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We’ve officially entered the dog days of the Denver Nuggets’ calendar year. It’s late August. It’s hot. And not much is happening with regards to the Mile High City’s lone professional basketball squad. There are, however, a small number of relevant Nuggets-related stories that have continued to percolate across the Web, which I’ll try and document on a weekly basis throughout the summer here at BSNDenver.com. Below is a codified list of those most pertinent articles from this past week…
ESPN.com is doing its annual forecast predictions series (in which I’m an active voting participant) and several days back published the results of the most popular candidates to win 2015-16 Rookie of the Year. Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor ran away with most of the votes but quite a few analysts had different opinions, including Chad Ford:
— Chad Ford (@chadfordinsider) August 19, 2015
Amin Elhassan is in the same boat as Ford and even wrote an article explaining the nuances of how Rookie of the Year is usually determined and why he chose Mudiay as the favorite to win the award. Here is some of his reasoning:
That leaves us with Okafor and Mudiay as the clubhouse leaders for ROY. Both are the clear cornerstones of their respective franchises, and they are expected to get a lot of touches and shots and to lead their teams in scoring. However, Mudiay has the advantage over Okafor in two areas: First, he doesn’t have to deal with another young teammate vying for minutes. Okafor and Nerlens Noel are incompatible on the floor, and even though Philly will probably play them simultaneously anyway — it isn’t as if the Sixers are losing sleep about the losses — the fact that both players occupy similar areas of the floor offensively won’t create the most conducive environment for Okafor to flex his offensive might. Second, as the primary ball handler, Mudiay has the luxury of basically calling his number as many times as he wants. Okafor must rely on Philly’s subpar guard rotation to deliver him the ball in scoring position (or, really, at all), and that lack of control of his own destiny also creates a drag on his ROY chances.
While I no doubt love the attention Mudiay is getting from the national media with regards to his upcoming rookie campaign, and while I certainly hope he eventually wins Rookie of the Year, I also have my reservations about the extent of his playing time in relations to his peers. While Mudiay should see upwards of 20 minutes per night, and while his minutes should increase as the season progresses, I still think Jameer Nelson is in line for a decent amount of run each night as well. As Elhassan explains in his article, minutes are a key factor in determining Rookie of the Year, and if Mudiay is essentially in a timeshare with Nelson for much of the season that could in turn affect the girth of his numbers and ultimately dissuade voters from lending him his proper due. No matter the case, it’s certainly refreshing to see so much hype surrounding a Nuggets player this early in the year.
In other news, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone and general manager Tim Connelly visited Denver Broncos training camp this past week. The Denver Post’s Nicki Jhabvala did a brief recap of what transpired at Dove Valley and even managed to quote Malone on his role with the Nuggets front office outside of coaching:
“We’re a team. There’s no separation between church and state,” Malone said. “We’re together, we’re one, we communicate, and I think that’s so important. But at the end of the day, Tim’s job as GM is to make those decisions, obviously with the blessing of Josh Kroenke. They asked my opinion, I gave it, I tell him what I feel and believe in, and then whatever decision they make I roll with it.”
Kenneth Faried was also busy getting quoted this past week by CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger at Team USA minicamp in Las Vegas. In a more unorthodox series of interviews Berger had some of the NBA’s most prestigious names weigh in on what life is like from a social media standpoint when you’re a star athlete in the year 2015. Below are some of the highlights from Faried’s section:
If fans have good intentions, this can be a positive experience for both the fan and the athlete. If not, things can go sideways in a hurry, as Kenneth Faried learned from hateful commentary from “fans” regarding his Muslim faith and support of gay rights. (Faried is the son of lesbian Muslims.)
The stuff they say to you on social media, and we can’t say anything back because we’re supposed to be these people that anything that happens or anything somebody says to us, we should just handle it and go on about our life. But sometimes it’s hurtful. People telling you, ‘We don’t want you here on our team,’ or, ‘Trade this player,’ or, ‘You suck.’ That’s tough. Last year was tough for me because people would say, ‘You don’t deserve to be on the USA team. You suck. You’re not even going to make the team, why are you even out there?’ And I just have to take all that with a grain of salt and continue to go on about my way.
I don’t pay attention, but when they comment on your stuff and you have friends who comment and you’re reading a friend’s comments, you see their comments, too. It’s like wait, wow, you really dislike me. Or because I’m Muslim, people think it’s a problem. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re Muslim, you’re going to hell.’ Yes, I get that a lot. Or because I believe in gay rights or any rights — gay, lesbian, transgender, straight — it doesn’t matter who you are, I believe you have the right to do whatever you want and get married in a court of law. And when the 50 states made the agreement in the [Supreme Court] that gay marriage was legal and I was so happy about it and I posted on it, everybody came at me, like, ‘You’re going to hell. You’re supposed to be Muslim and you don’t believe in that.’ It’s just crazy. The most hurtful thing is somebody telling you you’re going to hell, or they hope you die or they hope somebody kills you. You’re like, ‘Wow, like, really? That’s how you feel?’ You can block those people, but other people come back with a fake page and somebody else’s comments. You try to block the slander and the bad stuff, but there’s only so much you can do.
In somewhat random news, according to ESPN.com the Nuggets have the most attractive jerseys of any professional sports team in Colorado — despite (or perhaps, because of) their redesign. I always thought the Colorado Avalanche had the best jerseys in town but apparently not because these same people gave the Avs one of the lowest scores of the 80 uniforms under analysis. So perhaps I don’t have a career in fashion blogging after all. Bummer.
And finally, a bit of somewhat-outdated-but-still-noteworthy-news from my favorite Nuggets subject of all time, The Thrill from Park Hill, Mr. Big Shot himself, Chauncey Billups. Last month, unbeknownst to me, Billups made the cover of Colorado Avid Golfer (because apparently he golfs avidly enough to qualify) and had some interesting things to say about his future as a possible front-office executive. Here are some interesting tidbits from the Avid Golfer’s feature on Billups with a cliffhanger to round it out:
Billups and his wife, Piper, have daughters Cydney, Ciara and Cenaiya. Cydney Billups, a senior-to-be at Mountain Vista High School, will be attending the University of Texas on a soccer scholarship. Ciara (a sophomore at Valor Christian) and Cenaiya (a fourth-grader) are fixated on the art of dancing. All the girls understand that, while their famous retired father is their biggest supporter, “it’s not like I’m 65-year-old retired man with all the time in the world,” Billups says. “I’m still a very high-aspiring dude who wants to succeed in business the way I succeeded in basketball. There are bigger things that I aspire to be great at that will take some time.”
Porter and Billups host an annual dinner and golf tournament to raise monies to benefit the academy’s operations, scholarships and endowments. An avid golfer, Porter knows how much Billups has come to enjoy playing the game. “He’s getting better and better,” Porter says. “When he gets more time, he’ll be in single-digits, for sure—maybe even scratch. He’s going about it the right way, taking lessons from pros who can teach him how to really play the game.”
“He’s definitely a golf fanatic, 100 percent,” says Erik Billinger, one of Billups’ instructors and head men’s golf coach at the University of Denver. “He practices with our team on occasion. That’s good for him because he sees how well these guys play—and they get to pick his brain on mental strategies.”
The best facet of Billups’ golf game “is his short game. I marvel at it,” Billinger says. “It’s that shooter’s touch around the greens. It’s a softness that he probably has from being such a high-percentage free throw shooter.”
“My game is coming around. I would like to work on it a bit more—I’m around a 14, 15 handicap right now. I love it. There’s nothing I’d rather do for four hours than play golf.”
The lessons learned throughout his playing career have given Billups an abundance of confidence that he is ready, right now, to run an NBA team. Which begs the question: Could “Mr. Big Shot” help return the Denver Nuggets to the ranks of playoff contenders?
“I’ve been public with the fact that I’ve always had a desire to be a general manager, hire the coach, get the personnel . . . be that guy to put it together,” Billups says. “I’ve always had those aspirations. Everybody knows how I feel about my hometown. I live here. I’m always here. Do I think I could help the Nuggets? Sure, man. Sure. Absolutely.