I've owned two Denver Nuggets jerseys in my time: a navy blue Jalen Rose No. 5 one and a No. 7 Chauncey Billups powder blue one. I don't know what happened to that Rose uniform, but the Billups one I'll keep forever as a reminder of the great Nuggets 2009 Western Conference Finals run. Billups second stint in Denver lasted about as quickly as his first and while trading the Nuggets' floor general was a tough decision for the front office, it was also the right decision.
Early in the afternoon on March 18th I was talking to my stepdad Keith about the Nuggets. We were discussing the upcoming night's game against the Orlando Magic and in almost a whisper he said to me that everyone is talking about the Nuggets being better without Carmelo Anthony, but trading Billups also was a big reason the Nuggets are having so much success.
When Keith said that, he did it in a way that if overheard by anyone else he'd be facing some serious consequences for his blasphemous talk. Even executive vice president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri was falling all over himself to apologize about the trade saying the following on Feb. 23rd:
"We feel we got killed in the trade because we lost a couple of pretty good players,'' Ujiri said. "Obviously, Carmelo Anthony. I feel sad for the city of Denver. I feel bad that this was done on my watch. To lose a guy like that. And also Chauncey (Billups). But I think we had to do it.''
I thought Ujiri went too far saying, "we got killed in the trade" ... even before all the success. I didn't think he needed to apologize at all for making a deal he was forced to make. Had a different deal been made, one where the Nuggets were not getting multiple assets, I would have been more comfortable with the statement above. But I thought Ujiri and Josh Kroenke did great collecting various assets.
I was sad to lose Billups as I thought his importance off the court was just as key to his play on the floor. But I also felt like Ty Lawson had probably learned enough about being a professional from Billups and that Denver would be in good hands. And the addition of a guy like Raymond Felton left me feeling even better about the Nuggets point guard situation.
Againt the Memphis Grizzlies on Feb. 22nd, while in street clothes, Felton was interviewed alongside his teammates on the sidelines near the end of the game. Felton wasted no time in looking like the leader of the new bunch as his demeanor and take-charge approach to the interview made me feel even more comfortable about his acquisition. And finally we were able to see what Lawson and Felton could do on the floor running the offense at separate times and how well they played together.
Last night against the Spurs, Lawson and Felton were key cogs in the comeback win. Felton was 6-12 from the field (3-4 from downtown) for 18 points, had 8 assists and 1 steal in 33 minutes. Lawson meanwhile had 12 points on 6-14 shooting, 7 assists, 1 steal and 3 of his 5 rebounds came on the offensive glass in 30 minutes.
The Nuggets are doing something that no other team is capable of right now. They are playing the game with two high-quality point guards and George Karl is doing a wonderful job of breaking down the minutes. Since the trade, Felton, through 12 games, is averaging 31.1 minutes, 9.4 points, 6.8 assists and just 1.9 turnovers. Lawson, through 15 games, is averaging 31.8 minutes, 14.1 points, 7.6 assists and just 1.9 turnovers as well.
As a combination the point guard position of Lawson and Felton is averaging 23.5 points, 14.4 assists and just 3.8 turnovers. Lawson is starting and has changed the style of the Nuggets. With Billups, Denver was a half court team that rarely pushed the pace. Throughout his career, Billups has been a high-scoring point guard and hasn't averaged over 7.0 assists per season since the 2006-07 campaign with Detroit.
With CB1, the Nuggets didn't turn into a push-the-pace team until Lawson entered the game towards the end of the first quarter. The change in style was a shock to the system for the opposition, but at the same time ... the Nuggets have had the pieces to run in the altitude for years. Billups' style and personality was exactly what the Nuggets needed when they traded Allen Iverson for him in 2008. But this A.M. (After Melo ... thanks Andrew) team has so many players that can play at a fast pace that exchanging Billups for Felton was what this team needed.
Lawson starting allows the Nuggets to press the gas pedal from the opening tip. And when Felton checks in later in the first quarter, Denver doesn't miss a beat and the pace is still best at a break-neck one. While Lawson and Felton share some similarities in their style of play, they also do a lot of things differently. Felton is a nice rebounder and runs the pick-and-roll very well. He can create his own shot from anywhere on the floor and also defends very well. Lawson doesn't yet have the mid-range game that Felton does, but it's coming.
Both guys give the Nuggets an edge on offense and defense and A.M. this Nuggets team is getting more people involved and that starts at the point guard position. Lawson and Felton are feeding the big men off the pick-and-roll and when this team runs, there is no telling who is going to finish on the break. Kenyon Martin, Nene and Chris Andersen are at their best in a running offense. All three run the court very well and all three guys finish very well off the break.
While trading Billups was a tough decision, it was also the right decision. This season Lawson and Felton give the Nuggets exactly what they need and they can each run the offense alone and they play great on the floor at the same time.
No other team is doing what the Nuggets are with their point guards because no other team can.
The Links ...
Sad but possible truth of Melo trade. - CJK22, FanPost Denver Stiffs
Stiffs reader CJK22 draws the same conclusion to the Billups trade that I do ... great minds think alike.
Paige: Moe has "Idol" time for Nuggets - Woody Paige, Denver Post
Doug Moe, the namesake for this blog, catches up with Paige from his home in San Antonio.
Nuggets reel in Spurs in thriller - Benjamin Hochman, Denver Post
The Hochman recaps the game last night.
Magic 111 - Knicks 99 - ESPN
7-10 since the trade and under .500 for Nueva York.
Coach K would turn down Lakers - Arash Markazi, ESPN Los Angeles
Who is going to replace Phil Jackson? Kobe?
With Melo gone, good times in Denver - Dean Oliver, ESPN
Former Nuggets stat guru is now working at ESPN and talking Nuggets.
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