Denver Stiffs reader mail...

Newman-seinfeld-post-office_mediumHere's a sampling of some of the emails that have found their way into my email box lately.  Topics include Melo's injury, Birdman's resurgence, Balkman's DNP-CD's, Karl's extension, K-Mart's All-Star party and more...

Unless he is still injured, I have to ask where Chris Andersen is this year. It seems to me that after a half season where, granted Bird had physical problems, he has not delivered. For a man whose claim to fame was the swooping block, he has gone from being the top shot blocker (by minutes ahead of Dwight Howard) in the NBA to being 13th. One of two things has happened here.  Either the opposing players have his number. Chris Anderson has started to believe his own press. With a new contract in hand he thinks he is better than he is. Or he thinks he doesn’t have to play. Where is the fire? Where is the anchor of our terrific second team? Where is the 100%?

-Greg S.

To be fair to Grant, this email came in on January 21st but at that time, Grant was certainly sharing the sentiment of many fans wondering: what's wrong with the Birdman?  Since then, however, Birdman seems to have been playing much better and has regained some of the swagger that made him so special and important to the Nuggets last season.  While Birdman's numbers continue to be very inconsistent since January 21st, he's had some huge games that have gone unnoticed in the box score, with the exception of big number outings against the Hornets (13 rebounds, six offensive) and Lakers (15 rebounds, two blocks and a number of shots altered).  Hopefully these are signs of a much improved Birdman for the remainder of the season.

Hi Andrew, I think Carmelo Anthony's absence from the last couple of games has a pretty simple explanation, albeit just a theory. You see, he's now tied for the scoring lead with Kevin Durant at 29.7 ppg. In his interview with Marlowe/Hastings he mentioned that he could have come back for the last couple games but he wouldn't have been himself. Even though he probably still could have helped us, he would have probably only scored, what, 15-20 points? That would bring his average down and give the sole lead to Durant. You can tell he cares about this because all year, at the end of games in which he's about to come off the floor, if he's in the low to mid 20's he starts throwing up threes and taking unneccessary shots. So long as we have a comfortable lead in the Northwest Division, I don't see Melo coming back until he thinks he can get back to scoring 30+, even if we're losing games in his absence. Thanks for reading.

-Derrick M.

I deservedly took a ton of heat last week for the way I questioned the severity of Melo's ankle injury, leaving it open for the readers to debate the issue without giving my own sound theory (let's be clear, it's just a theory!) as Derrick does above.  I don't regret bringing it up given that Derrick's email above is one of many I've received on the topic and virtually all the Nuggets fans I'm talking to - including the posse at Choppers last Friday - are bewildered by the status of Melo's ankle.  The best way to put this issue to bed is for Melo to start playing again, assumed to be Tuesday against the Mavericks.  Fortunately for Nuggets fans, the Nuggets have won enough games sans Melo that they're in the same position standings-wise that they'd be in with Melo playing anyway.

Why does George Karl sit guys like Renaldo Balkman and NEVER put them in the game? Why carry them on the roster? That has to be incredibly discouraging to sit night after night and never get off the bench. THAT can't be good for individual or team morale? A great (or even good) coach finds a way to play everybody sometimes when the game is won, just to make them feel like part of the team. What did Balkman do? He used to play some.

-Don L.

Renaldo Balkman has been DNP-CD'd ("Did Not Play - Coach's Decision") for all but eight games this season.  That's a stunning number for a guy who was a major rebounder for the Nuggets when given playing time last season.  But as has been reported recently by Benjamin Hochman in the Denver Post and told to me by Karl himself during our interview last fall, according to Karl Balkman has bad practice habits and the playbook "shrinks" when he's on the floor.  Karl is big on player's respecting the game, and I'm sure Karl believes Balkman shows no respect for the game by not committing at practice.  I've also heard through the grapevine that J.R. Smith and Balkman have become very close off-the-court (this is kind of obvious if you see the way they engage with each other before tipoffs), and everyone who has confirmed this for me says that's a bad thing.

My two cents?  As I said to Karl, I think there's a lot of value to a guy who has a nose for the ball - as Balkman clearly does - whether they're limited on offense or not.  Kind of like Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman.  But as Hochman points out, it's not just Karl who has noticed Balkman's poor practice habits.

Andrew, I began to read your blog at its inception. I'm not a devoted reader, simply due to time constraints but I still read from time to time. As for the J.R. article, all of your trade possibilities are great. Particularly, the Golden State deal (I would put Turiaf as exactly the player we need to beat the Lakers) but I would caution you in your trade hypotheses. All sound good for the Nugs but what's in it for the other team? Why would Orlando part with Redick, who plays regularly, for J.R. and a stiff like Balkman? Makes no sense. Golden State can get far more than J.R. for Morrow. Morrow is an asset. Why would the Wizards want J.R. considering the state of their team? Unless the Nugs are willing to take on a bad contract (Richard Hamilton's, for instance, Chauncey would be pleased), trading J.R. is tough sledding. Just my take.

-Brian J.

Someone inside the Nuggets organization really dropped the ball on the J.R. will-they-or-won't-they-suspend-him-story.  That should have never leaked.  The Nuggets should have either suspended him or not, but should have done so quietly and internally.  By letting that story leak to Hochman pundits like myself, the Post's Mark Kiszla and a lot of local radio guys pointed the accumulation of J.R.-related "incidents" we've all witnessed over the years, building up a should-they-or-shouldn't-they trade him story that I'm sure the Nuggets didn't need.  The result of all this is that J.R.'s trade value inevitably went down, and what team wants to acquire a guy with a number of incidents tagged to his name?  So to Brian's point, trading J.R. is indeed tough sledding and likely won't be happening.

As a dedicated Nuggets fan, and long time reader of Stiffs...I would like to save J.R. Smith. Andrew, you have been terribly blastful towards J.R. and I dont see how he will get better if his "fans" keep blasting him. I know he hasn't been playing well as of late, or heck this season, but i think its simply a rut he will get out of. I understand his attitude has always been a problem, but I don't think that's a reason to trade him. Smith has enough talent to be an elite player. I think it should be made clear to him, by George Karl and Mark Warkentien in a meeting that his actions should be no more, or he is out. 

My point here is, why should we trade him? Why must the Denver Nuggets fanbase always suggest we trade him? J.R smith can score 40 points on a given night.  I am thinking to myself and, is there any other bench player in the NBA who can do that? I am not really sure. These trade "rumors really aggravate me. Why didn't you mention that Carmelo Anthony got suspended for more games after throwing a suckerpunch at Mardy Collins? Why didnt you mention Melo in the stop snitching video?  Why dont we mention Kenyon Martin being a thug, or Chris andersen a drug addict?  Sure, these players I mentioned have matured, and changed, but did they do it right away?  No. It took time.  And I'm sure they didn't do it alone, but got some help. This is what J.R needs. Disgusted, and worried about J.R. Smith's future

-Ricky E.

I always appreciate well-written and thought out emails like Ricky's and he brings up a lot of good points.  This email came in right before J.R. Smith seemed to right his own ship, so to speak, and he's been playing great for the last weeks.  I even titled a recent game recap "The re-awakening of J.R. Smith continues."  There is a huge difference between Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, however.  Yes, Melo has had his litany of incidents, too, but he seems to have moved passed all that finally and before getting hurt was having an MVP-caliber season.  Up until two weeks ago, J.R. had the double whammy of playing like crap (and thus, hurting the team on the floor) while also sulking on the bench and allegedly resorting back to poor practice habits.  I've been told from a very good source that since the "suspension that never was" came down, J.R.'s practice habits have improved dramatically.

I also take objection to anyone calling K-Mart a thug.  What exactly has K-Mart done to be labeled a "thug"?  Does he play hard?  Yes.  Does he serve up hard fouls and bark at the refs?  Yes.  But that doesn't make him a thug.  In fact, K-Mart has been a stand up guy for over two seasons now and the de facto quarterback/leader of the Nuggets defense.  I just love what K-Mart is bringing to the team this season.

Hey Andrew, sounds like the event at Choppers was a blast. So jealous, wish I could have been there. But I live in the Bay Area and ended up watching the game at home on a replay of espn360 online (as I don't have a television.) Made me wonder, is there a way for Denver Stiffs to facilitate game watching events for out-of-state die-hard Nuggets fans? It's hard for us to connect with other Nuggets fans outside of Colorado. Perhaps there could be a feature on the website where readers could list themselves and have it be organized by geographic location. We could then post local bars, etc, where we were planning on watching the games. It might also be a cool feature to see how extensive the Denver Stiff diaspora is... Just a thought. Thanks for all of your thorough Nuggets coverage.

-Eric in the Bay Area

These are all great ideas!  Watching "clubs" are commonplace for pro and college football, but not so much for basketball.  This is because there are so many basketball games to follow during the course of the season and the scheduling is so sporadic.  That said, Nate and I probably don't have the time nor the technology right now to kick something off like this ourselves.  But I will forward your email to the powers-that-be at SB Nation, because they should be doing something like this nationwide.  As a simple, more immediate solution, perhaps for the next Denver Stiffs event readers can submit their email addresses privately to me with a location attached to it and I can put together a database seeing where "matches" take place and then connect the parties?  Just a thought as long as it doesn't take too much time.  I still have a day job, you know!

You probably already saw this rumor linked to by HoopsHype that George Karl is out at season's end. Now, a couple of years ago letting Karl go would not have ruffled anyone’s feathers in the slightest, but I think he’s done a really good job last year and so far this year, and I think letting him go would not be in the best interests of the team. The crappy economy and impending collective bargaining agreement situation are not helping negotiations, that’s for sure. Hopefully you’re situation with ties to Karl and his attorney can shed some light on this current rumor.

-Alex S.

First off, I've been singing Karl's praises way before I ever met him, including last season when I said he should have finished second in Coach of the Year voting.  I want to reiterate that because now that I've met and gotten to know Karl, I can say wholeheartedly that he deserves an extension and it's most unfortunate that it hasn't happened yet.  Karl may do some things that drive us nuts, but if you are what your record says you are how can anyone objectively say that Karl isn't doing a great job these past two seasons?  Even the Karl skeptics must admit (on some level) that the last two games should have cemented an extension for the only coach in Nuggets history who will oversee three straight 50-win seasons.

Regarding the current status of the extension, while I haven't had direct conversations with Karl, his attorney or anyone with the Nuggets about it lately, I have no reason to believe it's not getting done.  The Nuggets want to extend Karl and Karl wants to stay in Denver.  Why the foot dragging continues perplexes me, but if the Nuggets were smart they'd re-up Karl soon before he becomes more expensive to re-sign later.

Andrew, I found this website that lists all of the parties going on in Dallas over All-Star Weekend. After looking through it, my best guess would be that Kenyon Martin will revert back to his old self as he will still be hung over two weeks afterwards from all the parties he is throwing. Not sure if you are heading down there or not, but it's going to be crazy.

-Geoff S.

No All-Star Weekend for me this year most unfortunately.  But having been to a few All-Star Weekends, I have no doubt that "crazy" won't do it justice.  Especially in a huge city like Dallas.  As far as K-Mart partying goes, he has unquestionably earned the benefit of the doubt from Nuggets fans this year.  Combined with Chauncey Billups, K-Mart has been the Nuggets veteran leader and a warrior all season long, and the Nuggets would be fighting for a playoff seed right now if not for K-Mart's nightly performances.  Even better, I sense that K-Mart takes a tremendous amount of pride in his new job as team leader/role model, and doesn't want to jeopardize that by over-partying during the All-Star Weekend.  That said, this is the NBA and nothing surprises me anymore.

Andrew, your blog is fantastic, and has been a breath of fresh air for Nuggets' fans since the beginning (btw, I can't believe True Hoop partnered with Roundball Mining Company, a website that can't even be bothered to post reviews of games until 2 days after).  Anyway, I am a Nugget fan trapped in Los Angeles. I decided that if/when the Nuggets beat the Lakers in the playoffs I'm going to put a a bunch of Nuggets flags on my car (do they even make those for non-Laker fans)? Something that's been riling me up recently and that you should mention at some point on the blog is that Kobe Bryant is not clutch: http://www.82games.com/gamewinningshots.htm he has a .250 shooting percentage in game-winning or game-tying situations and missed more shots in those situations than any other player over the past six seasons.  Derek Fisher is in fact a more clutch Laker. More clutch than either of them?Carmelo Anthony. (Chauncey Billups, unfortunately, is not Mr. Big Shot.)

-Ameeth V.

Thank you so much for the kind words, but I can't agree that Kobe Bryant isn't clutch.  I've seen those numbers before in addition to 82games.com's "Clutch Stats" that show Melo and LeBron James being more clutch than Kobe percentage-wise.  In fact, Melo comes up first among the big-name players for clutch shooting percentage, but Kobe leads in clutch shooting points.  I've long praised Melo for being willing to take - and make - huge shots, and he may very well be a top three or four clutch player in the NBA right now.  That said, if you had one shot to make in a big game, is there any doubt as to who any of us would want taking that shot?  Even though I hate the Lakers passionately, if I have one shot to make in an NBA game, I want Kobe Bryan taking that shot.

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