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Denver Stiffs reader emails...

What should have been a consistent regular season feature makes its debut (inexcusably late) during the offseason. I usually reply to every email that comes into the Denver Stiffs email box, but rarely post those emails and replies here. So hopefully you'll excuse my tardiness in posting some of these and read along...

While watching the Nuggets dismantle the Hornets I was struck by some similarities between this team and the '04 Pistons. Chauncey at the point bringing an undeniably talented team together. A sweet shooting two guard who can simply fill it up. A high flying big man who really defends the basket and blocks shots at an astonishing rate. A team commitment to defense and taking care of the ball. A tough physical big man who is a top notch defensive player. An athletic small forward who rebounds, is committed to defense and hits clutch shots. A solid bench that brings energy and goes nine deep. Joe Dumars had quietly assembled a squad that had real cohesion as well as a tremendous amount of talent. Rip Hamilton was playing very well, Ben Wallace was having a career season and Tayshaun was the guy who did whatever his team needed him to do. Oh yeah, one more thing, Dumars took advantage of a salary dump from Portland via Atlanta and got Rasheed Wallace for next to nothing. The key to all of this was of course Chauncey. Yeah, those 2004 Pistons were really good. One last thing, those Pistons weren’t ranked number one in their conference either.

-NugzD (April 22nd)

When "NugzD" sent this email to me in April I was all set to write a detailed comparison between the 2003-04 Pistons and the 2008-09 Nuggets, but with all that was going on during the playoff run I just never got to it. So let's address it here. Yes - this latest incarnation of the Nuggets was very similar to that Pistons team, which makes it even more heartbreaking that they weren't able to defeat the Lakers as that Detroit team remarkably did five years ago. Like Ben Wallace, Nene played as the undersized yet effect center. Kenyon Martin took on the combustible, technical-drawing yet tough defending power forward role a la Rasheed Wallace. J.R. Smith could be compared to Rip Hamilton I suppose, although their games are dramatically different (J.R. can create his own shot from anywhere while Rip has to come off an intricate set of screens to get his). And of course, Chauncey is Chauncey.

The biggest difference has to be at the small forward spot - Carmelo Anthony for the Nuggets and Tayshaun Prince for the Pistons - but in a funny way they even each other out; Melo's offense is far superior to Prince's whose defense is far superior to Melo's. And oddly enough, if Joe Dumars had his way he would have shipped Prince and Chauncey to Denver for Melo last summer.

Personally, I wouldn't bring George Karl back next year. I think George has proven he can't win championships, and never will. I believe this year was his pinnacle year with the Nuggets. I don't think he can get them over the top. I felt all along in the playoffs, that the Nuggets biggest impediment was ultimately Karl. No one ever mentions Adrian Dantley, a proven winner, who is very familiar with this team...and the few games I have seen him as the "acting head coach", I thought he accorded himself very well. It seemed to me that his game management, substitutions, time-outs, player conversations...were much more cohesive than Karl's. I'd love to see Pops, but that's not going to happen. Do you have more insight on Dantley, and why his name doesn't come up?

-Don L. (June 17th)

Like Don, a lot of Denver Stiffs readers believe Karl has taken the Nuggets as far as he can, and therefore it's time for a coaching change. And since Denver Stiffs reader "Gasus" felt like I was being too politically correct with my column on this subject, let me be very clear: I don't think the Nuggets will win a championship with Karl, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't extend him if the Nuggets have another successful run next season. You're probably thinking: huh?! Allow me to explain...

When I advocated for Karl's ouster last season it was for two very simple reasons: 1) I believed Karl had mailed in his coaching performance for three straight seasons while wasting the Nuggets best years talent-wise, and 2) Larry Brown was available. I don't believe you can demand the ouster of a decent coach unless you have a damn good coach waiting in the wings to replace him. When Joe Dumars boldly removed former Coach of the Year Rick Carlisle in 2003 in favor of Brown (leading to the most awkward press conference in history which both Dumars and Carlisle were present together), it was a stroke of genius and the results spoke for themselves.

But if the Nuggets were to remove Karl this summer, who exactly would replace him? In response to Don's suggestion of Denver Stiffs Interim Head Coach Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley, there's no doubt that Dantley has paid his dues and it's also true that he allegedly has a good rapport with the players. But whether you follow the Nuggets on TV with regularity or have the privilege of attending the games live, it's clear that John Welch has taken on the role of the team's lead assistant with Tim Grgrich being the second most vocal/active among the assistant coaches while AD barely communicates with the players during games. I don't know what happens behind the scenes and I've heard that AD is a really bright guy, but I fear AD could be another Michael Curry or Bill Hanzlik-type: a smart former player who gets along great with the players as a solid assistant coach, but doesn't have command of the game like the top head coaches do. Obviously, this isn't fair to AD until he's given a shot, but I'm not ready to give him a shot with so much riding on the line this upcoming season.

The bottom line for me is that 50-win coaches like Karl, Brown, Flip Saunders, Rick Adelman or Jerry Sloan don't grow on trees. And while many teams have jettisoned them in favor of younger, cheaper assistant coaches who might have a big upside or unique approach to the game, those experiments rarely work. (Just look at Philadelphia post-Brown, Sacramento post-Adelman, Minnesota and Detroit post-Saunders and Milwaukee post-Karl.) Especially when your roster features a collection of high-priced, big-ego'd players as the Nuggets roster currently does. And one more thing to keep in mind. Only four - four - coaches among the NBA's 30 teams currently possesses a championship ring: Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Doc Rivers and Brown.

I would, however, like to change my stance on Karl possibly getting an extension around the 2010 All Star Break and push that decision to the end of the 2010 postseason.

I just wanted to pass on the research that I did (with some help). I got into a debate with a friend and said Denver has led for about 75% of the series [against the Lakers]. He didn't believe me so a few of us worked together to get these numbers.

Game breakdown
Game 1: 84.5% Denver, 3% tied, 12.5% LA lead
Game 2: 20.8% Denver, 16.7% tied, 62.50% LA lead
Game 3: 81% Denver, 7.5% tied, 11.5% LA lead
Game 4: 97.5% Denver, .5% tied, 2% LA lead
Game 5: 41% Denver, 23% tied, 36% LA lead

Analyze those numbers however you want...I find it interesting, in games 1 and 3, Denver held the lead for around 83% of the game and still lost both games. In game 2, LA held the lead for 62% of the time. What does this all mean? Nothing I guess...just a little fact to back up the talk, but the only STAT that matters is wins.

-danjustin (May 29th)

Now I'm thoroughly depressed. Thanks, Dan.

Just thinking about the Nuggets backup PG spot. Obviously we need an upgrade in this position and maybe that could come through this year's draft that has a great surplus of up and coming PG's. Patty Mills springs to mind if he drops to where we want him as he would give us some leg speed which would come in handy against a team like the Lakers (see Aaron Brooks). This is probably hypothetical as GK loves his AC but you never know.

-Callum C. (June 2nd)

We'll get into this more when we breakdown the Nuggets offseason decision on Anthony Carter and the draft preview, but I completely agree that the Nuggets need to a) look for a backup point guard and b) draft one if they keep their second round draft pick. In preparation for my draft preview, I've already reached out to Denver Stiffs college basketball expert "Goldennugget" and he, too, recommends Mills, who impressively led St. Mary's into the NCAA Tournament and played for home country Australia against the "Redeem Team" during a tune-up game for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And if Miami (by way of the Timberwolves) snagging Mario Chalmers in the second round of the draft last season teaches us anything, it's that teams can find good value at the backup point guard spot if they do their homework.

Dear Friend,
My name is Robert Ado from Togo, presently in Ivory Coast. I have some funds and I want you to assist me and move to your country, I will give you details as soon as I hear from you. Anticipating to read from you. Yours faithfully.

-Robert Ado (June 12th)

Hi, Robert. Having always wanted to do business with someone from the Ivory Coast, I've already emailed you with my bank account information, social security number, home address, phone number and wire transfer details. I look forward to receiving those funds from you and meeting you when you arrive in Denver.

Wait a second. How did this email get in here?!

I’ve been reading through your offseason analysis, and I think there is one possibility you are overlooking. As a long-time nuggets fan, I desperately want a championship; I also tend to become very loyal to our players, but I think we should consider letting a guy go who is one of my favorites: Kleiza. It was obvious in the Lakers series that we really needed more size on the front line. In your offseason review of Birdman, you mentioned that K-Mart’s contract prohibits us from making a splash to get another big man, but what about a sign and trade? Hunters expiring contract will be desirable (although more so at the trade deadline) and Kleiza is a solid role player who can provide shooting and hustle off the bench. Hooking up with another team in a sign and trade for a big man (i.e. Orlando with Gortat for the MLE) we could offer them future cap room along with a solid player for a guy who doesn’t want to be in Howard’s shadow anymore.

-Chris Y. (June 16th)

Before answering this one, give me a little credit for bringing up a sign-and-trade for Gortat in the first place. In my June 1st column titled "5 Questions for the Offseason," within the last paragraph of Question #4: Can the Nuggets Add a True Center? I wrote: "The short, short list includes the Magic who - depending on what happens in the Finals - have no real power forward other than Tony "El Busto" Battie (meaning they have no power forward) and might be willing to do a sign-and-trade with backup center Marcin Gortat coming to Denver." Now granted, I was referring to a possible K-Mart deal but I like Chris's idea of a Kleiza plus Hunter for a center idea much, much better. I just don't know if the Magic could be duped into that one (although they were duped into taking Mo Evans and Brian Cook for Trevor Ariza, so I suppose anything is possible). Other sign-and-trade opportunities involving Kleiza and Hunter for a free agent center could include the Hawks' Zaza Pachulia, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace or the Knicks' Chris Wilcox. Another Kleiza/Hunter trade possibility could be to the Pacers for Jeff Foster, whose $6-plus million salary over the next two seasons might be on the trading block.

Hi, I'm a die hard nuggets fan. I just want to ask if there is a possible to trade K-Mart for Amare??? Hope you can answer this!

-Vince G. (June 16th)

I appreciate your optimism, Vince, but there's no way this will happen. Amare's contract is equally as long as K-Mart's, meaning the Suns would have no incentive whatsoever to make a deal like this.

As always, please keep the great comments, suggestions and emails coming. It's what makes this blog a pleasure to write!