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2011 NBA Nation rolls into Denver May 7th and 8th

May 5th, 2011 by aswitzer

NBA Nation LogoThe NBA’s largest mobile basketball playground – NBA Nation comes to Denver this coming weekend alongside the 24th Annual Cinco De Mayo festival this Saturday May 7th and Sunday May 8th at the Civic Center Park in downtown Denver.

Here’s the current schedule of events for each day:

Saturday, May 7:
All Day DJ Bedz
12pm – NBA Legend & Denver Nuggets Ambassador Mark Randall
12pm – Denver Nuggets Dancers
12pm – Super Size Mascot Rocky
12:30pm – NBA Legend Rick Barry
4pm – NBA Legend & NBA Nation Ambassador Darryl Dawkins
4pm – Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown

Sunday, May 8:
All Day DJ Bedz
12pm – NBA Legend & Denver Nuggets Ambassador Mark Randall
12pm – Denver Nuggets Dancers
12pm – Super Size Mascot Rocky
2pm – NBA Legend & NBA Nation Ambassador Darryl Dawkins
3pm – NBA FIT Clinic

Please note that all appearances are subject to change.

Read more about the NBA Nation 18-wheel truck and all its activities. You can also read about last year’s event and see photos.

I’m going to try and go Sunday afternoon with my son, if Mother’s Day activities permit. It looks like its going to be a lot of fun for basketball fans of all ages!

Keys to beating Thunder in Round 1

April 18th, 2011 by aswitzer

The Denver Nuggets enter the 2011 NBA Playoffs with a very different squad then last season. Even bigger than all the player changes, is the return of their head coach. Not only has Coach Karl triumphantly returned from a tough battle with throat and neck cancer at the end of last season, since the big Melo/Billups trade. Karl was the key factor last year in the Nuggets fading down the stretch and losing in the first round to an inferior Utah squad. With him back, the Nuggets have their confidence and swagger back… even without their All-Star small forward and clutch shooting point guard around. Karl also seems to have a new sparkle in his eyes since the trade – he is really enjoying coaching a hard-working, talented team without having to deal with the ego of a superstar.

What the Nuggets need to do to win this series:

Play as a team
None of the Nuggets individually can win this series. This new Nuggets squad that went 18-7 to close out the season after the trade won by playing together, both defensively and offensively. Offensively, the Nuggets must distribute the ball. With no superstars, and few one-on-one players other than JR Smith, the Nuggets point guards Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton need to penetrate in the lane and kick to open teammates to create high percentage shots. On defense, they must continue to play great team defense all on the interior and out at the three point line – something they’ve suddenly been doing very well at the end of the season.

Get healthy
The Nuggets have a ton of nagging injuries but the key one is probably Aaron Afflalo. Afflalo had become one of the go to guys in the 4th quarter on offense before going down with a hamstring injury that has refused to heal completely. Even more key though is Afflalo’s one-on-one defense – if he can’t play effectively in this series, the Nuggets have a much tougher time finding the right guys to cover Durant and Westbrook.

Don’t get caught up in playoff mental games
I’m mainly looking at Nene with this one. During the final two games between these two teams in the regular season, Nene and Kendrick Perkins went literally forehead-to-forehead several times after getting tangled up under the basket. Both are big immovable forces that man the middle for their respective teams. If either get tossed due to a scuffle, it could easily tip the scale – especially for the Thunder if its Nene that can’t keep his cool. Nene shoulders a fair amount of offensive load along with defensive responsibilities, whereas Kendrick is primarily looked at for his defense and toughness. Nene also has a tendency to lose his game once he’s lost his head, so I hope he can keep Perkins from getting under his skin.

Contain one of the Thunder superstars – Durant and Westbrook
The Nuggets are most likely doomed if both of these guys have offensive gems each game. Why? Because the Nuggets may not have the firepower to keep up, especially in crunch time when every possession becomes critical. If both Durant and Westbrook are playing well, it may be impossible to cover both and force one of the other 3 Thunder players on the court to beat us – they are simply that good.

Nuggets move forward in a post “Melo-drama” landscape

April 5th, 2011 by aswitzer

As the dust has more than settled on one of the most drawn out trades in NBA history, I am reflecting back on the past 7 years as a Nuggets fan, and I am finding myself to be a small part melancholy and a growing part ecstatic.

On February 21st, 2011, Carmelo Anthony – the Denver Nuggets definitive franchise player since being drafted in 2003 was traded to the New York Knicks. The Nuggets received Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov, the Knicks 2014 first-round draft pick, the Warriors’ 2012 second-round pick, the Warriors’ 2013 second-round pick and $3 million in cash. Kosta Koufos was a late addition from Minnesota with the Nuggets giving up an unprotected 2015 2nd round draft pick to acquire the 7 footer.

Departing the Nuggets with Carmelo are Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter and Renaldo Balkman. When this process first started, I was mostly sad that the Nuggets didn’t seem to be able to work out a deal that made Carmelo want to stay. One early story that came out was that Anthony didn’t want to stay because the Nuggets hadn’t made enough effort to acquire a big man to help in the low post or stand up against the Lakers trees in the playoffs. Another common story heard throughout the blogosphere was the toast by Chris Paul last summer when he attended Carmelo’s wedding to LaLa. Chris Paul allegedly said “We’ll form our own big three” in reference to the trio that had just formed in Miami with Wade, Bosh, and James, and putting it out there that Anthony and Paul might try to join up with Stoudemire in New York. Carmelo then played it cool for many months not saying much at all on the subject, especially after seeing the backlash LeBron received when he announced his free agency decision for the whole world to watch live on ESPN. As the months went on, it became more and more clear that Carmelo had long ago decided he was ready to move on from the Nuggets to the bright lights of Broadway and nothing the Nuggets could do was going to do anything to change that.

This was all set in motion about 9 months ago, when the Denver Nuggets offered Carmelo Anthony a 3-year, $65 million dollar contract extension. In 7 great seasons with the Nuggets, Carmelo had become the team’s 3rd all-time leading scorer (behind Alex English and Dan Issel) and led the team to the playoffs every single year. For all that success though, there were frustrations. The Nuggets first five playoffs runs with Anthony went like this:

1 win in first round against Minnesota T-Wolves in 2004.

1 win in first round against San Antonio Spurs in 2005.

1 win in first round against LA Clippers in 2006. The LA Clippers!!!!

1 win in first round against San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

0 wins in first round against LA Lakers in 2008.

So the regular season success was obviously there, but the playoffs eventually became frustrating due to the lack of forward progress. It wasn’t for lack of effort on the Nuggets part – Carmelo had good talent around him each and every year, including a still dominant Allen Iverson for two of those playoff runs. It finally changed in 2009 when Iverson was replaced early in the season by Chauncey Billups and the Nuggets went on to win their division, and knock out the New Orleans Hornets and the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in each series. They they took the Lakers to a 2-2 series tie before it seemed like Chauncey’s legs finally ran out of gas and the Nuggets bowed out after two more losses. With Chauncey a year older in 2010, the Nuggets went backwards – losing 2 games to 4 against the inferior Utah Jazz who had been decimated with injuries yet still found a way to send the Nuggets packing in the first round again. So, even with all that success, voices began to circle each offseason about how Carmelo wasn’t this or wasn’t that – why couldn’t he lead the Nuggets further in the playoffs?

Snap back to present day, late in the 2010-2011 season as the Nuggets and Knicks both make their playoff pushes after the deal was done.

Knicks are 10-12 since the trade. They are 38-38 and 7th in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Until this week, the Knicks had not won back to back games since making the trade and had slipped below .500 for the first time since November. Carmelo was well received on arrival in New York. Chauncey has had some big games for the Knicks and has contributed to many of their wins. Surprisingly, several of the “throw-ins” have played and contributed in recent wins for the Knicks – namely Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams. Carter had rarely played all year, and Williams’ minutes had gone way down in recent months. Balkman continues to not get any playing time, but he seemed excited to head back to his old team.

The Nuggets are 15-4 since the trade. They are 47-29 and 5th in the Western Conference playoff race. They have, quite unexpectedly… gotten better since the trade. This is not just because the Nuggets management team of Josh and Masai were able to miraculously maximize this trade (more on that shortly) by getting a bunch of young talent from the Knicks, but mostly due to the fact that the Nuggets, now without there best offensive player since Hall of Famer Alex English, are simply better offensively. Carmelo Anthony is a top 5 offensive talent in the NBA. He is nearly unstoppable down on the low block when he is willing to pass the ball and trust his teammates – he can get around and thru most defenders because of his combination of size, strength and speed. He is a decent passer when willing to trust his teammates, and if the defenders choose to foul him, he’s a high percentage free throw shooter. But, with all that said, Carmelo is also a volume shooter, and the Nuggets had run their offense thru him since nearly day one of his arrival in 2003. Coach Karl’s constant rally cry over the past few years was “trust the pass” but the offense flowing thru Carmelo could be “sticky” and predictable at times. Carmelo had many amazing games as a Nugget, that is without question, and his game winners over the years are legendary, but in the playoffs the Nuggets were eliminated easily in the first round every year but once since 1994. Why? Because the Nuggets were easy to scheme for and stop in the playoffs. Stop Carmelo, and you would stop the Nuggets. Our success in 2009 was due to great games by Carmelo, and one Chauncey Billups playing like he had for many years in Detroit – hitting clutch three after three and running an efficient offense.

Carmelo quote before his first game in New York – “I’m going to do something I never did in Denver – play intense defense”. Wow – that one kind of hurt actually. So, are you saying you weren’t always giving it your all here in Denver, Carmelo? A little less surprising is the fact that the Nuggets are now are better defensive team without Anthony. The numbers simply don’t lie – they are giving up 10 points less a game (95 now instead of 105) and they went from being out-rebounded by 1 a game, to out-rebounding opponents by 5.8 a game.

Nuggets management was not without fault during the whole process, but my admiration grew for them thru the process, especially towards the end. Remember – they were young and quite new. Josh Kroenke was handed the keys to the Cadillac by his father Stan. Masai Ujiri came over from the Toronto Raptors less than a year ago to be the GM of the Nuggets, replacing the spot vacated by the forced removal of Mark Warkentein over the summer. With the way Carmelo’s trade demands began to play out as the 2010 season got underway, it was clear to many teams that they could just wait until Carmelo truly became a free agent at the end of the season and then enter a bidding war then. This made it tough for Josh and Masai to conjure up much competition between teams to make strong offers for Carmelo *before* he became a free agent. Luckily, they were able to work New Jersey, with its young and rich new owner looking to make a splash for his new team against the Knicks desire to finally return to respectability after many years without making the playoffs in the 2000’s. The only thing I would have liked to see differently was more communication from the Nuggets front office but maybe they were concerned that any leak of info might jeopardize their position and what tiny bit of leverage they had. Still, much of the 2010-2011 season was tough to be a part of as a fan – the energy in the Pepsi Center was either low, or sometimes downright ugly when the fans started taking to booing Carmelo when they started to became tired of the ongoing drama of the pending trade/free agency. All this while the Nuggets continued to be successful and somehow stay in the playoffs hunt. Pretty amazing when I look back on it all now.

Meet the New Nuggets

Kosta Koufos

Timofey Mozgov

Wilson Chandler

Danilo Gallinari

Raymond Felton

Raymond Felton

George Karl must be in heaven. He loves multiple point guard lineups, and he loves his Tarheels. With Raymond in the fold, he can put a multiple NCAA title North Carolina backcourt on the floor for the Nuggets. Raymond had a rough few first games for the Nuggets, starting off very cold from the field, but he’s been pretty much money in every game since. Has a decent three point shot also, runs the half-court offense as well as any recent Nuggets point guard. Makes me miss Chauncey when he’s at the line shooting free throws. About the only other negative has been a mild rumor that Raymond is unhappy here with being relegated to a backup role behind Lawson, but he doesn’t appear to be letting it affect his play on the court.

Danilo Gallinari

Danilo is the “Skita” that we wish we had picked in the 2002 NBA draft. Born in Italy, he is tall but built solidly at 6’11 and 225 pounds. He has deadly three point range – hitting 186 three pointers last year in his rookie season – good for 2nd in the NBA. He can also get to the basket, but looks a little bit like a bull as he puts his head down and can gets a little out of control at times. He goes by the nickame “Gallo”. The guy is definitely already a talented scorer as his second season winds to a close. Soon after arriving, he scored 30 against the Blazers in tightly contested OT loss against a key Western Conference opponent. In a recent Nuggets home game, Danilo hit a shot and the PA announcer said “Galll-oooo” in that all-too familiar way, and the crowd very unenthusiastically responded… I’m kind of glad that one won’t stick. Gallo deserves his own catchphrase when he lights up the scoreboard for the Nuggets.

Wilson Chandler

Wilson remarkably looks like he good be the one-for-one replacement for Carmelo Anthony. He’s the same height (6’8) with a slightly more slender build. (225 pounds compared to Anthony at 230, although it seems like a bigger difference than on paper) He may not get you as many points per night, but with his other skills, and ability to play defense, the difference in impact on the game is lessened. Anthony is hard to beat in the clutch with his ability to score or create his own shot, but with a all-around young talent like Chandler, I’m not missing Anthony as much as I thought I would.

Timofey Mozgov

I like this guy. Karl may not quite yet, but I think he might come around on playing him more next season. Mozgov appears to have quick feet, and he’s got the size and strength to bang with anyone down low. Even if his offensive moves are always limited, he can get points and second chance opportunities hanging around the basket. An even bigger asset might be his ability to move Nene back to his more natural power forward position next year, assuming we are going to lose Kenyon Martin to free agency.

Kosta Koufos

I know very little about our other new 7 footer, a very late addition to the big trade. It seems like when Karl is willing to give our new big men some rare minutes, Koufos usually gets the short end of the stick. Kosta definitely needs to focus on upgrading his skills at the defensive end. His trends don’t look great – other than rebounding, nearly all of his stats are down from year to year since he was drafted by Utah in 2008.

So, the Carmelo Anthony era in Denver is over. It was a time to re-visit the playoffs – again and again after a long empty stretch from 1996 – 2003. The Nuggets were are one of only 3 teams in the NBA that has been to the playoffs every year since 2003. (The others: Spurs and Mavericks) Carmelo decided to move on and not sign the Nuggets extension offer. He made it clear that he wanted to go to the New York Knicks, but he still played hard this season while he waited to see what the Nuggets front office would do. Yes, it became a growing distraction and probably cost us a few extra wins. However, it could have been far worse – Carmelo could have pouted this year, refused to play, or worse – gave us false hope and then announced that he was leaving at the end of this season in a made for ESPN TV special. Oh, wait – that’s already been done. Thanks for making it clear last summer LeBron, that is definitely not the way to go if you have the fans in mind at all.

Some experts and pundits out there are still saying that either the Nuggets are worse without Melo (most recently Mark Jackson said this during ABC’s nationally televisesd Nuggets/Lakers game on April 3rd) or that the Knicks will eventually be the “winners” of this trade. Carmelo Anthony is a superstar. I would never argue that. But a superstar that will lead his team to winning the NBA championship must be able to play on both ends of the court. Think of the superstars that have done this in the last decade – Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. Between the two of them, their teams have won 8 of the last 11 NBA titles. They both have always gotten it done on both ends of the court. I’ve watched nearly every game that Carmelo has played in, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times Carmelo intentionally setup in the lane to take a charge on defense. Conversely, I can’t begin to count the number of times I screamed at the TV, wishing Carmelo could here so he would actually make a defensive rotation out on the wing or under the basket to guard an offensive player for the other team!

One last thought. I don’t really wish Carmelo Anthony any ill will. He brought a level of success and respect back to my favorite team that we now continue to “expect” even with him gone. I am truly grateful for that, because it is so much more fun than the 90’s and early 2000’s were! I will not “boo” Carmelo when the Nuggets face the New York Knicks next year during the regular season. I will however, smile when Carmelo leads his team to maybe 1 win in the 2011 playoffs and then goes home to work on his acting career and marketing interests in New York for the rest of the summer. 🙂

More reading

Nuggets apologize to Billups after trade

Nuggets press conference

Masai Ujiri: We got killed on Anthony trade

With Melo gone, good times in Denver

Melo on Knicks: It will just take time

Coach Karl receives Jimmy V award at ESPY’s

July 19th, 2010 by aswitzer

This past week, Coach George Karl received the Jimmy V award for Perseverance at the ESPY’s. Karl took the opportunity to try and inspire our federal government to help pick up the fight to cure cancer at a national level by matching the funds collected by independent organizations like the Jimmy V foundation. His son Coby was in jto see Dad accept the award – even missing the Nuggets final summer league game in Las Vegas, which they promptly lost to end with a 4-1 record.

Watch George Karl speak after receiving his award via YouTube.

Nuggets finally enter 2010 Free Agency

July 14th, 2010 by aswitzer

After striking out in attempts to sign Jermaine O’Neal and Udonis Haslem, and so far being unable to trade for Golden State’s Andris Biedrins, the Nuggets have finally signed a new player to the fold.

Al Harrington has agreed to a 5 year, $34 million contract to play for the Denver Nuggets. After being courted by the Dallas Mavericks and New Jersey Nets, Harrington tweeted this late last night from his a7harrington twitter account:

Yo my Tweeples. Appreciate the Love and Concern. But I’m taking my Talents to the MILE HIGH. Lol. Love Yall Lego DENVER!! Brett Meeny THX!

Denver may have overpaid a bit for Harrington’s services, but they needed to get a big body in to help out, especially at the start of the season when both Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin may not yet be fully recovered from recent offseason knee surgeries.

Harrington is a 30 year old, 6’9 250lb. PF who can help the Nuggets on the offensive end with a variety of skills. He can shoot the three ball and gets to the line a decent amount – 317 times in 2009-10. Mainly, he provides a big body that the Nuggets desperately needed. Harrington played the majority of his career for Indiana, with more recent stops at Golden State and New York. He averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds a game last year for the Knicks and shot 44% from the field, 34% from three-point land.

Personally, I’m neither excited nor upset by this move. The Nuggets needed a big body, and Harrington will fit that need. I’d be more happier if we could somehow land Biedrins, as he would help us a lot more on the defensive end with rebounding and shot blocking, where we have a much greater need, in my opinion. We’ll need to give up one or more of our current pieces to get that deal done. I’d be fine with that being nearly anyone on the roster other than Anthony, Billups, and Afflalo.

For full details of this deal, read this article.

2010 NBA Draft – will the Nuggets play?

June 24th, 2010 by aswitzer

The 2010 NBA Draft is tonight, June 24th from 5pm – 10pm Mountain Time. It will be televised live on ESPN.

As things stand this morning, the Nuggets have no picks in this draft. However, as you might remember from previous drafts, that does not mean we won’t participate in the draft. There was a rumor circulating last week that the Nuggets were dangling Ty Lawson to Indiana for the 10th pick, but that appears to have died off. Yes, the Nuggets need some help, but I like what we’ve seen from Ty a lot so far, and would hate to give him up so early in his career. In fact, just last year we were in a similar position (no picks) and made a move to get in the draft and pick up Ty so we’d have an heir apparent to Chauncey ready to be groomed for the future as the Nuggets PG.

The Nuggets have a pretty lousy history overall with the draft. When you have the recent examples of Nikoloz Tskitishivili and Julius Hodge as first round picks, you have made some huge mistakes. There are other more subtle moves though, such as picking Jameer Nelson but immediately trading his rights that hurt too – Jameer is now an All-Star for the Orlando Magic, a recent NBA Finals team.

Despite the Nuggets history, if you are like me, and ever hopeful for the upcoming season, here are a few links to get you amped for tonight, or to at least keep you busy during the draft:

2010 NBA Draft Coverage (ESPN)

2010 NBA Draft Preview (Roundball Mining Co.)

A Wasteland (MileHighSports)

As an NBA fan, you might just be watching tonight’s draft to see what unique insights are gained into the bizarre pact that seems to have formed between superstar free agents LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh.

Nuggets Playoffs Psych-Up #3

April 16th, 2010 by aswitzer

Nearly there… can’t wait for tomorrow and game #1!

This video is awesome… created as a look back on last season and the magical playoff run.

Let’s Go Nuggets!

Nuggets Playoffs Psych-Up #2

April 14th, 2010 by aswitzer

Remember this amazing dunk by JR from a month ago? Let’s hope there are more amazing assists like this one from Billups coming up in the playoffs.

Nuggets Playoffs Psych-up #1

April 12th, 2010 by aswitzer

Video #1 to kick off the last week of the season, and get fired up for the playoffs that start this weekend comes from the Denver Nuggets very own marketing department – part of their campaign to sell Playoffs tickets. It follows the current NBA nationwide ad campaign that uses snippets of video with a driving, repetitive chant, and a staccato speaking style. It’s only about 30 seconds long, and I personally can’t watch it enough times. Hearing and seeing Coach George Karl in it, who I wish nothing but the best in his continued fight against throat and neck cancer, just makes it all the better.

Come back tomorrow for video #2!

Can You Feel It – Nuggets Playoffs 2010

April 12th, 2010 by aswitzer

The 2010 NBA Playoffs start this weekend, and the Nuggets are in for the 7th year in a row. Only two other teams in the NBA can make this same claim – the San Antonio Spurs, and the Dallas Mavericks.

There are still a few storylines to be played out this week – will the Nuggets hang on to the Northwest Division title? What seed will the Nuggets end up with? Will Kenyon Martin’s return over the weekend be enough to get the team rolling again?

Each day this week, I’ll post an inspirational, charged up video here, to get you fired up… “psyched up” if you will for the playoffs that start this weekend. In the meantime, don’t forget to cheer on the Nuggets in their final two games – tonight against Memphis, and Tuesday in Phoenix.