What do you make of Coach Malone saying the team has no veteran leadership?
Daniel Lewis (@minutemandan): I think that, much like an onion, there are layers to his statement. One layer is that Coach Malone is an emotional person, and he really wants his team to beat the Sacramento Kings. It’s a little childish, but hey, maybe it’s an East Coast thing. Another layer is that the veteran leadership that is on the Nuggets at the moment - guys like Jameer Nelson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried - don’t strike me as the best options for vocal leadership. Nelson is raked by the idea of being a mentor, Chandler seems to be more of a solitary, quiet, lead by example leader, Gallinari (especially this season) doesn’t seem invested, and Faried is going to do what is best for Faried. I do think that having a veteran that was also a starter being more vocal would be really great for the Nuggets.
Kayla Osby (@nuggetchica): I think it’s his final attempt at trying to spark something in his team. After losing three in a row (one against a team with one of the worst records in the league and the other against a team the Nuggets really needed to beat due to standings and the team’s fight for a playoff spot), I think he is trying to see if any of the players step up and takes control of the squad. If this is what he was trying to do, I see the reasoning behind it but I think it will ultimately backfire, especially after hearing Gallinari’s reaction to Malone’s comments. It may also be a ploy on Malone’s part to try to get the front office to make a move for a veteran leader. This team could really use a Chauncey Billups right now…
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Malone is a competitive person, and he wants to beat the team that fired him. Players are the same way. Malone keeps losing to a mediocre Sacramento team, though, and that has to chap his hide. I’m also not sure that he meant leadership in general, just on defense. Nobody’s calling out anything (and since there are only dozens of people in the Pepsi Center I can hear the calls from the opponents but not from Denver) and the hustle isn’t there. As Daniel said, these aren’t the right vets for some aggressively vocal actions, and some of them are poor positional defenders to boot (looking at you Jameer, and Gallo should be on more 4s than 3s at this point) but I also agree with Kayla: Malone may just be reinforcing his desire through the media for a better defensive presence on the next iteration of this team. Denver addressed some of its shooting woes in this last draft, but the defensive side still needs work.
Zach Mikash (@ZachMikash): Anyone who has had the privilege to interview coach after a game knows that if the team lost he’s likely to be a bit short in his evaluation. Throw in the fact that it was Sacramento and the Nuggets had a golden opportunity to gain some momentum and instead, once again, failed to show up I can see how these charged comments came to the surface. That being said, I tend to agree with him. The Nuggets haven’t had a veteran leader since they sent Billups to the New York Knicks in the Carmelo Anthony trade and they haven’t come close to adding one. Mike Miller is nice, but he barely plays and no one else on the roster can claim a resume anywhere close to what Chauncey had when he returned to Denver. Coach said he had two young guys being the most vocal on the team, which is great for them but undoubtedly can create a rift. Vets don’t want to listen to young players, young players lose respect for vets when they see them not willing to step up and lead. This is all speculation of course, but I think it’s pretty easy to understand where coach’s comments came from.
What are the odds the Nuggets make a deal for Paul Millsap?
Lewis: I don’t think there are good odds, but I’m a bit of a pessimist when it comes to the Nuggets making a decision at the right time when it comes to personnel decisions. I am a fan of the idea of trading for Millsap, but it needs to be done soon if it’s going to happen. This is an opportunity the Nuggets can’t afford to let slip through their fingers. Personally, I would like to see a a Millsap-Korver-Delaney-2017 Miami 2nd/Faried-Gallinari-Nelson (or Beasley)-Nuggets 2017 1st swap. If Millsap is traded to Toronto, I think there may need to be a change in the front office. The Nuggets can offer a much better trade package than the Toronto Raptors
Osby: I think the odds are good if we offer the right package. The Nuggets have a lot to offer, as Daniel noted. With the amount of assets we have, both in picks and players, I think it would be fairly easy to find a deal that would be attractive for Atlanta. The question is, of course, is will the deal be worth it for Denver? Atlanta would be crazy not to accept an offer that would include two or three of our rotation players in addition to picks, considering that they will probably lose Millsap for nothing in the offseason anyways. I agree with Daniel, we will be able to offer more than the Raptors. I just hope we don’t give up too much, but consolidation may be the best thing for this team and for Malone.
Gross: Denver will make offers, but this year isn’t the year they need him for. It’s hard to pay a king’s ransom for a player when a playoff trip this year is gravy with no real expectations of victory. A team like Toronto NEEDS Millsap to achieve its goals. Denver just wants him. The Nuggets can make the better offer, but if they don’t think Millsap would stay after this season then it’s a foolish get. This isn’t trying to get to the Finals with Andre Iguodala and use that run to convince him to stay. Denver wants Millsap (or a player like him) to raise the level of this team, but when push comes to shove I don’t know that they have the belief in his free agency choices to pay the piper (or the Atlanta Hawks) for him. Let’s go with 30%.
Mikash: I put it at 50/50. The Nuggets had interest before and got very close to acquiring Millsap in the offseason. It didn’t work out but I would guess that’s because Al Horford walked in the offseason, not because Denver couldn’t put together a package the Hawks liked. Now with the Hawks being rumored (and making no real denials) to be shopping Millsap it would seem pretty obvious that there is going to be mutual interest between Denver and Atlanta. The question is the contract. The Nuggets could max Millsap easily in the offseason, especially with Gallo’s contract likely coming off the books and Faried’s contract likely going back to Atlanta in any deal, but Millsap is 32 and never came close to winning a ring, got to think a young fringe playoff team is not his ideal roster situation.
Does Nikola Jokic put up his first career triple double in January?
Lewis: It would be really great if he did it in the game against the Indiana Pacers in London, but I don’t anticipate that happening. I think he could have a triple double this month, and I’ll go as far to predict when it will happen as well - Thursday, January 26 against the Phoenix Suns, in Denver. The Suns are a mess, and Jokic could rack up the assists by dishing to the Nuggets guards as they dissect whatever defensive scheme the Suns throw up against them. He should be able to avoid foul trouble against Tyson Chandler and Alex Len, which will help. The Suns should also miss their fair share of field goal attempts, giving Jokic ample opportunity to grab double digit rebounds.
Osby: I hope so! He came so close a few times in December and he has shown no signs of slowing down yet. When he gets the fouls under control and he’s able to play a lot of minutes, it’s pretty easy for him to stack up his stats. Heck, even when he is in foul trouble, he’s still come pretty close to getting a trip dub. If the team is playing well and hitting shots, and Jokic is continuing to make his impressive passes, he should be able to accomplish it sooner rather than later.
Gross: I’m surprised he doesn’t have one already (thanks Faried). He’s been the starting point-center for 10 games now and just missed a triple-double twice. The Nuggets have 12 games remaining in January. Teams will be expecting the point-center approach now, but I don’t really see how they stop those assists - IF Denver is willing to give Jokic enough touches and he stays out of foul trouble. So far the adjustment has been to allow Jokic more scoring touches instead of passing touches, and that’s not working out to fewer Denver points. With a dozen opportunities I think he’ll put that triple-double together this month.
Mikash: I say yes. I thought for sure he was going to get it against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but as I know from chasing triple doubles on NBA 2k, sometimes the ball just doesn’t bounce your way on those rebounds in the fourth quarter. Against the Dallas Mavericks Jokic was an Emmanuel Mudiay missed three pointer away from getting it done. So the theme here seems to be Jokic piles up the stats against the really bad teams of the NBA which means that home/road two game jaunt against the Suns at the end of the month looks like prime Jokic triple double territory. I think he gets it done then.
The Nuggets play the Pacers in London next week, cool event or annoying publicity stunt?
Lewis: Such a cool event. As the grandson of an English immigrant, I’ll always love things that happen in the United Kingdom. The NBA should have more and more global appeal, and marketing the game overseas should only help the game improve. Ultimately, it all comes down to extra dollars for the league, so I’m a bit confused why the league would send the Nuggets and Pacers, but I’m all in favor of it. Honestly, I’m a little disappointed I couldn’t afford to travel there to watch them in person. That would have been a smashing good time.
Osby: A cool event! It was surprising to see the Nuggets be given this opportunity, since they tend to be overlooked for the most part when it comes to events like these. It will be a nice change for the team, and maybe something that results in even more team bonding that could improve the chemistry on the court. Hopefully the team takes the opportunity seriously, however, and comes to play with a lot of focus. It’s a drastic change in the schedule, with that being the only game next week, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see a young team see the trip as a fun vacation rather than an opportunity to get better. I know one thing, they better win or else that will be a VERY long flight home.
Gross: Definitely a cool event. It creates some compacting of the rest of the schedule to allow for the travel time, but this is the one time it pays to not be a title contender. Much like in the NFL they’ve avoided sending legit title contenders over so as not to mess with the top seeding opportunities. The NBA isn’t sending teams that lack for entertaining players though. The Pacers and Nuggets should put on a good show, and a victory for Denver creates a lot of time to enjoy the success. All of Denver’s international players should have nice contingents (I’m just sorry Hernangomez doesn’t get to go) and unlike with American football the crowds will be very familiar with the game. It should be the most enthusiastic “home” crowd Denver has had all year. Just come out with the W, Nuggets.
Mikash: Here’s my thing with this, I’m all for expanding the game in Europe and drumming up fan interest, but London? It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Basketball isn’t that big over there so maybe the reasoning is to try and increase fan interest in England, but if I were making the decision I’d probably have them playing this game in Barcelona which in many ways is the birthplace of the international following of the NBA. Maybe the Spanish leagues didn’t want the NBA distracting from their own play, maybe the NBA thought that Palau Blaugrana was too small of a venue (in which case they could have played the game in Madrid). Ultimately it’s a cool event, but I think the NBA could have done a better job of picking a venue.