Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose covered the Denver Nuggets in their latest Grantland video, and I am starting off this blog with the clip because it just might make you cry a little. In a good way.
Simmons has the Nuggets listed at No. 13 and Rose thinks they should be ranked higher. It says here that Denver is unlikely to make the playoffs this season because:
1. They lost Iguodala and got nothing in return.
2. They lost starting center Kosta Koufos, who was probably their second-best defensive player.
3. They lost Corey Brewer, who wasn’t the smartest cat when asked to guard sharp shooters, as we’ve seen from his sometimes-comical job during the playoffs against the Golden State Warriors. Other than that, though, he was a pretty useful defender throughout the regular season off the bench.
4. Danilo Gallinari will miss significant time.
5. They are relying on JaVale McGee to anchor their defense. Based on what he’s done in the preseason, his maturity issues aren’t going away any time soon: he complains about calls, too often looks dejected about things out of his control, commits silly fouls out of frustration and generally lacks discipline when it’s most needed. His freakish athleticism allows him to be a very good shot blocker, but his overall IQ and demeanor on the defensive end is not to be trusted for 30-plus minutes. And who’s behind him? Timofey Mozgov? J.J. Hickson?
Brian Shaw will attempt to implement a new system for a team that is underhanded and underdeveloped, especially on the defensive end. He wants them to play a style that can better succeed in the postseason by playing a little slower and utilizing the post, but does he have the proper personnel for that? They do have some offensive weapons in Ty Lawson, Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson, but is that enough to overcome their deficiencies in a loaded Western Conference? I’m not banking on it.
STORY OF THE DAY:
Big news out of Oklahoma City on Monday about Russell Westbrook, from Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
But the headliner was All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook, who participated in on-court drills with the team for the first time since he had arthroscopic surgery earlier this month.
“There were bits and pieces where Russell participated in practice, so that was good,” coach Scott Brooks said. “It was good to get everybody out there, working together.”
In recent weeks, Westbrook has been seen on the court during the portion of practice open to the media, going through light workouts with the Thunder training staff.
But on Monday, he apparently amped it up. And even in that brief setting, Reggie Jackson, the man who is replacing Westbrook in the starting lineup, seemed to be impressed.
“Oh, man. Russell today…” Jackson said when asked how Westbrook looked, cracking a sly smile. “It’s actually funny. My brother and his brother talk a little before games. His brother told mine that Russell’s probably bouncing better than ever. I had to see it to believe it. One of the dunks (today), he went up and looked like the old Russell, plus some, head at the rim. We’ll be happy when he gets back fully healthy, but it’s good to see him with a smile on his face, being about the team, bouncing back and happy to be back on the court.”
Originally, Westbrook was expected to miss 4-6 weeks of the regular season due to a complication of his previous knee surgery. Based on Reggie Jackson’s description of what Westbrook has been up to in practice, however, it sounds like he is well ahead of schedule. More importantly, there were questions about how he would come back and whether he would have the confidence to play like himself without going through training camp and preseason games. It has to be a huge relief for the organization and the fans to hear that the guard is looking explosive already in practice.
SOME NOTES FROM PRESEASON:
– When Darren Collison backed up Chris Paul in New Orleans as a rookie, he showed incredible promise. After Paul went down with an injury, Collison stepped in and averaged 18.8 points on 48.5 percent shooting and 9.1 assists – about as good as any guard in the league – in 37 games. Unfortunately, he proved to be incapable of reaching such elite territory as a full-time starter on other teams and has found himself backing up Paul once again with the Los Angeles Clippers this season. And boy has he looked rejuvenated so far, averaging 16.7 points on 53.1 percent shooting, 5.7 assists and two steals. He has been an absolute blur at times and is quickly helping Clippers fans forget the name Bledsoe. This does create an interesting scenario when the regular season begins, though. With Collison playing so well, J.J. Redick due back at some point, Jamal Crawford needing minutes and Willie Green still in the mix, how will Doc Rivers distribute all the minutes?
– Can Derrick Rose have a career year after missing an entire season of NBA basketball? He has played the preseason minutes with a vengeance, displaying all the athleticism he possessed prior to his knee injury to prove that he looks to come back as the same guy or even better after taking a year off from the NBA. He has shot at least 60 percent from the field in three consecutive games and is shooting 53.7 percent overall in five games. Also as promised, his 3-point shot has looked consistent – he is shooting 53.3 percent from beyond the arc. If all this translates heading into the regular season, look out, Miami.
– Tyler Hansbrough wants no part of Metta World Peace. None.
– Don’t do ’em like that, Kyrie.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Mike D’Antoni thought the Los Angeles Lakers would easily score 110 to 115 points a game on a nightly basis last season. Asked to address that assessment, he had this to say:
“I was on drugs back then,” D’Antoni said with a laugh after practice Monday, recalling how he was still on pain medication following reconstructive knee surgery at the time. “My knee was hurting. Vicodin was killing me.”
OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE: