Five games into the 2011-12 NBA season and with the Nuggets responding to a disappointing loss in Los Angeles on Saturday, it's time to lay down some New Year's resolutions for 2012. Assuming the world doesn't come to an end, of course.
I've now seen the 2011-12 Nuggets twice up close. Combining their two home victories with one road victory and two road losses, it's apparent to this fan that this team has huge upside as long as each member of the team follows through on some New Year's resolutions. And start making jump shots.
Against the Lakers on Sunday evening in front of a sold out Pepsi Center, the Nuggets righted their rebounding woes and matched the bigger, taller Lakers with 44 total caroms. That - and the Nuggets' 99-90 victory - was the good news. The bad news is that the Nuggets were again soft on assists, with just 21, and horrid with their long-range shooting, making just two of their 18 three-point attempts. And while I don't know how the game felt on television, in person it seemed as though the Nuggets never owned the energy of the contest in what could have been a back-to-back runaway against the road-weary Lakers. (And one has to wonder whether or not the Nuggets would even have won had the Lakers' Kobe Bryant not missed 22 of his 28 shot attempts).
Thus, the Nuggets should get their New Year's resolutions in order as soon as possible. I propose the following...
Timofey Mozgov: Moz has to stay out of foul trouble while holding his ground better inside the paint. Moz again got whistled for two early fouls which took him out of the game early and he never got into a rhythm as a result. It's nice for the fans to get excited over a Mozgov/Nene frontline duo, but if Moz can't stay in the game for more than 15 minutes our dreamed of height advantage is non-existent.
Danilo Gallinari: Gallo must improve his footwork. His clumsiness on the court is costing him would-be easy layups and dagger long range jump shots. Gallo has made just three of his 23 three-point attempts this season and yet he's supposedly our best long-range shooting option.
Arron Afflalo: Afflalo must get into game shape ... and soon. Ever the gamer, Afflalo just looks "off" out there and isn't canning his outside shots consistently while also being hesitant on driving to the basket, a double negative.
Ty Lawson: Lawson should be lobbying the Nuggets' coaching staff to get more playing time. Simply put, when Lawson is on the floor the pace is up and the Nuggets run circles around their opponents ... just as this team was, in theory, designed for.
Al Harrington: Most people pledge to get in better shape for their New Year's resolution, and "Big Al" appears to have jumped on this trend many months early. Harrington just needs to stick with his current diet and fitness regimen and he'll continue to produce as we saw again against the Lakers on Sunday night.
Rudy Fernandez: The Spanish import will never realize his potential until he squares his shoulders on jump shots instead of fading away with trickery in his shooting form. Fernandez needs to forget trying to look good while playing basketball and instead ... just play basketball.
Nene Hilario: It's hard to pin a New Year's resolution on Nene who appears to be replicating last season's solid performance despite the long lockout and lack of training camp time. Nene should just maintain his composure and continue to attack the basket late in games, rather than be a fourth quarter footnote.
Chris Andersen: Birdman had a breakout game against the Lakers on Sunday night, but prior to that game he was too block-happy and as a result, left his feet too often in the Nuggets first four contests. Birdman must stay disciplined defensively and continue to provide weak side defensive help for his teammates.
Andre Miller: Push the ball, 'Dre! Too often the 35 year old Miller seems content to walk the ball up the court. His lack of urgency hurt the Nuggets during the fourth quarter against the Lakers at Pepsi Center, and it wasn't until head coach George Karl inserted Lawson back into the lineup that the Nuggets finally ran the Lakers off the floor.
Kosta Koufos: Koufos mus be resolved to be ready should Nene, Birdman or Mozgov go down with an injury. Lack of playing time today means nothing as it's certain Koufos will get called into action before Kenneth Faried will.
Kenneth Faried: Faried's resolution should be to stay patient. Real patient. Because Karl clearly isn't giving this rookie playing time anytime soon.
George Karl: Coach Karl must not forget his mantra for this season - run, run, run. The Nuggets too often slept-walked at moments in both Lakers games allowing the taller, older Lakers to slow the game down and force the Nuggets into long-range jump shots. Something the Nuggets clearly aren't very good at right now.
Recapping the Lakers' game...
Stiff of the Game
Kobe Bryant: Bryant still has the best footwork of any player in the NBA. But the greatest footwork in the world doesn't help if you can't make a shot after ditching your opponent. Bryant's 6-28 shooting and six turnovers did his Lakers in on Sunday night. Bryant's +/- was -17.
Non-Stiff of the Game
Ty Lawson: Gallo received the player of the game award at Pepsi Center, but it should have gone to Lawson. Lawson's efficient 17 points, 10 assists outing combined with his relentless energy and big-time rebounding was the catalyst for the Nuggets victory (his +/- was unKobe-like with +18, best among the Nuggets).
At 3-2, the Nuggets have essentially won the games they were supposed to win. Let's hope that trend continues with a few surprises mixed in along the way.
Happy New Year, fellow Stiffs!