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March 23rd, 2010 by aswitzer

The 2010 NBA Playoffs are rapidly approaching and the Nuggets are looking like a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference for the 2nd year in a row.

Last year, NuggetsHoops provided extensive coverage of the 2009 Nuggets playoff run – including tons of photos, game summaries, news, and a Playoff Wall where fans could share their well-wishes with the team and each other.

If you’re on Facebook, consider becoming a fan of NuggetsHoops. It’s an easy way to access all the articles, news, and images we’ll be posting during the upcoming playoff run, and converse with other fans in a familiar environment.

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If Twitter is more your speed, you can follow @nuggetshoops to get unique perspectives and images about the Nuggets from a fan perspective. We’ll be at all of the home games here at the Pepsi Center during the playoff run!

Getting Healthy Nuggets for 2010 Playoff Run


March 9th, 2010 by aswitzer

The 2009 Playoff run was pure joy for any Nuggets fan thats been following the team for more than a handful of seasons. Erased were the frustrations of five consecutive years of one round a nd done, each year with no more than a single playoff win to show for it. Sure, some will say it was still a frustrating finish to the season with the Nuggets being on the brink of moving on to the NBA Finals before being eliminated by the Lakers in Game 6. I choose to look at the 2010 playoffs with the half glass full.

We got a glimpse into how the Denver Nuggets management team hopes to succeed last season when they were able to strike gold by moving out fading players with large contracts and swapping them (mostly) with cheaper but solidly performing players. In 2009 this was the moving of Allen Iverson and Marcus Camby and bringing in Chauncey Billups, Dahntay Jones, and the return of Chris Andersen – aka “Birdman”. In 2010 it was the departure of Dahntay Jones and Linas Kleiza (who were overpaid by new teams) and the additions of Arron Afflalo and rookie Ty Lawson. The rest of 2010 was mostly status quo (resigned Birdman) or signing of minor insurance pieces like Malik Allen and Joey Graham to handle various big-man roles when our main guys are out.

As we near the 2010 Playoffs, this approach has worked and worked very well. We again struck gold with Afflalo and the better-than expected play of Lawson, and the rest of the pieces have continued to improve their play or maintained a high level – Carmelo Anthony, Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Chauncey Billups.

The one problem with a plan like this is that we are not completely stacked up and down the line-up like some teams are – as in the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Boston Celtics. These teams are all paying well above the luxury tax for veteran filled squads. The Denver Nuggets are trying to do it a bit more “on the cheap” and the drop-off is a bit more severe when any of the starters are injured and out for an extended period.

With less than twenty games to go, the Nuggets find themselves without being able to count on three big important names that are critical to this years playoff run – Kenyon Martin, Ty Lawson, and George Karl.

We’ll start with George Karl. Right, coach is obviously not suiting it up, but he is and has been an integral part of this team’s success since he came to Denver in 2005. After the 2010 NBA All-Star weekend, George announced that he been diagnosed with treatable throat and neck cancer. This comes after he had to battle prostate cancer the summer after his first partial season with the Nuggets five years ago. George is undeniably dedicated to this team after they finally extended his Coaching contract thru the end of next season. George is somehow fitting in his cancer treatments and procedures around the Nuggets schedule as to minimize games missed yet still effectively fight off the deadly disease. Amazing. Still, this is a factor in the always-tight Western Conference Playoffs race. Tommorrow night against Minnesota, Coach Karl will miss his second game. Top, and long-time Denver Nuggets assistant Adrian Dantley will step in again, after having won the previous game that Coach Karl had to miss in February.

The Nuggets speedy rookie – Ty Lawson, will miss his 5th consecutive game tomorrow night, and the timetable for his return is still questionable. Ty’s injury came when he drew a foul underneath the basket against the LA Lakers Andrew Bynum, who came crashing down on his left shoulder. Lawson has made a huge impact on the team this year with his blinding speed and ability to drive to the basket and create shots for himself and the big men who find passing lanes during his drives. He’s an upgrade over veteran Anthony Carter, and is one of the key new factors in the team’s potential ability to get past the Lakers in the playoffs in 2010. We need him back, but we need him healthy also, so he can get back to wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. Here’s Ty talking about his current state before the Minnesota game:

“It’s day-to-day now,” the reserve point guard Lawson said after today’s shootaround at Target Center. “It doesn’t hurt a lot, I’m moving it now, there’s just one spot (in my shoulder) that catches every time I dribble and make a move. So I’m trying to work it out. … Once it stops catching, then I’ll be able to play.”

Lastly, we come to starting power forward, Kenyon Martin. Kenyon is arguably having one of his best seasons as a Denver Nugget – coming from New Jersey via trade in 2004. He’s the only player in the NBA to play after having microfracture surgery… on both knees. Somehow though, he’s played in 71 (2007-08), 66 (2008-09), and 55 this season thru 63 games. He’s averaging 11.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per game and is one of, if not the key cog in the Nuggets defense, often drawing the toughest forward to defend, and almost always involved in the Nuggets pick-n-roll defense near the basket. Lately though, Kenyon had been playing thru considerable pain in his left knee – his planting knee for his still explosive jumping ability. So Kenyon was shut down while team doctors looked at his knee. The result is indefintely out, and starting on PRP treatment (platelet rich plasma therapy) which involves using Kenyon’s own blood components to stimulate healing. The hope is that Kenyon will be able to return towards the end of the season, or at the very worst – for the playoffs. If I had to bet on it, Kenyon will be back one way or another, but the bigger question is will he be able to play pain-free and make his impact felt on the court again this season/playoffs.

All three of these Nuggets must be able to return for the Nuggets to truly make another deep playoff run like they did in the late spring/early summer of 2009. Oh what fun that was. I’m an eternal optimist, and if all three can return to the levels they’ve played or coached at so far this season soon, or at least before the playoffs begin, the Nuggets can make some serious noise. They can even get past the mighty Lakers this time.

So Nuggets fans… send those healthy thoughts… those little white lights when you fall asleep at night. Then maybe, just maybe… we can have some championship dreams.

Coach Karl gets 1 year contract extension


February 13th, 2010 by aswitzer

Denver Nuggets coach George Karl has agreed to a one-year contract extension worth about $4.5 million, according to sources yesterday. Coach is currently making $3 million in 2009-2010, and was in the final year of his contract.

“I think it’s important to the team,” Karl said today during a news conference for Sunday’s All-Star Game. “I don’t want to be a distraction.

There were multiple rumors over the past few months, with one supposed offer being a 3 year extension worth around $11 million. Whether it or any of the other rumors were true, there was the potential for them to become a distraction as this team pursues another high playoff seed.

Karl has publicly stated his desire to stay in Denver, “I don’t want to move,” he said. “I’m going to probably live in Denver (for the long term)… Denver’s a big-time city. It fits for me… (The Nuggets) have a legit opportunity to be as good as anybody in basketball.”

George Karl took over as the Nuggets coach midway thru the 2004-2005 season and went on an amazing 32-8 run to lead the Nuggets to their first playoff series in nearly 10 years. The Nuggets have gone 244-152 during the regular season during Karl’s time at the helm.

His time has not been completely smooth – for several seasons a popular site called “FireGeorgeKarl.com” was run by a local blogger. That site has since been changed to www.denverstiffs.com after the owner decided that George was not the only person to blame in the Nuggets organization.

After guiding the Nuggets to the Western Conference Finals for only the 2nd time in franchise history, Coach Karl has received a lot less flack. I for one, am hoping that Karl can finally get past some of his mistakes in the playoffs and finally bring his “A” game (which he consistently does in the regular season!) when it matters the most.

Birdman’s new wheels


July 29th, 2009 by aswitzer

Thanks to my friend Kurt, for these great pictures. While at the Starbuck’s at Belleview and Syracuse the other day, he ran into Denver Nuggets Chris Andersen and Anthony Carter. Kurt ended up talking with their agent, and then was able to snap a few pictures of the vehicles Birdman and A.C. were driving that day. Chris’s new ride is the black truck – a converted semi, and A.C. was driving the green Hummer.

Hey, what would you do if you just had signed a sweet new contract with your employer that would pretty much set you up for the rest of your life? 🙂

Birdmand and AC's vehicles

Birdman and AC’s vehicles

Birdmand and AC's vehicles

Closer view

Birdmand and AC's vehicles

Birdman leaving

Birdmand and AC's vehicles

Carter leaving

As for how this relates back to basketball, I am glad that the Nuggets resigned Chris Andersen with decent deal for both sides. Terms of the deal weren’t officially announced by the Nuggets but according to ESPN, it was a 5 year, 26 million dollar contract that is back-loaded and incentive driven that more than fairly pays the Birdman for his talents on the court and still gives the Denver Nuggets some financial flexibility in the next couple of seasons.

As for Anthony Carter, who is also a free agent right now, there is still a chance that he will be back another season to compete with rookie Ty Lawson for the backup point guard position. Carter played well for the Nuggets the past two season and brings solid defense and playmaking in his role.

Nuggets are halfway to the NBA Summit


May 19th, 2009 by aswitzer

8 playoffs wins in 2009.

Let it sink in and savor it a moment, Nuggets fans, but realize that we’re only half-way to the summit. The next obstacle in our path is the formidable Los Angeles Lakers – the #1 seed in 2009, and looking to repeat their trip to the NBA Finals from last year.

After a total of 4 wins in the previous 5 years in the playoffs (since 2004) this year’s playoff run has topped the magical and improbable run in 1994 when the 8th seeded Nuggets knocked off the #1 Seattle Sonics and took the Utah Jazz to 7 games in round 2.

Hearing, “First time in the Western Conference Finals in 24 years” will never get old for me. 

The similarities beween the 2009 Denver team and that 1985 squad:

  • Both teams faced the Los Angeles lakers in the Western Conference Finals
  • Both teams pulled off a blockbuster trade near the beginning of the season that paid major dividends – 2009 team getting Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, and the 1985 team getting Wayne Cooper, Calvin Natt, and Fat Lever for Kiki Vandeweghe.
  • Both teams had a rainbow warrior connection – 1985 via their rainbow cityscape log, and 2009 team with Anthony Carter, who was a Rainbow Warrior for Hawaii in college.
  • Doug Moe (1985) and George Karl (2009) are the two winningest coaches in Denver Nuggets franchise history

Differences:

  • If the Nuggets are going to advance to the Finals, they will need to stick with the “defense first” mentality that got them here. The 1985 team averaged 120.2 points a game against the Lakers but was eliminated 4-1 in the series. Trying to “outscore” the Lakers in an offensive shoot-out in 2009 would go equally bad.
  • The 2009 Lakers team only has one future hall-of-fame player (Kobe Bryant) as opposed to the 1985 version that had four (Kareem Addul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo)

Since joining the NBA (the Nuggets were originally an ABA team) in 1976, the Nuggets have never been to the Finals. To do it this year, the Nuggets will have to do two things that Coach George Karl has been preaching since a key turning point in March, when he told the team they could do “special” things this year – “Stay Hungry, Stay Humble”.

It will also take a perfect storm of things going the right way, but why not – it’s been happening all season. The Nuggets miracles started with aquiring point-guard Chauncey Billups from the Detroit Pistons for Allen Iverson. Iverson is an incredible NBA player, but his need to have the ball in his hands, and the fact that he had started to lose a step or two did not mesh well with the Nuggets focus on offense and defense this season. Billups, on the other hand, fits both like a glove – his floor leadership is exactly what the Nuggets helter-skelter offense of seasons past needed to gel, and his infectious focus on defense helped lead the way for the rest of the team. The next miracle was the Nuggets front-office recovering from trading away Marcus Camby to reduce costs by signing/re-signing 3 minimum contract players that all had huge impacts on the success of the season – Anthony Carter, Dahntay Jones, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Andersen alone filled the huge void Camby left behind with his energy, post-defense, and shot blocking, but did it all for $14 million less this season. Lastly, the Nuggets needed a different kind of coaching effort from Coach Karl than they had in seasons past – and they got it, a return to defense-first, and a return to Karl making the right calls/decisions all season long – something he’s been doing for many years in the NBA, but hadn’t done much of the past few years. Karl finally took a firmer stance with the team this season and with Chauncey echoing that on the court, Carmelo, JR and the rest of the Nuggets have fallen into line.

If the Nuggets continue to focus on defense first, bring a consistent high level of energy and focus to *every* game in this series, trust each-other on offense, and Carmelo continues to be patient and bring the same kind of game he showed in the first two rounds… Amazing will continue to Happen In Denver. 

Western Conference Finals Prediction – it will take 6 game for the Nuggets to get 4 more wins and advance to the Finals

Just 8 more wins nets the ultimate NBA prize.

Chauncey Billups – Disposable Superstar


May 18th, 2009 by aswitzer

One of the best articles I’ve ever read on Chauncey Billups NBA journey and arrival in Denver:

The Disposable Superstar

 

Written by Tom Friend for ESPN.com Outside The Lines

Chauncey Billups wins NBA 2009 Sportsmanship Award


May 1st, 2009 by aswitzer

Somewhat lost in the shuffle last week as the Nuggets were busy vanquishing their first round demons, Chauncey Billups was awarded the NBA’s Sportsmanship award.

The annual award reflects the ideals of sportsmanship — ethical behavior, fair play and integrity — in amateur and professional basketball, a key focus of the league’s NBA Cares program efforts. The trophy is named for former Detroit Pistons guard and Hall of Famer Joe Dumars, the award’s first recipient in 1996.

It was the first time receiving the award for the Nuggets 12 year veteran, and the first time for a Denver Nuggets player. Chauncey beat out Ray Allen and Antonio McDyess, among others.

Chauncey was presented the trophy at the Pepsi Center in front of the hometown fans right before Game #2 against the Hornets.

I personally love the fact that this award goes to a Denver Nuggets. For one, I love being able to fully root for my team as a bunch of “good guys” and not just good athletes. Two, a lot of Dallas and even some national media has suddenly started trying to label the Nuggets players with ugly words like “thugs” and “punks”. Not sure where this came from and why but it seems to stem from the fact that our players are very good (we hit threes in the 4th quarter when we have a lead – oh, the horror!) and have a lot of tattoos.

Sorry, but that does not seem to warrant those types of labels. If you know something different – Nuggets fan, or other fans, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Back to the subject at hand though… well deserved congratulations to Chauncey!

A Playoff Win for the Ages


April 29th, 2009 by aswitzer

In looking back upon the Denver Nuggets first round, game four dominating 121-63 victory over the New Orleans Hornets, let’s take a look at the numbers:

  • Largest margin of victory on the road, in NBA playoff history (58 points)
  • Tied the largest margin of victory (Minneapolis Lakers – 1956) in NBA playoff history (58 points)
  • The Nuggets held the Hornets to the lowest score in a half in NBA playoff history (24 points)
  • The Nuggets held Chris Paul to one of the worst games of his career – 4 points, 6 assists, 6 turnovers.
  • It was the first time Chris Paul had scored less than 14 points in a playoff game
  • Using a swarming, active defense, the Nuggets forced New Orleans into 27 turnovers and capitalized on that with 41 points
  • The Nuggets shot nearly 57% from the field while holding New Orleans to less than 32%
  • The Nuggets previous largest margin of victory was 30 points in 1985
  • Not a single starter for either team played in the 4th quarter
  • Nuggets playoff opponent all-time low – total points (63)
  • Nuggets playoff opponent all-time low – assists (10)
  • Nuggets playoff opponent all-time low – field-goal percentage (31.5%)
  • The last time the Nuggets won a best-of-seven playoff series was 1985
Chris Paul: What just happened?

Chris Paul: What just happened?

Some quotes after the game:

“In a strange sort of way, being up by that much is kind of embarrassing for the team that’s up sometimes,” Chauncey Billups‘ said Tuesday, 12 hours after the Nuggets’ 121-63 shellacking of the Hornets. “Only because, you play the game with integrity and you don’t want to show anybody up. But at the same time you want to play hard and you want to compete.

“Every coach talks about playing a playoff game, every possession having value, every possession having intensity to it,” Coach George Karl began. “I thought my team, probably in my career, I’ve never seen a team probably do that on every possession – do what they were supposed to do and play the game the right way – as much as they did tonight.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a team play defense like that,” Coach George Karl said. “Defensively, when you play this well, offense just happens.”

My take:

I have never seen a less competitive NBA playoff game, and I’ve watched 100’s over the past few decades. I’ve been to every home Nuggets playoff game since 1994 (yes, there were quite a few years in there where they had zero!) and I have never been more proud of my favorite home team. This even includes the amazing run we had in 1994 as the #8 seed, when we upset Seattle and took Utah to 7 games. We just trampled a playoff team that won nearly 50 games by playing the kind of defense that this town has not seen in many seasons, and by playing “the right way” on offense by passing the ball and sharing. From Chauncey and Carmelo all the way down the bench to backup-backup-point-guard Jason Hart, this team took both of those things to heart and kept it up for the entire game, even when it was basically over midway thru the 3rd quarter.

David West – the Hornets 2009 All-Star forward was playing the kind of defense that Carmelo Anthony used to play – namely, not moving his feet or ever helping as a Nuggets player drove past his man. I had forgotten how frustrating that was to watch.

Final thought:

Savor this win Nuggets fans, then get online and buy a playoff ticket to tonight’s Game #5 if you don’t already have one. The Nuggets have the heads on straight and will bring their “A” game to make sure that they do their best to close out the Hornets before looking ahead to matching up with the Dallas Mavericks in round 2. With a little (LOT) noise from the crowd at the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets will be an unstoppable force.

Don’t miss out on what Denver hoops fans have been craving for the past 15 years – an NBA team that’s going places in the playoffs!

GO NUGGETS!

How the Nuggets will win the 2009 Northwest Division


March 16th, 2009 by aswitzer

Here’s what one long-time Nuggets fan thinks what needs to happen to finish up this season and win the 2009 Northwest Division crown, and a handy 3rd or 4th place seed in the Western Conference.

  • Share the ball
    When things went downhill during the Nuggets recent slide, they went back to their Iverson days of last year and started going with a lot of one-on-one play. Some of that works with JR slashing to the basket, but too much leads to a stagnant, ineffective offense. Unselfish, moving the ball is one the Nuggets are at their best.
  • Get back to playing solid team defense
    For the Nuggets, their new-found team defense takes a lot of hard, consistent effort with good communication. During their slide they lost that focus and intensity. Karl should turn to guys like Dahntay Jones, Birdman and Renaldo Balkman to help crank up the defensive intensity when the starting unit falters. Chauncey’s defense is always pretty solid, but he can’t do it alone.
  • Get Kenyon Martin back
    A healthy Kenyon Martin has also been a huge part of the Nuggets newfound defensive improvement this season. Kenyon brings a ferocity to the Nuggets defense, and he is strong enough and quick enough to guard several different positions, which really helps with switches and defensive breakdowns. Hopefully his recent bout with a back spasms will clear up in the next week or two and he’ll be ready to go for the stretch run and playoffs.
  • Get Nene back to early-season form
    Another reason the Nuggets offensive efficiency has recently faltered is the dwindling effectiveness of  Nene. I think he’s hurting a bit, and tired, but the Nuggets really need him to re-find his legs and intensity for the stretch run and definitely the playoffs in order to make a run. I get the feeling Nene is a sensitve guy, and Chauncey pulling Nene aside and reminding him just how important he is to this team may just re-energize the big man in the middle. Getting a healthy Kenyon back would also do wonders, as it would take some of the focus off of Nene inside and give him more room to work.
  • More Birdman, more Balkman, more cowbell!
    Coach Karl saw what Birdman could do this season way before I did this year, and I give him kudos for that. However, he’s still only playing Birdman an average of just under 20 minutes a game. Isn’t there a way to keep him on the court just a bit more? I know a guy like Andersen relies on his energy to be successful, so its a very fine line… but just a few more minutes, please? Balkman has been a revelation in the past week, mostly thanks to Kenyon’s bad back. How about 10-14 shooting with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks against the Clippers in a win? How about 14 points (6-13 shooting) and 14 rebounds in the previous game against Oklahoma – also a win? Please don’t send Balkman back to the bench completely when Kenyon comes back – find a way to keep him on the court – preferably ahead of the talented, but dreadfully inconsistent Linas Kleiza.
  • Look at the past, and then play their butts off in the remaining games
    Learn from past seasons where high hopes faded away. Take the recent slide to heart and bring a renewed energy to the remaining games now that Utah and Portland are once again in the rear view mirror for the Northwest Division lead. They are very, very close in that rearview mirror, so the “A” game needs to be brought every night. Do that, and the playoffs won’t be a very big change from the intensity of the end of this season.

I don’t usually write posts like this, telling the Nuggets and their staff what needs to be done. Take it all with a grain of salt Nuggets fans, because this fan is just really tired of seeing his team get wiped out of the playoffs in the first round. Go Nuggets!

Nuggets fan guide to 2009 All-Star Game


February 13th, 2009 by aswitzer

Denver Nuggets fans have two events to look forward to during this weekend’s festivities in Phoenix.

First up, is the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night, where J.R. Smith was a late addition to the foursome competing. J.R. replaced Memphis’s Rudy Gay,  who injured his hip earlier this week. Defending champ Dwight Howard of Orlando, 2006 winner Nate Robinson of New York, and Portland rookie Rudy Fernandez round out the rest of the field.

The Slam Dunk contest occurs during Saturday night festivities, along with the Skills Challenge and Three-Point shootout. It starts at 6pm MT, and the Slam Dunk contest is scheduled to air between 7-8PM MT, acorrding to TNT programming.

Read more: nba.com/2009/allstar2009/02/10/smith.replacement

On Sunday night, Chauncey Billups will represent the Nuggets in the All-Star game, as a Western Conference reserve guard. The game also airs on TNT, at 6PM MT. This will be Chauncey’s fourth-straight All-Star appearance, and his first in the Western Conference.

View Chauncey’s All-Star Profile at NBA.com

Hopefully the rest of the Nuggets will be enjoying the 6 days off before they play again in Philiadelphia and healing any injuries. (Especially Chris Andersen!)

Enjoy All-Star weekend!