I'm taking off shortly for a two week trip to South America where I will have very little access to email and the Internet. (And no, I'm not going to check on whether or not Nene is keeping himself in shape for once.)
When I planned this trip about six months ago, I didn't take into consideration that I'd be missing the medal round for Olympic Basketball and the Democratic National Convention. I can't say I'm pleased about missing either event, but these things happen.
So with a full month of non-Nuggets news staring us in the face, and me taking my two week sabbatical, allow me to present the first ever ballot for the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame. Like its counterparts in Cooperstown, Canton and Springfield, the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame will be an exclusive, prestigious club comprised only of the finest stiffs in Denver Nuggets history. I'm hoping this will be the first in a series of nostalgia pieces that I'll write upon my return in an attempt to bring a little more fun to what's been a very frustrating summer for Nuggets fans.
All Halls of Fame need several members to start with and I want you, Nuggets fans worldwide, to help induct the first class. To do this, I will present a ballot featuring six eligible guards, six forwards and three centers. At your convenience, I'd like you to please select two guards, two forwards, one center and one sixth man (of any position) and either email your selections to firstname.lastname@example.org or post your choices in the comments below. If you feel I missed someone on my ballot, feel free to write in your own selections as long as he fits within the induction rules outlined below.
When I return from my trip soon after Labor Day, I’ll go through the emails and the players who receive the most votes will be announced as the first class of the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame. To entice you to participate, I’ll be randomly giving away free X-Box 360 sports games (courtesy of my friends at Yardbarker.com) to some of the people who email me their selections. So be sure to include your mailing address at the bottom of your email!
Before presenting the ballot for the inaugural class of the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame, we need to lay down a few GROUND RULES FOR INDUCTION…
1) Any inductee must be a former Nugget. He can be a current NBA player, but cannot be on the current Nuggets roster. This eliminates current stiffs like Kenyon Martin and Steven Hunter.
2) Any inductee must have played – check that, appeared – in at least 60 games in a Nuggets uniform. This eliminates Joe Barry Carroll and Priest Lauderdale. (Come to think of it, we may need to loosen up the induction requirements in the future. I mean, how could Lauderdale not be in the Denver Stiffs HOF eventually? Maybe Lauderdale will be the Goose Gossage of the Denver Stiffs HOF and get in twenty years from now).
3) Special consideration should be given to players who had ridiculously large contracts (like Tariq Abdul-Wahad), were white (like Mark Randall) or better yet, were both white and had a large contract (like Blair Rasmussen).
4) Special consideration should also be given to players drafted by the Nuggets who were not only total busts, but went ahead of future All-Stars (like Raef LaFrentz and Nikoloz Tskitishvili did), or were on the wrong side of a lopsided trade that totally screwed the Nuggets (like Abdul-Wahad or Martin).
5) Players who were stiff-like but never got paid anything and still gave a solid effort on the floor should get a pass on inclusion (for now), such as Ryan Bowen and Bill Hanzlik.
One more thing before we get to the ballot. Even though I've been going to / watching Nuggets games my whole life, I'm only 32 years old. Therefore, I really don’t remember anything before 1980 (except seeing "Star Wars" at the Continental Theater), so my selections below span the last 27 or so years of Nuggets history. If I’ve missed some legendary stiffs that came pre-1980, please write them in on your email ballot.
With that said, here is my ballot (in alphabetical order per position) for the eligible players to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame:
FORWARDS (PICK TWO)
Mark Alarie (1986-87)
Former Nuggets President and GM Vince Boryla really went out with a bang before being replaced by Pete Babcock in October 1987. In the 1986 NBA Draft the Nuggets held the 16th and 18th picks, and Boryla used them to select St. Joe's Mo Martin and Duke's Mark Alarie, respectively. Neither player would appear in more than 69 games as a Nugget, and Alarie in particular was the consummate stiff: he was white, went to Duke and was out of the league after five forgettable seasons. The good news was that Babcock was able to move Alarie, along with Darrell Walker, to the Bullets for Michael Adams and Jay Vincent, an absolute steal of a trade (but hey, that's what happens when you deal with Wes Unseld).
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Alarie was able to parlay his basketball fame and degree in Economics at Duke into an MBA from Wharton and is now an advisor at Chesapeake Partners in Maryland.
Tony Battie (1997-98)
In fairness to then-GM Allan Bristow, there wasn't much to choose from at the five-spot in the very weak 1997 NBA Draft. Yes, Tracy McGrady went ninth, but he was deemed a huge risk at the time. Regardless, Battie was a key "contributor" on the worst-ever 11-win Nuggets team, prompting Dan Issel to label him as "El Busto" during his radio show. When Issel took the helm as the team's President/GM in 1998 after Battie's lone season in Denver, he immediately traded Battie to the Lakers for Nick Van Exel, one of Issel's rare shrewd moves running the team. Battie eeked out 10 decent NBA seasons through 2007, but you expect more from the fifth pick in the draft than 6.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 1.0 bpg.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Battie had shoulder surgery in October 2007 and hasn't been able to come back from it.
Kevin Brooks (1991-94)
Brooks was one of the all-time great wastes of space in Nuggets history. He did nothing well: he was a bad shooter, a bad rebounder and a god awful defender. I don't even think he cheerleaded well on the 1993-94 team that upset the Sonics in the first round of the playoffs. If Brooks was renowned for anything, it was for looking like he was asleep at all times on the bench. And to think some people actually had the audacity to compare him to Alex English when "KB" was drafted in 1991 by Milwaukee and immediately traded to Denver is beyond laughable.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? According to Hoopedia, Brooks played and coached in Australia after his NBA career was over. Most recently, Brooks was the head coach of the Century City Saints in New Zealand but stepped down last summer after a "rocky relationship" with the franchise.
Tim Kempton (1989-90)
I feel a little bad including Kempton on this list since he was a Sixth Round draft choice who managed to work himself into an NBA paycheck for nine respectable seasons. But pudgy red heads don't come around often, and you have to savor their presence on your team when they do (just ask current Celtics fans who root voraciously for Brian Scalabrine). Kempton's Nuggets career was brief and relatively painless. But believe it or not, he started in 14 games in his one season in Denver, Doug Moe's unceremonious last as the Nuggets' head coach.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Kempton is now a broadcaster for the Phoenix Suns.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili (2002-05)
"Skita" joins Raef LaFrentz with the distinction of being a top-five pick drafted ahead of future perennial All-Stars (in Skita's case, the All-Stars are Amare Stoudamire and Caron Butler). But unlike LaFrentz, Skita contributed absolutely nothing to the Nuggets during his tenure with the team. In fact, I remember once watching Skita take a wide open shot and hitting the shot clock in a game against the Lakers. Averaging a paltry 2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg and 30.4% field goal shooting, Skita wasn't just the Nuggets biggest draft bust ever, but one of the NBA's biggest draft busts of the past 20 years. Skita was so bad, he couldn't crack Isiah Thomas' Knicks team after his departure from Denver.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? According to Hoopedia , Skita currently plays for Caja San Fernando in the ACB, the Spanish basketball league.
Joe Wolf (1990-92, 1997-98)
Wolf was a member of the Nuggets third worst team ever, the 20-win 1990-91 squad on which he started 38 times and put up 7.3 ppg in coach Paul Westhead's high octane "offense." Of course, Wolf did this on 45.1% field goal shooting, not good when you're 6'11". But I remember him making fun of my friend Justin's long hair at the 1991 meet-the-team party, which was kind of ironic considering Wolf sported a mullet for so many years. Therefore, he'll forever be a Denver Stiff HOF nominee to me.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? After returning to the organization as the head coach of the Nuggets' NBDL affiliate, the 14ers, Wolf will be an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Bucks this season.
CENTERS (PICK ONE)
Dean Garrett (1997-98)
Woody Allen once said something like: "in the NBA, you win 15 games just by showing up." Well, in 1997-98 the Nuggets managed to do worse than that, mustering a mere 11 victories (tied for second worst in NBA history). And guess who started in all 82 games at center that season? None other than Dean Garrett. Despite being 6'10", Garrett made only 42.8% of his shots and wasn't particularly good on the defensive end either. Within four years of starting for the Nuggets, Garrett would be out of the league entirely.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? According to a 2006 article on the Timberwolves' web site, Garrett moved back to Minneapolis and is the part-owner of three downtown businesses there, including a nightclub and restaurant.
Scott Hastings (1991-93)
I was hesitant to put Hastings on this list since he's no more than a footnote in Nuggets player history. But he belongs on this list for two reasons. First, the ridiculous decision to allow Hastings to announce Denver Broncos games - for which he received two Super Bowl rings! - after riding the Nuggets bench from 1991-93. What's next, are we going to see Ashley Lelie broadcast Golden State Warriors games after he gets cut from the 49ers? And second, Hastings was true Stiff in the Doug Moe sense of the word. 6'10", white and with limited ability, Hastings would have Moe proud had he played for him.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Hastings is now the official color analyst for the Nuggets on Altitude TV and has his own radio show with Broncos legend Alfred Williams on 104.3 The Fan.
Blair Rasmussen (1985-91)
This third center spot was a really tough call for me. How can you have a Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame without legendary names like Danny Schayes, Blair Rasmussen, Raef LaFrentz and Dave Robisch? Anyone who was a fan of the Nuggets in the 1980s knows that Robisch was at the tail end of his career having given the Denver Rockets his best seasons in the early 1970s, Schayes and Rasmussen were productive staples in spite of their lack of athleticism, and LaFrentz - even though he was erroneously drafted ahead of perennial All-Stars Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and Paul Pierce - actually produced decent numbers as a Nugget, including over 2.5 blocks per game. So I had to look to former coach Doug Moe to break the tie here (quoted from Mark Kiszla's March 16th editorial in the Denver Post): "Remember when (former Nuggets GM) Pete Babcock gave Blair Rasmussen that big contract back when I was the coach? He told me, 'Well, if you project his numbers over 48 minutes, he's the third-best center in the whole league.' And I told him, 'What, are you a complete idiot?'"
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? I couldn't find what Rasmussen's been up to, other than being inducted into the University of Oregon Hall of Fame in 2002. Maybe he'll get inducted into his second Hall of Fame soon, eh?
GUARDS (PICK TWO)
Tariq Abdul-Wahad (1999-2002)
Born Olivier Michael Saint-Jean, Abdul-Wahad one of the least productive shooting guards in Nuggets history. That on its own wouldn't be the end of the world, but he was acquired by then-President/GM Dan Issel in a trade for both Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer...and subsequently received a seven-year, $43.3 million contract from Issel. Abdul-Wahad rewarded Issel's stupidity by playing in only 64 games as a Nugget over two-and-a-half injury riddled seasons while producing just 6.5 ppg on 38.5% field goal shooting to go along with one assist and half a steal per game...and he was allegedly a good defender.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? According to Wikipedia, in 2006 Abdul-Wahad was invited to try out for an Italian team and didn't get signed. He also appears to have his own French website which hasn't been updated since 2005.
Dale Ellis (1994-97)
Coached by Bernie Bickerstaff for four very productive seasons in Seattle, Ellis would rejoin his former coach in Denver in 1994 and preside over a .394 winning percentage in three years. A virtual iron man as a Nugget, Ellis missed only two games in three seasons. But knowing that Bernie's Nuggets were built for implosion, Ellis played more for his contract than the team. On the painfully tragic 21-win, 1996-97 team, Ellis chucked his way to 16.6 ppg on 41.4% shooting. Ellis was so little desired by other teams (remember, he once brawled with former Sonics' teammate Xavier McDaniel and had run-ins with domestic abuse and drunken driving) that the best the Nuggets could get for him was Steve Scheffler, Greg Graham and a second round pick.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? I wasn't able to dig up much on Ellis' post-NBA career online. I found this picture at a Sonics Legends Tour event and a blurb on Google about him having a Literacy Foundation, but that was all.
Todd Lichti (1989-93)
I feel bad putting Lichti on this list because after a halfway decent rookie season, Lichti was involved in a car accident that killed his fiancee and broke his foot, and he just never recovered. Drafted 15th in the 1989 NBA Draft by Babcock, Lichti would continue the Nuggets trend of wasted first round picks throughout the 1980s. Unfortunately for Lichti, he was one of those tweener guards with no real specialty, no reliable jumper and wasn't quick enough to defend the new generation of shooting guards in the NBA. After three years in Denver, Lichti couldn't even keep his job on the 32-win Celtics team of 1993-94. If you're white and can't make a bad Celtics team run by M.L. Carr, you know your career is over.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? After his playing career was over, Lichti went on to do some announcing for the Nuggets six years ago, but I couldn't find any information on what he's doing now. Lichti's name last resurfaced in the bizarre case of Ronnie Craven, the man who conned a woman into dating him after claiming to be former NBA player Jeff Turner. Apparently, Craven also told members of a gym in Seattle that he was Lichti.
Mark Macon (1991-94)
Macon fit in nicely with the Nuggets strategy of drafting and acquiring players just because they appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated while in college. Drafted 8th overall (over future productive players like Stacey Augmon, Terrell Brandon, Greg Anthony, Brian "Bison Dele" Williams and Dale Davis) by Bickerstaff, Macon was a total fraud as a player. In his two-and-change seasons as the Nuggets "shooting" guard, Macon shot well under 40% from the field while contributing nothing else to the team other than those "M & M Connection" caricature T-shirts with fellow rookie Dikembe Mutombo. Drafting Macon and acquiring Kevin Brooks in the same draft should have been a sign of things to come from Bickerstaff.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? In 2007, Macon was hired as an assistant coach for Binghamton University's men's basketball team.
Maurice Martin (1986-88)
While it was true that head coach Doug Moe never liked to play rookies, "Mo" Martin couldn't find playing time anywhere in the NBA. After being drafted 16th overall in 1986 (two spots ahead of fellow Denver Stiffs HOF nominee Mark Alarie), Martin appeared in only 69 total games in a Nuggets uniform in two seasons...his only two seasons in the NBA. I'm guessing his career 37.8% field goal shooting didn't help his cause. Maybe the Nuggets should just stay away from drafting big guards whose initals are "MM."
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Denver Stiffs reader Brian D. wrote in tell me that Martin is in charge of converting the Pepsi Center basketball court into ice for Avalanche games, and vice versa.
George McCloud (1999-2002)
For this nominee slot, I was torn between McCloud, DerMarr Johnson, Junior Harrington and Yakhouba Diawara - all of whom received ample opportunities to succeed on the Nuggets and made the least of those opportunities. For this year's ballot, I'm going with McCloud since he saw the most playing time of the four players. For three straight seasons in Denver, McCloud - a former 7th overall pick by Indiana - received at least 26 minutes per game and yet shot less than 39% from the field. In his final NBA season with Denver (his last in the NBA), McCloud not only had the audacity to demand more playing time but he chucked more than three three-point shots per game, making only 27% of them.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? I wasn't able to dig up anything on McCloud's post-NBA career online.
So there you have my attempt at the first-ever ballot for the Denver Stiffs Hall of Fame. This is obviously very subjective, and therefore I encourage you all to write in any of the names you think I excluded.
Have a great two weeks, and I look forward to tallying your votes upon my return. And Go Nuggets!