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6 p.m. ET, 3/8/07
Nuggets Just Not That Good
Posted by Kelly Dwyer
Carmelo Anthony may have the right idea: The Nuggets haven't been worth watching.
By now you've probably heard the rumblings out of Denver: The Nuggets stink, Carmelo Anthony is selfish, Allen Iverson isn't selfish enough, the team is underachieving, but what a nice airport they have there! And, by now, you've probably bought this line of reasoning hook, line and sinker.
You'd be wrong in doing that, though the airport is quite nice.
The Nuggets are limping along at 29-30, 12 games behind the Northwest-leading Jazz and seventh in the Western Conference. Denver is 5-7 in games Iverson and Anthony have played together, and coach George Karlis threatening to bench Carmelo for vague reasons, probably because Karl heard that this form of punishment worked for some junior varsity coach somewhere.
Not to say the Nuggets haven't disappointed slightly, but in looking at the roster and observing the games, it's hard to expect more than a .500 record. For one, they have absolutely no depth. In the first four minutes of the first quarter and first eight minutes of the second quarter of Wednesday's 110-96 loss at Golden State, the Nuggets combined to outscore Golden State 27-5. The rest of the half? The Warriors owned a 23-point edge. It's that second unit, and the combination of "hot" bench pieces (whomever Karl believes is affording him the most moxie that night) and starters, that often does in the Nuggets.
And the coach isn't helping things with his rotation choices. By playing Nene and Marcus Camby in the starting unit, he's forcing Linas Kleiza and Reggie Evans into acting as weak-side help defenders off the pine, a role those two are wholly unsuited for. It's not their fault: Kleiza wants to use quick hands to pilfer on the perimeter, Evans lusts for boards, and that's about the extent of the defensive know-how. Nene and Camby would seem like the perfect long-armed interior defendin' duo, but they're too similar to make things work together.
Denver's Feb. 14 loss to the Timberwolves was a case in point -- neither player wanted to step out to check a hot Mark Blount (24 points) as he shot Minnesota toward a win down the stretch. Kleiza, despite his myriad defensive issues, is at least comfortable enough on the perimeter to stay in front of Blount and stop him from getting off a shot. But he was buried on the bench as both Camby and (in the game's last minute) Nene flailed away while trying to patrol the paint and keep an eye on Blount at the same time.
But the rotation isn't the biggest problem with these Nuggets. This team, beyond all the hype and attempted fisticuffs and national TV appearances ... it ain't too good, I reckon. Point guard Steve Blake isn't offering much -- 8.7 points, seven assists and 33 percent long-range shooting in 35 minutes per game -- and he could barely bring the ball up Wednesday against 21-year-old Warriors guard Monta Ellis. Throw in a combined 36.4 minutes from Kleiza and Yakhouba Diawara (combining for 10.6 points and sub-30 percent three-point shooting), the absence of their second highest-paid player (Kenyon Martin) and nothing from a 2005 first-round pick (Julius Hodge, who was traded to Milwaukee in January), and you have all the makings of a mediocre team.
Why Karl wants to take all this out on his 22-year-old All-Star, I have no idea. Well, I do have one idea, and it relates to the blame game Karl has played in his coaching stops, whether they came in the form of battles with players (World B. Free, Ray Allen, Vincent Askew, Martin), ownership or general managers (Wally Walker, Don Nelson). Anthony's defense isn't great, but it's not horrible, and the Nuggets aren't as bad defensively as everyone thinks (just mediocre at 13th in overall defensive efficiency). The fact that Carmelo has hit for double-figure rebounds once this season is pretty pathetic (especially with Denver's increased pace), but the Nuggets outrebound their opponents and are an especially good offensive rebounding team.
Anyone who is watching this Nuggets team and thinks that it is one Anthony rebound, extra pass or attitude adjustment away from winning 60 games is nuts. Denver is too thin and too flawed to expect much this season, or even next (that salary-cap situation isn't getting any clearer). Then again, I could be wrong. Unlike George Karl, I'm not a coach, I didn't play in the ABA and I didn't try to turn Lloyd Free into a pass-first point guard.
As a season ticket holder for 4 years now, but a life long fan of another top tier team (detroit)--all I can say is.... I totally agree. they just don't have the right guys and enough talent to make a go at the West big boys. Kenyon would help, as would a healthier JR Smith--but would it really catapult them into one of the top 4 in the top heavy west? NO--and it is hard to place blame on only one guy. Kiki V tried and did some good and bad--not totally his fault. Some with current management. We shall see......
This article is a bunch of bullcrap the nuggets are a good team they just dont have the chemestry. Kleiza is turning into a great option off the bench and i dont think their bench is that bad they have a rebounder (reggie evans) two great defensive players (diawara and najera) and a decent point guard (blake). When jr smith comes back this team will be better but i think the nuggets should just release kenyon martin, nene is better and younger.
I'm a die-hard Nugget and Melo fan but I have to say it's Melo although it's not really his fault.
He always does his smile/laugh trademark even when we're being blown out by 15-20 pts. Pretend you're one of the role players on the Nuggets, what do you think you do when you see your leader act like that?
I know it's Melo's nature to smile and all that... that he's just being him... but you have to know when and where to smile... it's obviously not during the 20 pt beating.
Also, he has one of the worst body language when things don't go his way... for a superstar that's embarassing. Melo needs to have focus and commitment to do whatever it takes to get the team a "W" every game.
But then again, I said it's not his fault because he's still 22.
Dwayne willed the Heat to win a championship. Lebron knows how to take over in games.
Ever wonder why Carmelo's the last of the three to make it as an all-star, albeit barely? Chris Bosh is even poised to become a bigger and better player than Melo.
Another observation I have is that the Nuggets are pushing Melo to win the scoring title while sacrificing their playoff seeding. However, once Melo's crowned as scoring champ, I expect AI to take over in the playoffs.
I couldn't agree more, and its refreshing to finally see some of the blame put where it belongs; on the management and coaches. Yes, there are problems with the players, and Melo certainly has his issues, but he has shown good progress. If he can continue to work on the little things he could be great. But I doubt that will happen under one of the most overrated coaches out there in any sport. Karl has proven over and over again that he can win meaningless games (well, not lately) but is incapable winning important ones. And the management of the team is befuddling; two years later they still can't shoot. They never bring in the right pieces or fix the right problems. Its just about time to blow it all up again.
Poor AI! He goes from the disfunctional Sixers to the western conferance equivalent...Sad that a player of his caliber will probably spend the rest of his career on a team that will never compete for a title. Unlike Melo, AI brings it every night, an attribute that teammates in both PHL and DEN seem to lack...
This article has a lot of truth to it- the nuggets do lack depth. The thing is, it isn't so much roster depth as it is player depth. They have too many players that focus intensely on a specific role and in doing so neglect the other duties of a basketball player. Like Dwyer said, Evans is concerned with rebounding and Kleiza is concerned with pilfering on the perimeter- but that doesn't mean that they don't need to fulfill the other duties of an NBA player, including pitching in on a little weak-side help d. Mark Kiszla wrote an excellent article a while ago about how the nuggets can't seem to put it all together; if they remember to rebound, they forget to run; if they remember to run, they forget to hustle back on d, and so on and so forth. Teams seem to easily figure out what it is the Nuggets aren't doing on any particular night and they exploit it. And Melo is one of the biggest perpetrators. He seems to have trouble taking in an entire game of basketball- if he's scoring, that's all he's looking to do to the extend that he'll stand around picking cherries instead of hustling back on d. If he's passing, he stands with the ball up around his shoulders while he surveys the floor, producing the same affect he would if that ball was a sign reading "I'M GONNA PASS!" He's like an electron; he can only occupy one clearly defined level of the game at a time.
Karl's jabs through the media were carefully calculated, not something he picked up from "some junior varsity coach." One of Coach's comments was that Melo, as well as some teammates, were simply not listening to him. It's like Denzel says in Training Day- yeah, Melo's listening, but he's not hearing him. So Karl used the media as a bullhorn to get his attention. Anthony is all about public perception and proving people wrong, and after reading his coach's comments in the paper he came out and played an all-out, focused game of basketball against the Hornets.
The Nuggets are Carmelo's team, and as much as I sometimes wish they didn't, they react to game situations in the same way that he does. If he's focused and playing an all-around game, the rest of the team usually does. And as far as defense goes, while Dwyer is correct in saying his defense is adequate, that only holds true if he is ACTUALLY PLAYING DEFENSE. Too often he doesn't even pretend to, and like I said before, this translates into the whole team neglecting their defensive duties.
As far as Melo's smile is concerned, anonymous brings up a good point- he often smiles when things aren't going the nugs' way. However, his toothy grin on these occasions is far different than usual: it's uneasy. It hides fear. It's an attempt to project confidence (coming back to his infatuation with public perception) at a time when he is full of self-doubt. He needs to replace that smile, on the court at least, with a true game-face, an impenetrable mask of pure focus. If, no, not if, when he does this his physical gifts and determination will carry him through troubling moments to successs. Success breeds confidence, and visa versa. If Melo toughens up mentally and translates that toughness into a game-face that exudes focus, confidence, and determination, the rest of the team WILL follow suit. And that could make them a scary team. Go nugs.
I agree, but would suggest one more thing: their greatest talent deficiency, just like last year, is three-point shooting. Iverson can make threes but isn't a frightening marksman, and Carmelo can knock down a few, sometimes--but isn't a markman either. They have no dependable outside shooting, and no great post-up game either, so they have to create everything off the dribble, and you can't beat people that way, not unless you have vastly superior talent. And the Nuggets don't.
No team chemistry. I look at the Spurs, Mavs, Suns, Pistons, and to a lesser extent the Lakers, Rockets, Jazz - they have a team identity. The Nuggets? They're like a talented (i.e. Western Conference) version of the Knicks.
The tricky part is, Carmelo is "just" 22, but he's also been in the league for a few years now and should have his head screwed on, to a degree. But he's never had the right kind of coach, nor the right kind of veteran leadership, to continue the maturation process that began under Boeheim at Syracuse. Without the natural drive of LeBron and Dwayne, he won't reach his potential without the proper guidance.
I honestly believe that the 76er's got the better end of the deal when they got Andre Miller and the Nuggets got Allen Iverson. (Let's face it, the Sixers won't make the playoffs, but they've made progress) The last thing a young player like Carmelo Anthony needed was the influence of a selfish player. Before the trade, the Nuggets were playing well and seemed to have good chemistry. After the mass suspensions, the organization went into a frenzy and decided that "The Answer" was the answer to their problems. Apparently, they hadn't been paying attention to what went on in Philadelphia over the past several years. The powers that be in the Nuggets front office should probably take a step back and reexamine their decision making skills, which they'll probably do when Iverson starts pulling the same things he pulled in Philly and drags Melo along with him.
Right now, the only way for the Nuggets to make ANY move in the playoffs is to get out of their seventh seed. If they can get to six or five, they would have a chance to get past the first round. I would like to take this moment to thank the Nuggets, their fans and anybody involved in getting AI out of Philadelphia. For a team like the Nuggets who nead a veteran leader, well, they STILL need one. SteveMG
And let the Carmelo apologists begin.... What is Carmelo Anthony? An immature Dominique Wilkins at best, that's what. I think it's time people woke up from the hype-induced delusions about that draft class. Carmelo's a whiny coaster, LeBron's looking awfully human, and Wade's true talent is tainted by his drama-queen attitude and a heaping helping of new-NBA-golden-child officiating. The only one who has truly out his head down and gotten better every year is Bosh, laboring anonymously up the Great White North. But, since he doesn't have tats and street cred and a big hype machine, nobody knows about him beyond real bball watchers. Typical.
The Nuggets sacrificed their bench for what was thought to be immediate short term success. The coach has the responsibility to utilize all of his weapons properly and devise game plans against each opponent to win. The weapons are there now if the coach can find a way past himself and evolve the Nuggets will be one of the scariest teams anyone will have to face for at least the next three years. Melo', AI, J.R, Camby and Kleiza will get you started and all the rest will get you through.
In 2004-05, Carmelo averaged 18.2 ppg and shot 43% in his first 13 games after Karl took over. In the 14th game, he benched him in the 4th quarter and overtime and the team won. Following that game, Carmelo bought in and averaged 22.8 ppg and shot 49% from the field for the rest of the season.
So if he learned that from a junior varsity coach, it worked before.
But at least you did your homework Kelly. Well done.
I think the solution for the Nuggets is pretty clear. They need to support Anthony with the right kind of players, and they are all available as far as I can tell, through trades or just signings. Figure out how to get Gerry McNamara, Hakim Warrick, Kueth Duany, Craig Forth, and bring Josh Pace off the bench and the Nuggets problems will definitely go away.
Andre Miller. That is the difference. Philly now has him, and Denver is doing as bad as ever without him. You can't win without a true point guard. Denver went with the name trade, and it has gotten them no where.
i'm a nugs fan and am placing the blame on karl...but I also understand that its hard to instantly create the type of chemistry that hasn't been healthy, suspended, or new to the team. The nugs are practically a new team compared to last year: nene, ai, blake, no boykins, no miller, jr smith. But the talent is there--thats where this writer is wrong: ai, melo, nene, smith, camby..that line up is one of the best if not the best. and we have hustle guys coming off the bench. I like it--but i don't like karl's inablility to put this chemistry faster--but it is a tough job....all he should be saying is: 'ai, you draw the doubles, pass the ball, and everyone else get open and drive to the hoop.' it is that easy.
I just wanted to comment on the note about Bosh, although you were a little harsh on D-wade and Bron Bron I do agree that Bosh is turning into a great player. Unlike SO many stars he seems to work hard every single night, does not cry over bad calls and is showing great leadership skills; he never seems to have back to back bad games. He has pride, one bad game and he gives 110% the next night, it might be a little early for this but does anyone else see Bosh turning into the next KG? WITH a decent 3-point shot..!?? GO RAPS!! playoffs baby!
The iverson/melo duo was over hyped from the start. You knew this was going to be a disfunctional linup but everybody wanted to see the "two 30 point scorers" light it up. Too bad melo cant defend for his life. J.R. Smith is a decent role player thinkin hes a superstar. This organization needs some rebuilding and rethinking to do.
am not a denver nuggets fan, but i am more of an nba and a hoops fan...just want to share my 2 cents on the matter...
AI trying to fill in and pass the ball was a mistake... Teams have read that... No disrespect to Melo, but for them to win, big shots has to go to the player who is hot during that game, since they have 2 franchise type of players... And their defense...With them being so athletic, i cant figure out why the hell cant they stop anybody...
Maybe they should stop worrying on who gets the shots and start focusing on being infront of the man their guarding and getting those rebounds...
They're a good tea, but they're plagued with injuries. If Kenyon Martin was to get healthy again (along with J.R. Smith) the team would be outstanding. With the current lineup they have now, they have no chemistry. So i think that it's wrong to blame Anthony for all this...
When they traded for AI, they should have traded Melo + Nene for KG. AI's best year when they went to the final was when he played with defensive studs who could control the game. A front line of KG + Camby does that. The only weakness on this team would have been at the small forward spot.
The fact of the matter is that the Nuggets just aren't very good. They do not have enough talent to properly compete with the top clubs in the West. After Melo, Iverson, and Camby, what above-average players do they employ? JR Smith and a healthy Nene, maybe. A previous poster is correct on that front. Four of the five aforementioned players, with the exception of Camby, have serious flaws in their games. Melo and Smith do little more than score while Iverson is likely the most inefficient superstar of the era. Yes, he gets his points but utilizes way too many of his team's possessions to get them to be incredibly effective. There are reasons, Billy King notwithstanding, why he has only gotten past the 2nd round of the playoffs once. Finally, Nene's scoring ability hasn't developed the way the organization has hoped and seeing the $60 million man limp around on his bum knee earlier in the season was depressing. Klezia, Diawara, and Blake have no business being in any contender's rotation--they just aren't good enough. In sum, the Nuggets need more talent at many roster slots in order to truly be considered an elite team. Perhaps a trip to the lottery and a chance at an impact youngster who can rebound, distribute, play defense, and create turnover is what can save them from mediocrity.
Wow, someone commented that Carmleo has bad body language when things don't go his way. Apparently this individual has never watched a San Antonio or Minnesota game. KG and Tim Duncan cry more than anybody and always. No one ever calls them on it. Get real.
Blame this on management! George Karl himself did not want to let andre miller and earl boykins go he probably knew why. Doing such a major trade during the season while key players suspended is bad management and will cost them the season. No offence to iverson but he's not an easy piece to fit on any team especially in the middle of a season when a 22 year old with no maturity and suspended for 15 game is suposed to be the leader.
Lets face it, since acquiring Allen Iverson they have played worse and the 76ers acquiring Andre Miller have played much better…What else needs to be said. Team chemistry is way off. Benching Anthony is not the answer. Bad trade Denver!!!
I like the Nuggets and think they can be a good team but just face it. A team with two superstars just isn't gonna work. Look at the Spurs, they have players that fit in the team and they win. AI and melo just isn;t going to get wins for the team. Trading for AI was a mistake.
I belive that it is Karls fault. His hot headed temper kills the team. The nuggets need better players than Reggie Evans who cant catch the ball that is passed to him. I would not be worried bout melos effort but more in the effort of Marcus Camby, who plays as if he is a point guard not a center.
There is only one clear and almost instantaneous solution to their problem. Let AI be "AI"!! Prior to his arrival there has been all the talk and expectation of AI being a selfish player, which adversely affected his game (being selfless to a fault). There needs to be clarification on whose team Denver truly is, and once the "Crown" has been bestowed to the proper king (AI), watch the fireworks kick-off!
Almost all that's been said about the Nuggets' poor play were all valid, except I think for that one who's questioning Camby's efforts... I have a few things in mind which I think could help Melo's game improve. Before this season began, Karl spoke about Melo doing some point-forward role at times. I think this has been clearly forgotten, and I think it would be an effective and efficient way to help turn him into a more intense and more focused leader of the team. When he's at the point, he would (and should) be more concerned about ball distribution and setting up the play. That should take his mind off of "just" scoring. When he's at his normal role of 2 and 3, he would then know how to be more effective, not just by hitting jumpers but by moving constantly without the ball and drawing multiple defenders to help clear the lane for the others to make their cuts to the basket. On the defensive end, make him guard the other team's best player (except if the opponent's best player is a center). Make him guard Kobe, or Lebron, or even Dirk. In that way, he will improve his defensive awareness and intensity, as he would most probably take it as a personal challenge to stop the opponent's best player. I've seen flashes of what he can do when he guarded T-Mac on several occasions in the 4th qtr of their game against Houston two weeks ago. Why point these things out? Until Melo learns to "bring it" night in and night out, for 48 minutes of every game, his Nuggets could just settle for a .500 season and (another?) first round exit in the playoffs. -- a huge Melo and Nuggets fan