The Notebook: Nuggets Opening Night

Our man in Denver, Cub Buenning, checked out opening night in the Rockies…
“Run, run, run. Attack, attack, attack.”

These were the offseason words out of Denver Nuggets head coach George Karl, as he looked to rev up his squad for the ‘06-‘07 campaign. Just one day removed from their one-point opening night loss to the Clippers, in which the team put their new up-tempo motion game on display, the boys in powder blue welcomed in their good friends from the Northwest Division, the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The previous night saw Nuggets’ superstar, Carmelo Anthony watch the game’s final third from the locker room. The fourth-year forward was victim number four of the league’s attempt to strong-arm their prevailing bitchin’ problem. With this obvious commitment early in the season, the issue hopefully will lighten. This focus may also keep the “spotlight grabbing” refs from instigating their share of the verbal quarrels between player and ref.

Friday’s game with the T-Wolves followed a similar blueprint to that of the Clippers’ loss, as the Nuggets held a lead late in the fourth quarter before falling in the game’s waning moments. Being outscored by a 10-spot in the fourth quarter ultimately led to the Nuggets demise, as the Big Ticket, Kevin Garnett, paced the Wolves with his standard 27 points and 15 boards. Despite taking 30 shots on the night, Anthony led the Nuggets with 28. Melo even had three unsuccessful shots from behind the arc in the last ten seconds to tie the game, which the Wolves took 112-109.

Also coming up big for the Wolves was rookie and recent Boston College product Craig Smith, who beasted the Nuggets’ front line for 20 points, despite logging a mere 16 minutes.

• Before I made my way for the home side’s digs, I ventured to the Wolves locker room to say hello to rookie guard, Randy Foye who was the subject of a HYPE piece I penned in issue #102. I expect big things from this cat in the near future.

• Other happenings in the Wolves locker room included Mike James pontificating to his teammates about a clip he had been watching earlier in the day. It was the infamous Dr. J/Larry Bird fight, where Charles Barkley had Bird in a full nelson, while Doc got his pugilistic side on.

• The Nuggets locker room was slightly rearranged to make room for the team’s new members, but still a pretty quiet one. Just as I entered the room, I spotted a new writer for one of the area papers head towards Kenyon Martin’s locker. Don’t take it personal young buck. Needless to say, K-Mart did not oblige the writer’s request.

• Coach Karl’s pleadings on the dry board:
“Make it (Pepsi Center) an impossible place to play.”
“We like 3’s, we love to run.”

• Nene had an illegible passage written in Portuguese on his Adidas.

• New guy JR Smith rockin’ the yellow Melo 1.5’s.

• The Nuggets new yellow shooting shirts are dope.

• Word around the pressroom pre-game was about a possible MC Hammer sighting. Is it just Hammer, or is it OK to still refer to him as a Master of Ceremonies? The rumors became reality when the entertainer (I refuse to call him a rapper) performed at halftime. Our paths crossed in the back hallway and I had to give him some love, got the nod back. Unfortunately, he did not sing “Pray.”

• Pre-game, I was trying out different seats courtside while the players warmed up. As can happen, a ball rolled in my direction and I had to pick up the new rock. For the record, I don’t like it either. Feels like a scrappy old indoor/outdoor ball.

• Taking in opening night before their impending trip to Pittsburgh (and subsequent victory) were several Broncos, including Champ Bailey and Javon Walker who found a fortuitous seat just behind the Nuggets dancers, decked out in white vinyl jumpsuits.

• Former Nugget/Wolf, Ervin Johnson was behind the Minnesota bench with his family; his daughters head-to-toe in Wolves gear.

• The second quarter was an up-tempo one compared to the sloppy overall play in the first quarter. The Nuggets second group made the aforementioned Craig Smith look like Karl Malone.

• At 6:11 of the third quarter, Melo split a double team on the left wing, taking an aggressive path to the hoop. Anthony was met at the rim by the Big Ticket who rudely denied Anthony admittance. Melo was lucky not to get a technical foul for his subsequent complaining, and KG let the youngster know about coming into lane like that.
• Speaking of techs, Martin made a huge error with just 3 minutes remaining and the home team down one point, when he earned one for bitchin’ to the refs. The play started when Garnett tripped, and Martin ended up sitting on top of him. When Martin did not let KG to his feet, a foul was called. It all kind of reminded me of what offensive linemen in football do when a defender is already on the ground. Crucial mistake.

• The Nuggets offense was also spearheaded by the diminutive one, Earl Boykins, who had one of his hallmark games, matching Melo with 28 points. Pushing the pace, hitting shots on the run, setting guys up. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, however, when Boykins has a big night scoring, they are rarely successful. Earl’s feast was at the expense of JR Smith’s famine, as the young buck saw just 12 minutes of scoreless and reboundless action, one night after leading the Nugs with 21 in Los Angeles.

• Post-game in the Nuggets locker room was not especially down, as things are still obvious early in the season. As a sign of the season, however, the dry erase boards had been changed to direct the players into their lounge so that they could receive their flu shots. As someone who is adamantly opposed to the shot for biological reasons, I half chuckled to myself about how many of these guys come down sick in upcoming weeks. My inner stand-up was quickly interrupted by Melo was just behind me yelled out, “FLU SHOTS?!?! Flu shots will make sure you get the flu!”

I couldn’t agree more with you, Dr. A.