The Denver Nuggets find themselves down in the Big Easy tonight ... it's the NOLA baby! The Nuggets travel away from the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center to face Chris Paul and the new-look Hornets. Al Harrington and his teammates will be ready.
The particulars ...
Denver: 1-0 (1-0 at home, 0-0 on the road)
New Orleans: 1-0 (1-0 at home, 0-0 on the road)
Denver: Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen both out. Chauncey Billups isn't on the official injury report, but has some stitches in his lip from Wednesday night's game when he bit through his own lip. Ouch!
New Orleans: None.
Opposition's Take: At the Hive
It's the NOLA Baby! Anyone catch that Real World reference? Anybody know what the Real World is? Besides it being a ridiclously good MTV show, the real world also is the place in which the Nuggets season is being held hostage by the ongoing bullshit of the Melo drama.
We witnessed some serious offensive firepower in the season/home opener as six Nuggets scored in double-figures and both Carmelo Anthony (23) and Arron Afflalo (22) went for 20-plus points in the Nuggets blowout win over the Jazz. The thrill of that game was quickly wiped away with Yahoo! Sports' article by Marc Spears that featured this quote from Melo about his future with Denver,
"It ain’t got nothing to do with the new GM (Masai Ujiri), Josh (Kroenke), the players. For me, I feel it’s a time for change.
"If I do nothing now, I’m never going to do anything. I feel like my time is now to make a decision if I want to leave or if I want to stay."The interwebs and sports shows on that old box we call the television went hog wild with the "it's a time for change" line in Melo's quote. The focus went completely away from the excellent game and got most Nuggets fans once again not feeling good about the win, but realizing this problem is going to hang over the teams' head all season. So, while the Nuggets could very well contend for things out West, it's like a damn cartoon rain cloud wont leave the team alone as it follows it and eventually consumes all.
So, what do we want to talk about? Melo, the upcoming game, or both? Watching TNT's post-game show they brought up the Melo blurb and as the telecast headed to commercal Charles Barkley said, "I said it all the time when I come to work ... time for a change." Well, Barkley is still there ... so let's focus on the game.
-The first thing I noticed about the Nuggets in the opener was Shelden Williams planting himself around the rim. Last season about the only guy who was around the hoop when the ball went in the air was Birdman. I absolutely love that Wiliams is showing the desire to rebound, play solid defense, and yet take his opportunities when they come to him. Also, Williams has some range! At only 6'9'' I was concerned about his ability to board, but his incredible wing-span allows him to get his hands on a lot of basketballs.
-The next thing I wanted to see was Al Harrington. Nene getting poked in the eye allowed Harrington to enter the game a bit prematurely, but I was okay with it. Harrington is sort of a mix between Melo and K-Mart. Harrington has the ability to create his own shot, he rebounds, and he played some pretty good defense in Game 1. His biggest role on offense ... knocking down wide open shots as defenses collapse on Melo. And having Melo around makes things so much easier on his teammates and having Harrington instead of K-Mart out there raises the field goal percentage from the power forward position.
-Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo ... sure Denver only added Harrington, Williams, Gary Forbes, and Melvin Ely to the roster this year, but you may as well toss Lawson and AAA in there too because they are new and improved this season. Check this out ... Denver now has seven players, Melo, Billups, Nene, Harrington, J.R. Smith, AAA, Lawson, who are all capable of going for 25-plus points on any given night. Good luck trying to slow those guys down ...
-I loved the ball movement the Nuggets displayed Wednesday night. Typical of Denver at home though ... they got 23 team assists and now they'll have to show the ball movement on the road, which has been something they haven't been doing in seasons past. If Denver comes out and gets 13-15 assists tonight ... they could be in for a long evening.
Well ... if a fanbase can sympathize with the Nuggets about the Melo situation, it's the Hornets with their Chris Paul situation. The same Chris Paul who may or may not have made a toast at Melo's wedding talking about forming a super team of their own. Yes, a duo of Paul and Melo is far and above a duo of Billups and Melo ... give me a break.
The Hornets kicked off their season Wednesday night as well and got a 95-91 win over the Milwaukee Bucks ... like the Jazz the Bucks had some playoff success last season and are expected to play in the postseason again this year. So, both the Nuggs and Bugs are coming off what looks like impressive wins based on last season's results.
What isn't the same as last season is New Orleans' roster.
Hornets new head coach Monty Williams found a way to play 12 players in the debut as his search for a regular rotation probably wont take hold for a couple of weeks with so much new blood in NOLA. The new guys to watch ... starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli, starting small forward Trevor Ariza, and bench players Willie Green, Jason Smith, and Jerryd Bayless.
For those of you paying attention ... Jason Smith is the 7' center out of Colorado State (by way of Greeley, CO). He played 25 minutes against the Bucks and looks like he'll be given every chance to take hold of the backup center duties.
Wow. As positive as Belinelli's preseason was, tonight was something else. Basically every time he touched the ball in the first half, he charged immediately towards the hoop. He played in control, he found open teammates with ease, he pulled off a crowd pleasing behind the back dribble/steal combination, and he was terrific off the ball. Oh, he also helped out in the rebound game, pulling down 6 himself and assisting teammates to other loose balls. His final line was 6 for 15 from the field ...
For some reason Belinelli has reminded me, when he's on top of his game, of Manu Ginobili. Belinelli's terrific play in the opener seemed to spell trouble for promising second year guard Marcus Thornton. Thornton averaged over 25 minutes a game last season and 14.5 points to boot. Against the Bucks Thornton was limited to just 11 minutes, but scored 8 points. Another guy with a reduced role is sharp shooter Peja Stojakovic, the 33 year old forward came off the bench and played just 8 minutes in the opener scoring three points ... not really what you want from a guy you're paying $14.2 million.
And for all those wishing for Denver to pull off a deal for center Emeka Okafor ... how about this stat line: 26 minutes, 0-0 from the field for 0 points, 9 rebounds, 1 turnover, and 4 fouls against the Bucks.
Both teams come into the game rested. The Hornets haven't had to travel yet and this will be a good test for the Nuggets as they open up the first game of a back-to-back as they'll be in Houston Saturday night. Getting that first win on a back-to-back is key, so Denver needs to get this one.
Final note: How about the new uniforms?! I love the black ouline around the lettering instead of the gold outline we had last season and I absolutely love the mesh instead of the shiny junk the Nuggets had the last few years. I posted a link from Ball Don't Lie during the offseason about the league wide general uniform changes, but reader GoldenNugget posted the following link as a FanShot detailing league wide detailed changes. Click here for the link.