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Tag:Denver Nuggets
Posted on: December 19, 2011 7:07 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 8:30 pm
 

2011-2012 NBA season: Northwest Division preview

Posted by Ben Golliver

kevin-durant-por

We're less than one week away from the start of the 2011-2012 NBA season. After an interminable lockout and a rushed free agency period, here's a first look division-by-division preview at how the league is shaping up. We continue with the Northwest Division.

2011 Standings

1. Oklahoma City Thunder, 55-27, lost in Western Conference Finals
2. Denver Nuggets, 50-32, lost in first round of Western Conference playoffs to Oklahoma City Thunder
3. Portland Trail Blazers, 48-34, lost in first round of Western Conference playoffs to Dallas Mavericks
4. Utah Jazz, 39-43, NBA Draft Lottery
5. Minnesota Timberwolves, 17-65, NBA Draft Lottery

Best team: Oklahoma City Thunder

The young, deep Thunder arguably bring the fewest questions to the table of any NBA team to start the 2011-2012 season. Are they in shape? All-Star forward Kevin Durant and key reserve guard James Harden stayed the busiest during the lockout, going on whirlwind streetball and charity game tours but guard Russell Westbrook kept busy and fit while taking classes at UCLA and big man Serge Ibaka played for Real Madrid. How will the Thunder react to the abbreviated preseason and condensed regular season? With a core that is essentially 25-years-old or younger they should be prepared to take it in stride.  

The biggest question for Oklahoma City is how they respond to being a target rather than a team on the rise. Having won two playoff series last year and entering this season with expectations of being a top-3 team in the West, their task becomes fighting off all the teams gunning for them rather than sneaking up on veteran teams or overwhelming average teams with their talent. Durant is as laser-like as superstars get so you can assume the Thunder will adjust smoothly, but that process is often easier said than done.  

Worst team: Minnesota Timberwolves

This might just be the year when Minnesota transforms from laughingstock from must-watch League Pass team. The addition of coach Rick Adelman has drawn considerable praise and he brings a level of professionalism and poise that's been lacking in the land of 10,000 lakes. He also gets a bunch of new talent to work with, including long-anticipated Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, 2011 No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams and free agent signing J.J. Barea. The centerpiece is still All-Star forward Kevin Love, who doesn't have much help up front. The Timberwolves still aren't likely to scare too many teams this year, but they just might eke out some wins by catching people napping when in previous seasons teams were able to sleepwalk through them.  

Biggest surprise: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets qualify as the biggest surprise because... who are they? Coach George Karl, point guards Ty Lawson and Andre Miller and re-signed center Nene Hilario are the known quantities, but otherwise it's plenty of question marks. Will new addition Rudy Fernandez finally evolve into an emotionally mature NBA player? Will any of the Nuggets trapped in China find their way back to the Mile High city? Karl is a master at pulling together difficult situations and he certainly has his hands full.

Three Best Players: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge

Durant drew some MVP whispers last season and yet still had to fight off critics who believe he is actually the second best player on his own team, thanks to Westbrook, the NBA's most dynamic and explosive point guard. It's a potent 1-2 tandem and the pair have said all the right things about working together towards a title rather than competing for the limelight.

The third best player in this division is a bit up for grabs, with Aldridge, Nene and Love all making legitimate cases for consideration. Love beat out Aldridge for the final 2011 All-Star spot but Aldridge's athletic, dominant two-way play and Portland's winning ways over the balance of the season proved that was an oversight. For Nene, it's time to take a step forward in Denver's first full post-Carmelo Anthony year. His mega-dollar extension and the absence of Kenyon Martin demands it.

Biggest Question: How does Raymond Felton fit in with the Blazers?

New point guard Raymond Felton landed in Portland thanks to a draft day trade that sent Miller to Denver. Felton's higher-octane game will be a new look in the Rose City, where the Blazers have been most comfortable as tortoises in recent years thanks to the deliberate play of Miller and former guard Brandon Roy. Felton's desire to push tempo must mesh with coach Nate McMillan's demand to keep turnovers at a minimum and his desire to create his own offense must mesh with shoot-first guards Wesley Matthews and Jamal Crawford, while still ensuring that Aldridge gets plenty of touches. Felton is in a contract year so, while the demands are many, the potential rewards are great, too. 

2012 Projected Standings

1. Oklahoma City Thunder
2. Denver Nuggets
3. Portland Trail Blazers
4. Utah Jazz
5. Minnesota Timberwolves

Posted on: December 16, 2011 3:26 pm
 

Pop Quiz: Who takes the 7 & 8 spots in the West?

Posted by Royce Young

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell ... Wait, we're almost to winter. What happened? Who cares, there's a season! The NBA season is right around the corner, and NBA training camp starts in just a couple weeks. To get you ready for the season, we've put together some pop quizzes. Pencils ready? We continue our Pop Quizzes with this question...

Who gets the last two seeds in the West?

The Western Conference is wide, wide open. And I don't just mean at the top. There are a pretty set top six teams in the West -- Oklahoma City, Memphis, Dallas, San Antonio, the Clippers and the Lakers. Nobody's really going to argue too much with that.

But my question is, what is going to happen with spots seven and eight? Here are the remaining teams: Minnesota, Denver, Phoenix, Portland, Utah, New Orleans, Houston, Golden State and Sacramento. Two of those have to go to the playoffs (assuming of course the top six go as planned). Who, I mean who, has the edge there?

The Veterans

Let's start with teams that were there last postseason. That includes Portland, New Orleans and Denver. Obviously you can cross the Hornets right off, but of those nine teams vying for the two spots, you'd have to think Denver and Portland have the best shot. The Blazers took a massive hit with Brandon Roy's retirement, but that team made the playoffs pretty much without him anyway last year. And with Jamal Crawford coming in, Craig Smith beefing them up a little inside, Ray Felton running the show (as long as he's not 300 pounds), Gerald Wallace doing all the little things and a legit star in LaMarcus Aldridge, I'd say Portland will probably punch one of those spots.

The Nuggets? That's iffy. Bringing back Nene to go team with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson gives Denver a solid core, but this team was ravaged by the lockout. J.R. Smith -- gone. Wilson Chandler -- gone. Kenyon Martin -- gone. It wasn't a guarantee those guys were coming back anyway, but Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer aren't really ideal replacements. Plus, this team is breaking in a lot of new stuff and with just 66 games, there's not a lot of time to get it sorted out. But among the contenders for No. 8, Denver will definitely be in the mix.

The Middle Class

The teams that are consistently solid, have a star or at least a quality roster and can compete with pretty much anyone on a night-to-night basis. I'd put Phoenix, Houston and Golden State in this group. Steve Nash gives Phoenix a chance every night, Houston went 43-39 last season and if the Rockets can add a big man -- granted, only Samuel Dalembert is really left -- they could be a solid seven or eight-seed and Golden State has too much offense to ignore.

It's a question with the Suns whether or not Nash can hold up in this schedule, if the Rockets will in fact get that big body they need and if the Warriors will just be themselevs and only play on one side of the floor. But any of these three could make a run one of those two spots and it wouldn't surprise me.

The Bottom

The Hornets are intentionally lowering their bar, despite getting a decent haul of talent from the Clippers. Really, Jarrett Jack, Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman isn't a horrible core. But not being horrible doesn't mean you won't still struggle against the depth of the West. Because the Hornets currently have six or seven D-Leaguers on the roster, all with a pretty good shot at the final team. That's not good.

The Jazz just aren't there yet either. They need a scorer badly. Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors give them a nice frontcourt, but Devin Harris, C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward aren't really going to light it up.

I like what the Jazz are doing, but they are built entirely around four frontcourt players. They need to dump Mehmet Okur and maybe even Millsap or Jefferson to get a scorer (Danny Granger?) unless they aren't sold on their lottery pick Enes Kanter. It's a rebuild post-Sloan and post-Deron and they're likely to be a whipping boy this season.

The Sleepers

By process of elimination, you can figure out who are leftover and I'm even scaring myself with this. But the Kings and Timberwolves could both be set up for a quiet playoff push this year.

Start with the Kings. Tyreke Evans is finally healthy. He's finally in a real position playing shooting guard. Who knows what Jimmer will bring, but if all that fails, Evans can take over handling duties and bring Marcus Thornton in, who is instant offense. DeMarcus Cousins could be dominant if he keeps his head straight, Chuck Hayes is a classic scrapper, Jason Thompson and J.J. Hickson give them some depth. Who knows, in a 66-game schedule where crazy things happen, maybe the Kings start hot taking advantage of teams that didn't get a full camp together and use their youth to stay fresh through the crammed season. I could see it happening.

The Wolves? It's time for them to show some sign of improvement. It has to happen. Rick Adelman is a major addition because he's going to get these young players at least focused on a system and structure. David Kahn has built a mess of a roster but give him credit for one thing: It's got talent. There's a big if in Ricky Rubio and how much of a contributor Derrick Williams will be, but Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley -- I can't believe I'm saying it, but I don't completely hate this roster.

It's all about Adelman though. I'm really believing that he makes a difference in figuring out how the pieces fit. Because if not, the Wolves could win 15 games. But if things click a bit and Rubio and Luke Ridnour run the Adelman offense well, could this team win 30 games? And with the back end of the West looking so iffy, could it be enough to sneak in? I'm not saying I believe it, but I could see it.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 1:46 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 6:52 am
 

The Nuggets, free of Melo, control their destiny

By Matt Moore

When trading a superstar, you look at two options. You can try and aim for a similar, albeit lesser star, or you can aim for financial flexibility and young players. When the Denver Nuggets traded Camelo Anthony last February, they received young players and financial flexibility, but they also recieved something better. Choice. 

The team was not so devastated by Anthony's deparure as to be forced into a pure rebuilding episode. They had young players like Arron Afflalo, Ty Lawson, and got back more in the form of Danilo Gallinari and Timofey Mozgov. But they also had cap room to bring in someone, or, if they wanted to bring back Nene. Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that's just what they did, inking the 29-year-old to a 5-year, $67 million deal which puts him at less per year than Marc Gasol, and which is less than the reported four-year, $70 million offer from the Nets. In locking up Nene, the Nuggets are entering into exciting but dangerous territory.

The Nuggets can compete for the playoffs right now. If Lawson continues his progression and Gallinari becomes a full-fledged star and young players like Jordan Hamilton and Kenneth Faried contribute anything, along with Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer, who the Nuggets acquired Tuesday in a trade with Dallas, then Nene allows them to push for as high as a five-seed in the West. With the Lakers undergoing signs of a possible implosion and Dallas clearing space for 2012, along with San Antonio's age finally wreaking havoc on them, the Thunder really only stand as a major long-term challenge in the West, provided the Clippers don't get Chris Paul. A deep, talented, versatile team with depth, size, experience, youth, athleticism and range? The Nuggets have everything you'd want in an all-around collection of talent.

The Nuggets are expected to zero in on restricted free agent Arron Afflalo, according to Berger, and as a result, will have a killer lineup of Lawson-Afflalo-Gallinari with some combination of frontcourt players beside Nene filling out the roster. They'll still have long-term flexibility, with only Al Harrington standing as a major impediment and will still have the amnesty clause as a weapon to use to clear space. Most of that cap space will be absorbed by extensions for Lawson, Gallinari, and potentially Mozgov, but that doesn't alter the fact that they can use those contracts and players to upgrade or go in different directions.

Still, the re-signing of Nene has its drawbacks. They are a win-now team. They are not aiming for the next superstar, they're trying to grow one out of either Lawson, Gallinari, or, less likely, Nene. They're trying to catch lightning in a bottle and that's a difficult act in the NBA. It's said that the worst thing you can do is end up in NBA purgatory, a constant 5-8 seed playoff team who never winds up going anywwhere. But the Nuggets might get to have their cake and eat it, too. With the kind of young roster they have, and a viable anchor in Nene to bolster the interior, Denver can have it both ways.

Masai Ujiri caught flak from everyone for waiting on the Melo deal last fall, seemingly squandering opportunities to get better deals. Instead, not only did he take in a king's ransom for Anthony, he has converted that haul and the cap space it afforded into a team that isn't struggling to fill roster spots, one that can take risks and make savvy moves, a team on the rise that can also compete now. There's no telling where Ujiri will take the Nuggets over the next several years, but unlike so many franchises beholden to the fate of one player, the Nuggets have options, now.

Wherever they're going, it's their decision which path to take.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:11 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 10:17 pm
 

Nuggets re-sign Nene Hilario 5 years, $67 million

Posted by Ben Gollivernene-hilario

After talking a big game about walking out of town, free agent center Nene Hilario has reportedly chosen to stay with the Denver Nuggets.

ESPN.com reports that Nene has inked a 5-year, $67 million extension with the Nuggets, who desperately needed to retain him. The New Jersey Nets and Houston Rockets were among his most aggressive pursuers after he opted out of the final year of his previous contract to test the free agency waters last summer.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com confirms the signing, noting that "Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri met Monday night with Nene and representatives, one of three or four meetings the team had with its UFA to close deal."

Nene was ranked as the No. 1 overall free agent in the CBSSports.com's Eye On Basketball top-40 rankings in June. His contract surpasses the 4-years, $55 million given by the Memphis Grizzlies to re-sign restricted free agent center Marc Gasol4-years, $58 million given to Tyson Chandler by the New York Knicks. Gasol was ranked No. 2 in the top-40; Chandler was ranked No. 4.

Retaining Nene ensures that Denver has a fighting chance, as his departure would have created a hole that couldn't have immediately been filled just months after the Nuggets lost multiple free agents to no opt-out deals in China.
 
Nene, 29, is a 9-year NBA veteran who has spent his entire career with Denver. He posted averages of 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 75 games last season, shooting an NBA-best 61.5 percent from the field.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2011 6:14 pm
 

Mavs trade Fernandez, Brewer to Nuggets

Posted by Ben Golliverrudy-fernandez

Grand opening. Grand closing?

Guard Rudy Fernandez's career with the Dallas Mavericks may be over before it even started. TuBasket.com and ESPN.com both reported on Tuesday that the Mavericks will move the moody shooting guard to the Denver Nuggets. ESPN.com reported that the Mavericks would receive a future second round pick and included reserve guard Corey Brewer in the deal as well. NBA.com quickly confirmed those details.

The Mavericks acquired Fernandez from the Portland Trail Blazers on the night of the 2011 NBA Draft for a first round pick that the Blazers re-routed to the Nuggets with guard Andre Miller in a trade for Raymond Felton. During the lockout, Fernandez, a Spanish national team player, signed a multi-year contract with Real Madrid.

Brewer, a lithe wing, signed with the Mavericks in March after getting bought out by the New York Knicks after they acquired him in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves that helped facilitate the acquisition of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony

Recent reports indicated that Fernandez, who regularly complained at his role in Portland, would not be happy in Dallas if he did not receive ample playing time and was considering requesting a buyout. Following the 2011-2012 season, Fernandez is free to return to play for Real Madrid. He reportedly had issues with his travel visa that delayed his arrival to Dallas' training camp.

On Monday, Dallas announced the signing of free agent wing Vince Carter and reports surfaced that the Mavericks had signed free agent guard Delonte West as well. Over the weekend, Dallas swung a trade for Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom, too, giving Dallas 11 players competing for playing time at the one, two and three positions.

Fernandez, 26, has not yet delivered on the considerable hype he brought with him to the NBA following the 2008 Olympics, where Spain won the Silver Medal. Last season, Fernandez averaged 8.6 points and 2.5 assists in 78 games for the Blazers.

Brewer, 25, played just 13 games for Dallas last season, posting season averages of 8.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in 69 combined appearances for the Mavericks and the Timberwolves.
Posted on: December 6, 2011 5:57 pm
Edited on: December 6, 2011 8:42 pm
 

Carmelo is not returning to Denver this year

Posted by Royce Young

There are going to be a number of scheduling casualties because of the shortened 66-game schedule. Not every team will visit every city, so some places will miss out on big nights where Kobe or LeBron or Durant come to town.

Just the breaks when you cut 20 percent off.

One major schedule bummer: Carmelo Anthony won't be making a return to Denver this season.

The Knicks won't be traveling to the Rockies this season to take on whatever incarnation of a team the Nuggets have.

Obviously Melo's return to the Pepsi Center wasn't going to have near the vitriol or anger that LeBron's return to Cleveland had, but still, it was going to be a marquee night in the NBA. Any time a star that carried a franchise leaves and returns, it makes for good storylines.

Melo's departure wasn't all that ugly, but he did essentially force a trade out of Denver, leaving that team slightly a mess. To the credit of the Nuggets though, they recovered very well and made a playoff run, falling to Oklahoma City in the opening round of the postseason. But the effects of the deal are being felt this season as the Nuggets only have a handful of players under contract currently and are likely losing their best player in Nene.

So if it's to be a frustrating season in Denver, the shame is that the man that sort of has caused it isn't even coming back to be yelled at.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:43 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 3:55 pm
 

Nene is going to get PAID

By Matt Moore 

We've already told you that Nene is the top free agent in the market. But the thing is, it's a weak market. The best players are in restricted free agency and therefore are difficult to acquire. The unrestricted market is full of players with huge limitations or age and injury concerns. As such, you'd expect spending to be limited. After all, teams just got done holding a five-month lockout based on saying that spending to much on players is the problem. 

Nope! Back to the market with their pockets full of change they go!

First, from the New York Post:  
The players the Nets likely will pursue have been out there: Nene, Tayshaun Prince, Jamal Crawford. Then there is always the sign-and-trade route, which seems more feasible again as the new deal apparently will allow for immediate sign-and-trades like in the past.
via Nets ready to get to work on Williams, 'going home soon'.

OK, well, sure, the Nets want to sign him. The Nets are always looking to overpay for a free agent. See: Outlaw, Travis. But surely there's not some sort of huge buyer's market for him, right? Nene is excellent at what he does, but he's not a star. Teams aren't goin to go gaga... oh. From the Houston Chronicle:  
The Rockets have some hard decisions to make. They’re going all out for free-agent center Nene. He’s 29 years old and coming off a season in which he averaged 14.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Nene is 6-11, 250 pounds, and Morey believes putting him in a lineup with Kyle Lowry and Kevin Martin would give the Rockets three to build around.
via Rockets will target Nene in free agency, and if they don’t get him, will consider a full-blown reconstruction. | SportsJustice | a Chron.com blog.

Then you have the Nuggets, who have a world of cap space and every intention of re-signing the Brazillian center. If this winds up being an arms race, they have a good chance as anyone, given Nene's comfort level there. Then there's the possibility Nene could forgo the money and instead opt to chase a ring, putting the Knicks and Heat on the radar. Either way, Nene's goin to be the most sought-after player on December 9th, and there's a pretty good possibility that after a summer talking about controlling costs, a team is going to dramatically over-commit in pursuit of Nene.
Posted on: November 23, 2011 11:20 am
Edited on: November 23, 2011 11:30 am
 

Zhejiang GM: J.R. Smith faked knee injury

Posted by Ben Golliverj-r-smith

The Far East is starting to look more and more basketball's version of the Wild, Wild West.

As we've noted recently, Denver Nuggets free agent guard J.R. Smith suffered an apparent knee injury while playing for the Zhejiang Chouzhou Golden Bulls of the Chinese Basketball Association over the weekend. Smith underwent medical testing, including an MRI, which came back negative, but he exchanged some words publicly because Smith wanted to undergo his own testing independent of the team's doctors. 

That spat has grown into a full-fledged public beef. Niubball.com reports that Zhao Bing, Zhejiang's general manager, used China's version of Twitter to call out Smith for leaving the team to pursue medical treatment and then later called a press conference to suggest that he was exaggerating the severity of the injury in the first place. 

“We already know the results of J.R. Smith’s medical examination,” Zhao said to reporters earlier today. “He’s coming back this afternoon to Yiwu to meet with the team. Tonight we will call the owner, head coach and high level people from the front office for a face-to-face meeting with Smith to discuss the situation. Afterwards, we will come up with a punishment for his unauthorized departure.”

“We don’t have a problem with him worrying about his health, but he should obey the arrangements the club made for him. We set up an medical exam for him, but he refused the one we provided for him. I have no idea why. It’s not like the team doesn’t have proper medical equipment, you can get an MRI on your knee anywhere. For an injured player, we will certainly make sure the player is properly cared for. But, Smith didn’t obey the club’s arrangements.”

Zhao even went to far as to suggest that Smith was faking his injury in a possible attempt to go home.

“Everyone saw the pain on Smith’s face after he got hurt. Compare that to the results of his exam. We’re all intelligent people, we should all know what’s going on here. When you compare his performance on the court with the game’s final result, you’ll realize. When he was injured, would he have had that big of a reaction [if the score was closer]?”

That's a brutal crossing of the line that you would not often see in the NBA, where private health information is legally protected and discretion is a way of life. Occasionally, you'll hear a player bag on his teammate for being out of shape or slow to recover. Rarely, you'll hear a coach imply that a player didn't show up to camp in condition or that he fails to bring sufficient energy on a regular basis. 

But a GM calling a press conference to accuse his star player of faking an injury and to wonder aloud why he might seek independent medical testing, something that is not uncommon in the NBA, especially when it comes to knee injuries. That's unheard of. An NBA player's body is his livelihood and no culture gap or language barrier should get in the way of that. 

Smith's coach is later quoted by Niubball.com saying that Smith has regularly skipped practices, which would be an obvious underlying motivation for the team's frustration. It's more than reasonable for the club to expect Smith to show up on time and to use its medical services for routine issues. But to call him out so egregiously on a sensitive issue serves no purpose except to further anger an already volatile personality. Those are kerosene on the fire type words that almost guarantee this Mr. Smith Goes To China experiment will explode.

Hat tip: ProBasketballTalk
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com