With recent injuries to G Bryant Stith and F James Posey, the long stagnant IR list has finally seen some changes. Posey was able to avoid the IR list and only miss a game before returning to action this past Sunday against the Cavaliers. Stith was not so fortunate, with a deep thigh bruise, he has been officially placed on the IR list for the minimum 5 games. Hopefully, he'll come right back off, because he's been playing very well the past month or two, with consistent energy, offense, and the defense he's always been known for. It's been especially exciting to see how much his outside shooting has improved this year, where he's hitting the long distance shot probably better than at any point in his career.
With Stith placed on the IR, rookie F Ryan Bowen, was activated on Friday against the Warriors. Ryan had not seen game action since late December, but he picked up right where he started off the season, energizing the Nuggets when he's on the floor, and making spectacular hustle plays. He's a great option for Issel to come off the bench when the starters are inconsistent and lethargic. Unfortunately, that's been happening more and more for this young team of late.
The exciting news is that Issel will most likely activate rookie G Chris Herren today for the game against Indiana. Chris has been healthy for quite some time, but there has been no space for him on the roster. No one knows for sure who will replace him on IR, but my bets are it will be "little used" Roy Rogers or "doghouse ridden" Cory Alexander. Nick has been playing a lot of minutes, and could use a more reliable back-up to help him out. Issel has been very reluctant to play Alexander in anything other than garbage time, so he's experimented with McCloud and Posey at point-forward, when Van Exel needs a rest.
Coach Dan Issel is ready, Chris Herren is ready, but league rules state that a team can not have more than 12 active players on the roster at one time. Backup rookie point guard Herren was placed on the injured list Feb 1st with a sore left knee. The knee has healed and the mandatory 5 games have passed, but Issel can't bring Herren back into the mix just yet. The rest of the team is healthy, and even though Issel has a few extra big guys that don't see a whole lot of minutes in Roy Rogers and Popeye Jones, he's not about to diminish his front line reserves, which I agree with.
The obvious choice is back-up guard Cory Alexander a 5th year guard out of Virginia. If you've been a Nuggets fan for the past few years, you probably know the history. Alexander came in late in the Nuggets worst season in history, to help spark the Nuggets to just enough victories to avoid futility in history. Unfortunately, Alexander received the fat contract extension a player probably deserves in that situation, but he hasn't really played the same sense. With $10.7 million left on a contract that runs thru the 2003-2004 season, the Nuggets can't just dump their investment, and the plan for lingering him in front of other teams as trade bait has produced few, if any, nibbles of interest. Nuggets ownership struggles this year haven't helped matters any.
So Herren works hard and practices hard, according to Issel. Issel has even referred to Herren as "our future" but knows that without getting him real playing time, he's missing out on valuable game-time experience. Be patient Chris, and keep working hard - your time will come.
I didn't see this one coming. I've already talked with several other Nuggets fans that are quite excited and happy about this trade, but I for one, am not. Ron Mercer has been a huge help to this team so far this year, with key performances in many of the Nuggets wins, helping to erase the horrors of the past two seasons. Yes, his defense is not the best, but he can play some D when he puts his mind to it. I didn't really see anyone he was guarding torch us yet this year. (Didn't see who was supposed to be guarding the Suns Cliff Robinson!) Mercer's offense is without question, awesome. He's a slasher that gets to the basket and finishes, but he can also shoot from the outside, and has even shown the ability to hit the three. Obviously the big concern for GM Issel was resigning him at the end of the season when he becomes a free agent. Yes, the Nuggets have gotten nothing in past years - i.e. Dikembe Mutombo left for the Hawks, but I thought, from Mercer's comments this season, that we had a strong chance of resigning him.
Okay, here's the lowdown on the 5 player trade with Orlando:
and here's the visual:
|Departed Nuggets||New Nuggets|
The Nuggets of 2000 had not lived up to the Nuggets of 1999, so far. They had lost some of that swagger they deservedly had after beating teams like San Antonio, Portland, and Sacramento in late December. Losing three of four games, three of them in the Pepsi Center, will do that to you. And if you are the Nuggets, going from feeling like you can beat anyone, to feeling like you can't get a win is not more than a few losses away. At least this season, the psyche is still fragile, after what this franchise has suffered thru the last few years. The personnel has changed, and the talent is here now, but it's not that easy to escape your past, until you prove a few things first. The Nuggets are well on their way to doing that this year, but Nick was going to make sure. So, he called a team meeting before Friday's practice got underway. Coach Issel showed up to practice to see only his assistant coaches and other team employees shooting jumpers, not his players. They had shut themselves away in a meeting room alongside the court, with the door closed. Most of what was said remains between Nick and his teammates, but Coach Issel was impressed that his tri-captain called a meeting to address their issues.
"Nick called the meeting, but I believe everyone here believed we needed to have it. It was overdue. Hopefully, we will see some progress," said Antonio McDyess. "We just talked about some things that we thought were necessary to talk about," added Nick. According to reports, the Nuggets then went out and had one of their most intense practices of the season. "That was good to see, a little fire, a little emotion, " commented Issel.
These aren't the first time you've heard the rumors, but they are the most
recent. Rumours are spreading around town that the Miami Heat are interested
in trading for Cory Alexander, since PG Tim Hardaway continues to be
injured and they don't have much depth at that position. The rumour also says
that the Nuggets are looking to obtain Heat Center Dwayne Causwell in the deal,
who has a similar salary to Cory's, making the deal quite possible for both
teams. Stay tuned.
Cory was a hero two years ago when he joined the Nuggets midway thru their worst season in club history, but helped provide enough of a spark to avoid breaking the all-time NBA mark. Unfortunately, Cory became expendable when the Nuggets took a chance on Chris Herren in this past year's draft, and have liked what they've seen so far.
The reported demise of Bryant Stith's game was a bit premature. I would never question Bryant's leadership or his professionalism, but I was definitely wondering during the first 15 games of this season if it was time for the Nugget captain to hang up the sneakers. In fact, so was Bryant. He was strongly considering retirement at the age of 30, when his contract expires at the end of next season, until recently that is. Stith has had plenty of reasons to consider retirement. Mainly, the Nuggets 11-71 record two seasons ago, and the fact he has undergone surgeries to his left foot and ankle that have reduced his foot speed and jumping ability. "Ever since we got swept in the playoffs by San Antonio (in 1995), we have been spiraling downward very fast, and it's very tough to take," he said.
Winning is usually good medicine for everyone on a team, but in Stith's case he found that it had forced him to the long end of the Nuggets bench. With new players and young talent, he just wasn't in the playing rotation anymore, much to the chagrin of him, and his good friend, Coach Issel. But, Stith found a challenge from the whole situation, and turned it to his advantage. "The NBA is all about proving yourself," he said. "I've got to go out there, lay it out on the line and prove to people again that I still have some years left in me at this level. And I'm going to do so." In the past 10 games or so, Bryant has seen more minutes, and has been making the most of them. He provides offense and leadership of the bench and the defense that he has always been known for. He has made the key play that helped seal a victory in at least two games - a last second block against New York and a steal on the inbounds play against San Antonio. He's not the guy he was a few years back, but he's making the most of the ability he still has - something that could be a role model for many NBA players. And of course, this all couldn't have happened to a nicer guy...
Will he stay or will he go? It's become an important question this season, regarding the Nuggets leading scorer, that came over from Boston in the trade for Danny Fortson. As you may remember, when Coach Issel refused to offer Ron Mercer a contract extension after he first arrived in Denver from the trade before the season, Mercer made the comment that he would just be "renting this season". He was also quoted by ESPN's David Aldridge in early December as saying that he will sign elsewhere at the end of the season and that he wants to play for a winner. Mercer has since said that that wasn't the whole story. As most players nearing free agency will tend to say these days, he's keeping his options open. How many times have we heard that phrase in the age of free agency? Mercer has also said that he's excited about the potential of the Nuggets and their core of players that will be around for years: Van Exel thru 2006, McDyess thru 2004 and LaFrentz thru 2003. After seeing how the team has gelled and the return of Coach Dan Issel, Mercer has made it clear he's happy here in Denver, and he's not necessarily leaving at the end of the year, as we once thought. Even his agent, rapper Master P has said he'd like to see his client stay in Denver after witnessing our victory over San Antonio firsthand here in Denver. "I think it's a great team. I think they have a good chemistry. They have all the pieces to be a championship team." said Percy. Coach Issel has also added in his two cents: "We didn't trade for Ron with the intentions of having him for only one year. This is a long-term situation."
Chauncey Billups suffered a season ending injury during the win against Sacramento, on December 16th. Kings forward, Predrag Stojakovic accidently brought his elbow down on Chauncey's left shoulder during a struggle for a loose ball. The injury is to his non-shooting shoulder, but he has decided to have season ending surgery because of the risk of dislocating it again, if he had continued to play. Doctors told him if he rested and rehabbed it for 3 weeks, that there was still a good chance the shoulder could pop back out while playing. Chauncey had already had surgery on his right shoulder while playing at local George Washington high school, and had also dislocated his left shoulder there too. Unfortunately for Chauncey, his bad luck with injuries this year come in a contract year, when he was hoping to prove himself worthy of a maximum length resigning deal. He had already missed the first 9 games of the season with an ankle injury. Now it looks like he'll have to settle for a shorter term deal with the Nuggets or another NBA team.
Of course I wish Chauncey a safe and full recovery. However, there were rumours that he was not happy with his role so far this year, which was split between backing up Nick at the point, and playing more two-guard as he did last year. His complaints were one of very few down points for the team so far this year, now that Denver has returned to winning ways. If I could add a resolution to Chauncey's New Years wish, it would be to rehab with conviction and work on polishing his NBA game. He has great shooting ability and driving ability, but needs to work on his knack for finishing around the basket. If all goes well, hopefully the Nuggets can resign him next year. This year, with Chauncey gone - rookie Chris Herren and veteran Bryant Stith will pick up the slack.
Former Denver Broncos great, John Elway was part of the 2nd place offer to Billionaire Donald Sturm back in July. The group includes Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, ski mogul George Gillett, and mutual funds entrepreneur Bjorn Borgen - all with strong Denver ties. The group, according to local sources is strongly considering another bid, and negotiations could start as early as next week. Rumour has it that Elway would run the show, if the deal gets done. Sure sounds like a great situation for the Nuggets, after all the bad vibes this Fall with the fall-thru of the Lauries and then Sturm's ownership bids. Cross your finger, Nuggets fans, because I think this would be great for the future of our team!
Sturm made yet another offer Tuesday afternoon, that he gave until Thursday to be responded to by the City and Ascent. Ascent can now start to pursue other offers, but none have been discussed yet. When the bidding was last open, there was a fake Arabian princess and a separate group led by John Elway involved.
In a story with more plot twists than your average soap opera, the Nuggets now seem to be without an owner again. First, we lost the Lauries a few months back after Ascent stockholders voted against their purchase price of the Nuggets/Avs/Pepsi Center package deal. Then, Donald Sturm came in and outbid the Lauries, but ran smack into a brick wall by the name of Mayor Wellington Webb. Now, Webb did have Denver's best interest in mind when he demanded that Sturm agree to not move the team out of Denver for 25 years, even if he dies and his assets were being sold. Sturm seemed to agree with this sanction, but they could never iron out the legal issues behind it. So, we're now in search of a third suitor. John Elway led the other strong contending group when Sturm made his bid, so that hope is that they will reenter the picture. Sturm was financially a great owner, but he didn't seem to enjoy the microscope that you inevitably go under as a sports team owner these days. Hopefully, third time is the charm, in the search for a new owner. The one bad thing about this whole mess is that Coach/GM Dan Issel's hands are completely tied in the form of player trades until this gets resolved... at this rate, so much for a shiny new Big Man before Christmas... :)
You have to feel for the guy. Bryant, a nice guy, and a true-blue Denver Nugget has endured more losing seasons than anyone on the Nuggets roster, because he's the only one still around since our quick peak in 1994, and our faster descent the rest of this decade. What makes it even worse, is that Bryant passed up a chance to head off two years ago for the riches of free agency, choosing to stay loyal to the team.
Now, after several devastating and career altering injuries to his feet, Bryant has what sports writers like to phrase as "lost a step or two". He came into training camp in the best shape he's been in in years, he's running up and down the court pain free for the first time in eons, but those feet just aren't the same. Stith finds himself out of the playing rotation, forced to be a cheerleader on the bench. Here's how great of a person, and rare of a player this guy is though - he's taking it quietly, without complaint, and with as much grace as possible in this kind of situation. He deserves better, but unfortunately, as his buddy LaPhonso Ellis may also soon have to do - he might just have to give up the court game, and find other avenues to make use of his intellect, and young spirit.
See updated article above,
Until yesterday, new Nuggets/Avs owner Donald Sturm had been in jeopardy of losing the deal. Mayor Webb had jeopardized the deal by requiring a guarantee that the two sports teams stay in Denver for the next 25 years. Before this new agreement was reached, there had been no commitment to keeping the teams here in the event of Sturm's death, who is 67 years old. Now, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief, because we have the owner we want, a man of action and money to help keep the Nuggets competitive, and a guarantee that our team will remain here in Denver for a long, long time.
The Can was Rockin' for the first official Nuggets game there. The crowd that attended set an all-time attendance record for the Nuggets with over 19,000 in attendance and got to see a great overtime victory led by Nick Van Exel. Read more on the game, in my Nuggets Game Summary. I'll also be posting some pictures from the game in the next day or two when I have some time.
Two guys that just plain deserve better. LaPhonso Ellis, who left season before last to play with the Atlanta Hawks alongside Dikembe Mutombo is out again with injury, missing at least the first 5 games of the season with a hamstring pull. Danny Fortson, who was traded to Boston over the summer in the Ron Mercer deal, was poised to crack into the starting line-up, according to Coach Rick Pitino. Unfortunately, that very same day, just as the preseason was closing, it was discovered that Danny had a stress fracture in his foot. He had been playing through the pain, thinking his laces were just too tight. Good luck healing, LaPhonso and Danny.
|Billups drives on the Bulls Chris Anstey in preseason action|
If the Nuggets could have a basket for every time I've heard a friend say a phrase like "Those Nuggets are going to be exciting this year" or "The Nuggets are going to be better", the Nuggets would already have over a 100 points for their season opener on November 2nd.
I do have to agree though. The off season moves and changes, along with the strong return of Raef LaFrentz have me chomping at the bit for the new season to start. I keep reading inspiring articles in the local paper:
Okay, so let's look at what we have for a starting lineup, and coming off the bench:
|Center||Raef LaFrentz||Schintzius, Clark|
|Power Forward||Antonio McDyess||Jones|
|Small Forward||Ron Mercer||Posey, McCloud|
|Shooting Guard||Chauncey Billups||Stith|
|Point Guard||Nick Van Exel||Alexander, Herren|
Okay, that's 13 players, instead of the 12 we can have on an active roster, but I'm still not sure what Issel's final cuts will be. The starters this year are athletic, quick, and talented. About the only negative is that they are a bit small. The bench will also be better this year, with some talented rookies, and players that can fit in at multiple positions, for extra flexibility for Dan's substitutions.
I'm excited, how about you?
The Nuggets opened their training camp today in their new Pepsi Center practice facility with a morning and evening practice under the watchful eye of Head Coach Dan Issel. The best news is that Raef LaFrentz played well, without a knee brace, exactly 7 months to the day since his season ending knee injury last season.
Ryan Bowen was extremely impressive in the first day of practices, according to Issel. You may remember Ryan as a 2nd round draft pick by the Nuggets last year, who went and played in Italy last year to improve his game. He knows he's a long shot to make the team, but it sounds like he impressed the entire coaching staff yesterday with his ability to make plays. According to Issel, both rookies - Posey and Herren also looked good yesterday and he expects they will both make contributions this season.
|Dr. Dan is the new head chemist in their formula for success|
Announced in September, Dan Issel is once again the coach of the Denver Nuggets. One year coach, Mike D'Antoni was fired by Issel as Dan becomes both the General Manager and Head Coach of the Denver Nuggets for the 1999-2000 season. D'Antoni was a bit shocked by the news, fully expecting to have the reigns this year with all the new talent, after coaching the team during a strike-shortened season last year.
The Nuggets new marketing campaign this year is about the Chemistry of the new and more talented Nuggets, and the new Pepsi Center is Head Chemist Issel's laboratory to work in. The Nuggets are listed as periodic elements - i.e. Am24 and Nv31 to symbolize the different ingredients that make up "Dr. Dan's" new experiment this year. Issel was the only coach of the Nuggets in this decade to have any taste of success. Let's hope that he has put the right elements back together for a winning combination this season. Issel hopes to have learned from lessons in the past, from coaching a team to success in the playoffs in 1994, to a team that suddenly lost its edge the following year. He is in the position to keep the chemistry of the team heading in the right direction, being both the team's Coach and GM.
Donald Sturm was doing a little PR at the about-to-be-officially opened Pepsi Center today, the future home of the Nuggets and Avs. According to a friend of mine at a local news station who was observing an interview with Sturm, a worker lost control of a steel beam from the rafters and fell over 50 feet, striking the ground about 2 feet from where our new GM stood. He said that the interview footage on a tight shot actually showed the beam land on film. Thank goodness Sturm chose to toe his mark where we did, because the Nuggets couldn't handle any more turmoil at this point. Luckily, no one was hurt. On a brighter note, the construction is nearly complete, and you can read/see more about the Pepsi Center in my next article.
Season Ticket holders were invited to an Open House today at the nearly complete Pepsi Center. It's hard to state this clearly, but... the new stadium is incredible! A grand, high ceiling entry way is your first view once you get inside, with a huge merchandise store off to the left for those excited fans. You then ride escalators up to the main level where you are greeted by a large selection of bar/food venues, that are a bit more upscale than McNichols arena. The concourse is beautiful and spacious. Then you catch a glimpse of the inside. Wow. A modern 4 screen jumbotron hangs from the high ceiling above the court offering easy to view highlights and replays for everyone in the stadium. The sound and sights are much improved over McNichols. A few things that you don't catch from just walking around. The Nuggets now have a full scale practice gym on the west side of the stadium. No more slumming it at DU - the Nuggets have access to the very best at any time of the day or night now. Also, the center provides for simultaneous practices of the Avs and Nuggets, so there are no conflicts with sharing the place with their ice brothers.
I took 8 good pictures on my digital camera during the visit. Visit my new page on the Pepsi Center to see the pictures.
Nuggets Fan Poll #2 - 9/14/99
The Nuggets have been blessed by many gifted athletes and fun-to-watch players over the years. Now you, can vote for your favorite past Nuggets player. If I'm missing a past Nuggets great that you'd like to vote for, let me know.
You can still view/vote on the previous poll.
You'll notice that the top of my page now contains a banner ad - pointing you to a new Nuggets storefront that I've created with the help of a new Internet ecommerce company - Affinia. I hope you Nuggets fans like it! The poll that I ran for most of July was very positive - 14 votes stated they would be interested in my storefront, with only 1 "no" vote.
I'll also be making other updates to the site to try and make it more easy to get at all of the Nuggets information here.
We lost Center Raef LaFrentz way too early in a promising rookie season. His ACL surgery was performed last March 5th, and Raef is nearing the full use of his legs again for running, jumping, dunking and playing basketball for the Nuggets. His recovery has been termed ahead of schedule throughout his rehab. Nuggets strength and conditioning coach, Steve Hess, has said that LaFrentz's legs are stronger than they were before last season began. LaFrentz has been cleared to do everything but a full scrimmage, according to team doctor's.
The big question is will Raef be able to come back and play the way he started to show he could last season? Will he be mentally tough enough to trust his healed knee and use it to plant on and push off on when he moves around the basketball court this upcoming season. Eric Williams was reported to have come back from his very similar ACL surgery in 1997 in the best shape of his NBA career. But Eric didn't prove to be the same player he was when he led the Nuggets in scoring the first 7-8 games of the 97-98 season. Will Raef be able to come back and play with the potential that he showed, or will we lose yet another promising Nuggets player to a tragic knee injury? Personally, I think Raef will persevere, and will soon be an All-Star in this league.
Ron Mercer showed up in Denver flanked by his two agents to clear the air, take a physical, and finally, become an official Denver Nugget. This was the second scheduled press conference, because the first was delayed to a communication breakdown.
|Ron Mercer is a new Denver Nugget this season...|
Mercer said that Boston-area media led him to believe that the Nuggets were ready to offer him a contract extension before the season starts. Nuggets officials have repeatedly said that is not the case, and Issel himself has stated that they will take a wait and see attitude with Mercer. Mercer is in the final year of the standard 3 year rookie contract he signed with Boston, and will thus be a free agent at the end of the upcoming season. As Rock has stated eloquently on his page and others, Issels stance in this manner is maddening because we stand a great chance to lose Mercer to a higher bidder at the end of the season. If that happens, we basically traded away Danny Fortson for next to nothing. Issel, please tell me that's not part of the master plan! The clock is ticking, the Nuggets have until October 1st, 1999 to make their move, otherwise, they have to wait until July 1st, 2000 - after the upcoming season.
I go out of town for a week, and all heck breaks loose - Mr. Issel was a busy GM!
Here's the rundown:
The Nuggets bidding war has been finalized between the Lauries and a local Denver business billionaire. The auction will take place this Wednesday, July 28th. Dan Issel, Nuggets GM is very pleased with the two possible future Nuggets owners. He had a chance to sit down with both owner groups in the past month to discuss Nuggets free agent possibilities and what it will take financially to make/keep the Nuggets competitive over the next few years. He came away from those meetings feeling that the Nuggets will be in "great hands" with either group.
You may have heard that the ownership battle for the Nuggets/Avs/Pepsi Center continues. The Lauries, heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, await 2 new bidders for a final showdown at the end of this month. Two interesting names that have surfaced recently in the bidding war - John Elway, and Princess Thara Saud. Although John Elway is an interesting potential owner, I still feel like the Nuggets would best be in the hands of the Lauries. The Lauries have the deepest pockets for maintaining a competitive team in the future, and they have already shown the community that they have a love for basketball and the Nuggets.
No major news yet on the free agent front, although positive news continues to come from Dan Issel on his hopes to resign point guard Nick Van Exel by August 1st, the day free agents can sign contracts. Issel has been meeting with all potential owners of the Nuggets to express his strong desire to resign Van Exel. He also hopes to sign shooter George McCloud away from the Phoenix Suns with a
The Nuggets selected James Posey from Xavier at the 18th pick in the first round, and Chris Herren from Fresno State in the second round. Posey should help the Nuggs defensively, and Herren is a gamble that could pay off at the guard position, because of his storied past. I have faith that Issel knows what he's doing and is a good judge of character. Having Lucas as an assistant coach that can relate to substance abuse problems helps too. Herren could help the team defensively at the guard position as well. Overall, the draft has been regarded as a success for the Nuggets by draft experts. Personally, I'm psyched and can't wait to see the new boys in the new Pepsi Center this Fall! James Posey was signed to a 3 year deal on 7/19/99.
In case you haven't heard, the Nuggets are persuing ex-Nugget Rodney Rogers. Rodney has expressed interest in leaving the Clippers and has said that Denver is one of the teams he is considering. The Nuggets are also considering signing George McCloud, a shooting guard who currently plays in Phoenix.---
The Nuggets made Mahmoud (then Chris Jackson) the third pick in the 1991 NBA draft. Mahmoud had 6 mostly good seasons with the Nuggets, with his potent offensive game, but ended on a mostly sour note with the controversy over his not standing for the Star Spangled Banner during his last season with the Nuggets in 1996. He then played two more years in the NBA with the Sacramento Kings, before playing this past year over in Turkey. He didn't finish the season, but announced that he had lost the desire to play. He plans to return to Gulfport, LA where he played both high school and college ball to concentrate on martial arts and helping local youth.
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