Nuggets/Hornets Series Preview
A game-day GreyTone Prognostication.
by Aggrey Sam and Toney Blare
TB: Two 50-plus win teams and, could it be, the Birdman is the key?
AS: Very possible, but I see it being Tyson’s health. All grudges aside, I can’t see D. West going for delf. Of course, we can’t forget the big matchup between Chris and Chauncey Billups. The Bees’ success is usually based on the fact that most point guards are to CP are like broads to Lawrence Phillips.
TB: Wow, there’s your analogy for the day, people.
AS: Yeah, that was a little over the top. I thought we were going Rae and Ghost on this one. Would have been epic, another Cuban Linx! And N.O. was technically 49-33, so I’ll drop it.
TB: Regarding Birdman, the Hornets’ bench is factor No. 1A in their somewhat anti-climactic regular season. Basically, no one showed up much, except for Sean Marks and Posey when it wasn’t raining or there were no cracks in the sidewalk (i.e., less and less as the season went on). Contrast this with Birdman being probably Denver’s best rebounder and the usual JR Smith craziness and Denver, while not especially deep, at least has some dynamics.
AS: True indeed. I wonder if Mo Pete has any vet mojo left. It would be nice if Lord Byron let Julian Wright loose like last season, but I think this season has proved that last year was special, no matter how much Hornets fans would like to live in the past. Actually, the buzz (no pun intended) around the city about CP and the Bees in general, seems to have faded. Not to beat a dead horse, but this all started when they didn’t re-up Pargo, last year’s playoff hero. His production off the pine would have been very welcome. Where have you gone, Mike James and Bonzi Wells?
TB: Regarding Tyson’s health, factor No. 1B, who knows? Looked aiight vs. Spurs, did not seem to make Peja’s jumper fall. This is actually a fairly big point in his career, or rather, in how the Hornets proceed with him. We all scoffed at OKC sending him back, and then he missed most of the games after that initial eight-win vengeance run. If they’re going to move him, they can’t exactly shrug off the “fragile” tag at the negotiating table. And if he joins the other four starters (who until Game 82, hadn’t been together in a month and were 10-4 in 2009 when united) and they take out the No. 2 seed then–this could happen–beat Dallas or S.A., how does management keep up the “basketball reasons” excuse when shopping the big fella this off-season?
AS: All Ty needs to do is be a force on the boards and pretty much cancel out Nene, who’s had a wildly underrated season. A couple of Crescent City Connection oops from Chris would be nice be eye candy, too, but just the threat of an athletic big rolling to the basket when CP has a ball screen should open up things for the shooters (Rasual Butler, Posey, Peja, Mo Pete). As far as the off-season, I think they need to blow this thing up. I don’t want this to happen, but I don’t wanna see the Hornets waste CP’s early prime. As far as I’m concerned, he’s the only untouchable on the roster, West included. Speaking of, back to the battle of point guards.
TB: I think Chauncey is probably the key, but I wonder if he’s all that hungry. We know Chris is, but whether anyone besides West can put the ball in the basket, we’ll have to wait and see. Chauncey’s had a great year and I guess experts will expect him to post Chris up, but Paul’s a prince among thieves. I’m not worried.
AS: See, I always appreciated Chauncey, but I was more of a believer in Detroit’s team dynamic then his own personal greatness. However, since his arrival in the Rockies, you can’t deny how completely different the Nuggets look. ‘Melo looks like the ‘Melo he’s supposed to be (but not the superstar we hoped he’d become), JR Smith has a niche and the bigs do what they’re supposed to do. Basically, he makes things function correctly. This is why George Karl shouldn’t get Coach of the Year votes.
TB: The problem for the last, oh, 20 games for New Orleans has been the lack of support for the two All-Stars. I missed a few games but hit the last one here vs. Dallas. Hard to believe 2-on-5 that game was offensively. If no one steps up, Denver has too many options and can win in a high-scoring series. I’d like to say that Byron has scrappy vets like Ryan Bowen and Mo-Pete who are made for grind of the playoffs, but at this point, my faith in Lord Folded Arms is at an all-time low. His big move will be shortening the rotation to squeeze out whatever’s left, then complain about guys not showing up.
AS: When I said N.O. needs to blow this thing up, Byron wasn’t excluded. He actually should be forced to stick around for the rebuilding process to see if he can actually coach. I think Byron and Karl are in the same, but you’re right–Denver just has more options. Outside of Posey, who on the Hornets can make a comparable impact to Linas Kleiza, Birdman, even an energy guy like Renaldo Balkman or steady vets like Dahntay Jones and Anthony Carter?
TB: Altitude/Attitude: as others have noted, this series involves a difference in 5,280 feet between the two cities. I’ve made that trip before and it was no joke. Other contrasts include: Jon Benet Ramsay/Hurricane Katrina, John Denver/Dr. John, Coors/Hurricanes, the Rockies/the Mississippi, Columbine/that wild Mardi Gras parade shooting this year with the dudes wearing house arrest bracelets, what?! Anyway, attitude is another interesting subplot, easily illustrated by K-Mart vs. D-West. One will touch your face, the other wears red kiss marks on his neck. Wait…
AS: I’d get a tat on my neck for Trina, too–back in 2001. Seriously though, that power forward matchup should be interesting. At some point, West decided that rebounding and even his ground-bound, old-man D were both optional. He even went away from his post game, for the most part. If N.O. has no presence in the paint (again, Tyson’s health), that will be a problem, so he can’t resort to being a straight jump-shooter. K-Mart, on the other hand, seems to have been experienceing flashbacks as of late. If he’s active on the boards and can manufacture some easy buckets via Chauncey (think back to his Jersey days; he’s most effective when playing with a true point), that will be big.
TB: What about Posey on Melo? Much maligned (and in street clothes) during the second half of the season, the supposed next Robert Horry wasn’t ready for a full 82-games assignment in the sixth man/stopper/No. 1 scorer-off-the-bench role. Can he make up for this by harassing Melo, or will B-More’s finest shine and hit a couple clutch shots? Really, sorta weird that Melo isn’t the first or second player we think about when discussing this series. I never had much faith, but you’d expect him to make some noise against Peja or Rasual, so it’s up to Posey to keep him out of the second round.
AS: Yeah, this series will really shape my view of Melo. If he’s cool with taking a back seat to Chauncey and is truly just a secondary guy (even though he isn’t facing the same daunting matchup at his position), then maybe he’s a T-Mac, a sidekick who’s ill-equipped to be that dude on a successful squad. We’d just see it earlier in his career, which is a good thing. Putting it all on Posey to limit him isn’t a wise move. Although he was picked up for that purpose and more, as you mentioned, if he’s charged with shutting down Melo alone, I don’t think we can expect him to contribute much on offense. This isn’t Boston or Miami, you know. He’s like third option at times here. Rasual’s D is better than people think and like I said earlier, Julian Wright should (but likely won’t) see some tick on the wing. Julian and Hilton both need to get burn or the starters will get burned out, second round or not. Denver just has too many bodies and athletes.
TB: Denver’s always been my least favorite lockerroom to cover (except, strangely, for Karl, who went to high school with my dad and uncle; Penn Hills!), and I wonder if they can endure a war with the Hornets, or if the Bees will be thrown off by the rap snitch vibe.
AS: I’m not a big fan of their locker room either, from when I did a piece on Rodney White and DerMarr Johnson back in the day. They won, but you would have sworn they lost by a dub. I heard a real funny George Karl story from neighbor last week, back in his ABA playing days; with the New Orleans Bucs, ironically. Anyway, just to cover all the bases, watch out for JR and Kleiza.
I could see JR going for 20-plus a couple times and Kleiza having one of those surprise games where he’s the difference. Rasual and Peja have the potential to do the same thing. The difference is, the Hornets need them to do it, while it’s a luxury for Denver. Prediction?
TB: Bees in seven.
AS: I’m with you, for no other reason than CP. They probably shouldn’t win and won’t deserve to win, but Karl is a choke artist and is smelling himself right now, while Byron knows enough to leave Chris alone. Chauncey thinks the game like no other, but Chris is close and I think he can will N.O. to three wins (they can steal one in Denver; I don’t see the altitude affecting him) and get enough from West and Co. to win another at home.