 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 5 PTS | +2

Not much was expected out of Rudy after missing the last 11 games, but he was a surprisingly effective spark off the bench in the first half. His minutes were carefully monitored and he was only used for short stretches, but Rudy had a net positive impact during his time on the floor.

Timofey Mozgov, C 9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | 0

Awful. Really tough to watch, and judging by Mozgov’s reaction to coming out of the game, he seemed to know it. The good news is he barely played and the Hawks fortunately weren’t capitalizing on Denver turnovers in the first half.

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