Tag Archives: Denver Nuggets

The Marshall Plan

How crazy is B-Marsh? Should we even care?

How crazy is B-Marsh? Should we even care?

Hypocrisy stands at the root of my issues with embattled Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall. His freakish strength and unparalleled ability to create plays after the catch do not mitigate his criminal record. It is the NFL’s duty to discipline Marshall when he steps out of line. As long as Marshall beats a criminal charge and escapes the League Office, it is legitimate that he dresses on Sundays. Protest the franchise, burn a jersey, or even picket on the stadium’s steps, but rest assured that nothing will keep Marshall out of the starting lineup if he is healthy and unsuspended.

It is nevertheless damning that Marshall continues to surface as a suspect in domestic abuse cases across the country. It is far too easy for Marshall to settle these disputes inside or outside of a courtroom for us to not remain at least cautiously critical of his character; I know Harvey Steinberg nodded his head and smiled when he read this last sentence. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ may allow Marshall to remain on the field and earn his living, but our common sense should forbid him from advising children.

This is not to say that a person who has erred greatly does not deserve a second chance. Remorse at the hands of deep reflection occasionally qualifies a public offender to tell others cautionary tales about what not to do. Our city however can no longer trust Brandon Marshall. His “genuine” remorse expired two arrests ago.

Marshall has always managed to avoid jail time. He has also managed to worm his way back into the positive spotlight time and time again. His publicist and the Denver Post have made all of this possible. But enough is enough. If the judicial system exonerates Marshall and Roger Goodell clears him to play, so be it. He is nothing more than an All-Pro wide receiver on an offensively depleted roster. As a fan, I hope he continues to score touchdowns in orange and blue. I also hope for his sake that he earns a fair salary, considering he risks his life every time he steps onto the turf. Yet, I hope most of all that Denver ceases to offer him the opportunity to say he is sorry.

Shannahan could not get Marshall to act like a gentleman off the field. Will McD even try?

Shannahan could not get Marshall to act like a gentleman off the field. Will McD even try?

This is the only way that Marshall will ‘get it’ from here on out. The prepared statements Marshall reads to reporters and releases through his attorneys can no longer suffice. The Denver Post needs to remove itself from this public relations fiasco by saying “no” to Marshall’s publicist. Articles about Marshall’s involvement with Open Door Youth Gang Alternatives should never again appear in an issue of the Post. The kids at ODYGA deserve better from Marshall and their city’s paper. Both have used these at risk kids as PR pawns. Celebrity athletes only get one shot at being a mentor. Marshall failed. The media therefore must stop trying to turn Brandon Marshall into a positive societal story.

Casting Marshall as a mentor is partially what got us to this point of no return. The media and the Broncos tried to convince the public that Marshall is something he is not: a humanitarian. He is nothing more than a confused athlete with anger management issues. Though he has never been proven guilty, he has lost his credibility within our city. He publicly apologized and promised he could change. More importantly, Marshall used ODYGA as a road to redemption. Yet, he continues to let all of us down. Why would we want to be aware of anything this man thinks beyond his postgame reactions on Sundays?

Laud Marshall’s on-field courage and feel free to label him an athletic specimen, but it is best to refrain from speculating about his off-field persona. Stick to football-related questions when it comes to Number 15 because that is all he understands. Plus, we have already devoted far too much spotlight to his questionable character, poor judgment, and pithy public apologies.

Hi, my name is Brandon Marshall, which in ancient Greek means "one who takes part in 7 domestic disputes in 3 states in a 4-year span." Pretty sweet name, right? I totally rack up numbers on and off the field.

Hi, my name is Brandon Marshall, which in ancient Greek means: "One who engages in 7 domestic disputes in 3 states in a 4-year span." Pretty sweet name, right? I totally rack up numbers on and off the field.

We can focus on the box score and forget about the humanitarian formerly known as Brandon Marshall, but how does a fan put morals aside and pull for an athlete like Marshall? What, if anything, does a professional athlete owe his or her fans and community?

These are pertinent questions as JR Smith enters the penitentiary, Michael Vick is released from federal custody, and Marshall heads to training camp in a week and a courtroom later this fall.

Charles Barkley once said, “Just because I can dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Chuck was absolutely correct. It is not a professional athlete’s responsibility to raise a community’s children. Parents must teach their children to distinguish right from wrong. Furthermore, an NBA power forward’s job is to perform in the paint, not educate local youths or volunteer on all his off-days. Though athletes can significantly improve a community by organizing charity events and spearheading positive local causes, it is ultimately an athlete’s personal decision whether he or she embraces community activism.

The general public often forgets this crucial fact because fans and media are so quickly lost amidst the fortune and fame of professional sports. It is nonetheless important to bear in mind that these gifted men and women are still individual citizens. They (usually) pay their taxes just like the rest of us, which entitles them to choose their own path and spend their money as they see fit. It is therefore naïve and idealistic to assume all player contracts are social contracts, as well. As long as an athlete fulfills his or her league and/or team’s community service requirements and obeys the law, the public cannot condemn an athlete for not exerting extra humanitarian effort.

By extension of Chuck’s logic, it becomes the public’s duty to highly scrutinize those professional athletes who have publicly sought and accepted roles as mentors within our community. We should commend athletes who uphold their public promises and remain consistent by criticizing those who fail to meet the lofty, well-publicized expectations they set for themselves. The integrity of our city hinges upon our collective ability to wade through celebrity rhetoric, discerning right from wrong, the genuine from the fraudulent, and the faces we can trust from those that will only let us down.

Furthermore, human experience demonstrates that few things are more frustrating and potentially harmful than teachers who neglect to practice what they preach.

JR just realized that 3 times 10 equals 30. Congrats, JR! Now you can quantify the number of days you have to sit in jail. If you didn't have such a great attorney, you would have spent 3 times as many days in jail. Work on that equation and get back to me.

JR just realized that 3 times 10 equals 30. Congrats, JR! Now you can quantify the number of days you have to spend in jail. If you didn't have such a great attorney, you would have been sentenced to 3 times as many days. Solve that equation and get back to me.

Brandon Marshall and JR Smith are like family members who you secretly dislike, but you are obligated to treat with civility. The NFL and NBA League Offices are your grandparents, and the Broncos and Nuggets’ management are only your mother and father. As long as your grandparents keep a relative in the family, no one else can kick him or her out. You do not have to love these players or respect their personal choices, but you might as well try and make the best of their performances in Denver.

That said, feel free to say whatever you like when your bothersome “relatives” are not around…or when you are not watching the game of the week.

The citizens of Denver are entitled to hold the city’s professional athletes to a certain standard of decency. A season ticket holder obviously reserves the right to complain about any member of the organization he or she has invested his or her money in; this goes for rude ushers and subpar chefs, as well as criminal shooting guards and abusive wideouts. However, Colorado’s non-season ticket holders and non-sports fans also deserve to be heard.

The citizens of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson County have paid $11.45 annually since 1991 to subsidize the construction of Coors Field; this tax expires in 2011 or when the stadium is paid off. The city of Denver gave the Broncos a $15 million stadium site for $1, and we tax ourselves a penny on every $10 spent in metro-Denver to pay for the field Brandon Marshall makes his money on. Pat Bowlen and Co. only paid for 25% of the new $400 million Mile High Stadium, while taxpayers agreed to contribute over $250 million to the project.*

Also, do you recall what happened to the sale of the Avalanche and Nuggets during the months before the Pepsi Center opened in 1999? Mayor Wellington Webb successfully blocked Donald Sturm’s purchase of the Avalanche, Nuggets, and Pepsi Center. Sturm refused to include a clause in the sale that prohibited moving the Avalanche and Nuggets out of Denver for the next twenty-five years. Webb argued that the city of Denver  had every right to be weary of selling these franchises to Sturm, considering the millions of dollars taxpayers had contributed to the teams in tax breaks, infrastructure costs, and other subsidies. Of Mayor Webb’s actions, author Dennis R. Judd wrote, “The city’s ability to veto the Sturm deal gave it leverage over future sales; it also indicates that other cities can establish conditions on selling publicly subsidized facilities that can enhance their odds of gaining a return on these investments.”

    Look, it's Denver attorney Harvey Steinberg! Oh my bad, that's just Michael Clayton. I get them confused because they both make a living performing miracles for less than admirable people.

Look, it's Denver attorney Harvey Steinberg! Oh my bad, that's just Michael Clayton. I get them confused because they both make a living performing miracles for less than admirable people.

The Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche, and Rockies are privately owned, but they are still public entities. The jerseys our city’s pros don represent more than the organizations they play for. Those logos are funded by your tax dollars, giving you the right to critique each and every player in Denver.

All that I ask is that we criticize carefully. Consider all of the facts and occasionally put yourself in an athlete or owner’s shoes when forming your own opinions. The Broncos should not trade Brandon Marshall because the NFL League Office has not significantly punished him. He has a discouraging off-field track record, but the Broncos still need to satisfy their fan base by winning games and making the playoffs. Furthermore, the Denver media can limit Marshall’s celebrity by refusing to publish stories about his personality. In the mean time, the public can do and say whatever it wishes.

Just do yourself a favor and heed your mother’s advice: think before you speak.

Here's the real Harvey Steinberg exitting a Denver courtroom with "fan favorite" Todd Sauerbrun. Such a gentleman, emphasis on the "gentle." Just ask the cab driver Todd assaulted.

Here's the real Harvey Steinberg exitting a Denver courtroom with "fan favorite" Todd Sauerbrun. Such a gentleman, emphasis on the "gentle." Just ask the cab driver Todd assaulted.

* Figures taken from Dennis R. Rudd’s 2003 book The Infrastructure of Play: Building the Tourist City

Videos:

Watch Brandon Marshall defend himself

Watch an interview with Marshall’s ex-girlfriend

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Go Get Gasol!

Look at Yao's face. He is extremely frustrated. This is exactly why the Nuggets need Marc Gasol.

Look at Yao's face. He is extremely frustrated. This is exactly why the Nuggets need Marc Gasol.

As I mentioned in my mailbag a couple days ago (even before the Afflalo trade), the Nuggets should seriously consider making a run at Marc Gasol. The trade the Nuggets completed yesterday puts the team in an excellent position to land the 7’1” Baby Gasol. This would in turn put the Nuggets in an excellent position to contend for an NBA title.

The Nuggets clearly need another offensively capable big man to complement Martin and Birdman’s defensive abilities, as well as take some of the heat off of Nene in the offensive paint. Marc Gasol is perfectly suited to fulfill this role. He is long, strong, and down to get the friction on (thanks, Sir Mix a Lot) in the low post. He has good strength at 265 pounds, makes powerful moves underneath the basket, is effective at drawing contact from defenders en route to the rim, and is a willing passer who looks to kick the ball out to an open teammate before taking his own shot from down low. He also possesses a nice right-handed hook shot.

Acquiring the Spaniard would finally give the Nuggets the size to push around the Lakers, Spurs, Cavs, Celtics, and Magic. Adding Gasol would also make the Nuggets a much more versatile and less predictable team. Karl could start Gasol, shift Nene over to power forward, and bring Martin off the bench against a big team like the Lakers. Against smaller, quicker teams, such as the Spurs, Gasol come off the bench to spell Martin when the team needed height and/or an offensive boost in the post.

The 24-year-old has plenty of room to grow, and he’ll undoubtedly improve once Steve Hess gets him in the gym. Seriously, think about how much Hess helped Nene’s game. Gasol would be an absolute beast at a leaner, stronger 265 pounds.

Let’s take a quick look at some numbers. In fact, who better to compare Marc Gasol to than his big bro, perennial all-star Pau Gasol…

Per 40 minutes, Pau averaged 19.1 points 9.7 total rebounds and 3.1 offensive rebounds, 2.3 blocks, .5 steals, and 2.9 assists during his rookie NBA season. Last year was Marc’s first season in the NBA and he put up some pretty solid numbers himself. Marc’s per 40-minute stat line reads as follows: 15.5 points, 9.6 total rebounds and 3.3 offensive rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.04 steals, and 2.2 assists. Though Pau scored a few more points, Marc still held his own. One must keep in mind that Marc was the Grizzlies third scoring option last year behind OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay. Even LeBron’s numbers would dip if he played in a starting-five that included Mayo and Gay. Also, remember that Pau was the go-to-guy during his first year in Memphis. Every play ran through him. Therefore, Marc did a pretty solid job by managing 11.7 points 7.4 rebounds 1.1 blocks in 30 minutes per game last season. Those numbers are exactly what the Nuggets would need out of him. Furthermore, his defense would improve while playing for a better team and coach in Denver.

It is honestly a godsend that Gasol plays for the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis GM Chris Wallace literally gives away Gasols to other Western Conference teams. Furthermore, Gasol became expendable last month when the Grizzlies drafted 7’3” C Hasheem Thabeet, and followed this selection by trading SF/SG Quentin Richardson to the Clippers for PF Zach Randolph. These subsequent moves leave Memphis with a crowded big man rotation. The franchise wants to develop Thabeet by keeping him on the court, Z-Bo is known to erupt if he does not receive ample playing time, and the team drafted 21-year-old PF Darrell Arthur last year. Arthur, the gifted former Jayhawk, played effectively in 19 minutes per game last season, and the team does not wish to suppress his development by slashing his minutes this year. Not to mention Memphis still has 7’2” Iranian center Hamed Haddadi on the roster.

Chris Wallace explains why he enjoys giving away Gasols. I think he is saying that the southern franchise finds the Gasols' facial hair unbecoming, and their Euro attitudes too liberal. Whatever, just give us Marc, Chris.

Chris Wallace explaining why he enjoys giving away Gasols. I think he is saying that the southern franchise finds the Gasols' facial hair unbecoming and their Euro attitudes too liberal and non-rigid. Whatever, Chris. Just give us Marc.

The Grizzlies’ offseason decisions also leave them devoid of smaller frontcourt reserves, shooting guards, and players in general. There are only eight players currently on the team’s roster (nine if you count Hakim Warrick, who will likely return at the QE). This is where the Nuggets come in. The Nuggets could re-sign Kleiza to the QE and then promptly trade him, Steven Hunter’s expiring contract, and Sonny Weems in exchange for Gasol. Both teams win in this trade.

Kleiza offers the Grizzlies instant offense from the bench, and is an upgrade over GF Marko Jaric. He is a better athlete than Jaric and more versatile because at 6’8” Kleiza can play 2-4. He is also a valuable (and cheap!) insurance policy behind OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay, which the team needs now that Quentin Richardson is off to LA. The Grizzlies also receive an attractive $3.7 million expiring contract; the franchise can also increase its cap flexibility for the summer of 2010 should the front office choose to let Kleiza walk at the end of next season. Sonny Weems is a D-League star, who would likely blossom while playing significant minutes in Memphis since they lack shooting guards. This trade therefore gives Memphis much needed bench scoring, lands young talent at the right positions, and frees up at least $3.7 million in cap room next summer. Heck, throw in a 2011 1st round draft pick and if necessary a 2nd rounder to ensure Chris Wallace jumps at the deal. Landing Gasol at $3.3 million is far too rewarding a possibility to pass up.

Plus, it would be ideal to acquire Gasol at this stage of his career. His contract, like Martin’s, expires after the 2011 season. The Nuggets should add Gasol now so that he develops solid chemistry with Carmelo, JR, and Nene in hopes of keeping this nucleus together long-term with the cap space the Nuggets will have once the Great Martin Contract ends.

I’m going crazy here. The Nuggets and Grizzlies are two teams that need to make deals, each team possesses the necessary pieces, and Chris Wallace is involved. If anyone besides Mitch Kupchak can convince Wallace to give him Marc Gasol, it has to be NBA Executive of the Year Mark Warkentein.

Pau to Marc: You wanna come way out west wit me, right baby bro?!

Pau to Marc: You wanna come way out west wit me, right baby bro?!

This potential trade leaves the Nuggets with 11 players on the roster (I’ve included Birdman and Lawson). The Nuggets could follow up this trade by using the remainder of the MLE and/or minimum contract offers to fill their 4 remaining roster spots. The Nuggets still need a third point guard, and they should re-sign Anthony Carter to the minimum to fill this role. He knows the offense, is a good character guy, and Karl likes him. The Nuggets should then consider signing SF Matt Barnes. Barnes solidifies the Nuggets’ defense and 3-point shooting, and his presence could prove to be invaluable if Balkman and Afflalo are not ready to log playoff minutes; he would still end up costing at least $1.2 million less than Kleiza. The Nuggets could also offer this money to PF Tim Thomas, who was bought out by the Chicago Bulls earlier today. I discussed the merits of acquiring Thomas in my July 2nd column.

It is also true that the Nuggets possess some talent on their summer league team. The Nuggets therefore might consider signing a couple of these players to fill out the roster. Kareem Rush’s 3-point shooting and 6’6” body would be a nice addition, and Coby Karl is a smart player.

This deal makes far too much sense for it not to go down. As a fan, I cannot think of any offseason move that would excite me more than pairing Nene with a young 7-foot beast like Marc Gasol. Plus, the move helps Kroenke’s balance sheet because adding Gasol would increase the Nuggets’ international marketability. Come on, E. Stanley. He isn’t even that expensive. You can bank on Marc Gasol. Do it for the fans, por favor?

Food for thought:

Is anyone else tired of JR Smith? I know I am getting there. The Nuggets should consider trading JR Smith if he is what it takes to land Marc Gasol. JR is a brilliant (and lucky) shooter. And yes, his explosive offense did single-handedly win the Nuggets a few games last season. However, let’s not forget that JR is currently sitting in a jail cell because he ran a traffic light and killed his best friend. JR claims he has grown up, but I don’t buy it. He appeared on a live internet feed during an early morning traffic stop in New Jersey three weeks ago. Smith and Eddie Curry, an NBA prima donna who needs to get his life together and lose enough weight to run up and down the court, were passengers in the car that had been pulled over. The NBA players joked that they would give $1,000 to the first person in the SUV to run out of the stopped vehicle and tap the hood of the police cruiser. Way to go, Young Rich. Ask yourself, “Are these the actions of a true champion?” I think not. JR is currently too foolish and immature to play on a team destined to win an NBA title. I just do not see a team that he is a part of winning a ring. But the Grizzlies will not compete for a ring anytime soon and JR’s wild game would certainly sell some tickets in Memphis. The Nuggets might actually grow more disciplined, hungry, and competitive if they picked up Matt Barnes and dumped JR to land Gasol. Just something to consider…

Smith and his defense attorneys. Shouldn't he be in the gym? The face of an NBA champion? I think not.

Smith and his defense attorneys. Shouldn't he be in the gym? The face of an NBA champion? I think not.

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Arron Afflalo: Defensive Genius

Arron looks pretty good in powder blue.

Arron looks pretty good in powder blue.

Mark Warkentein treated Nuggets nation to a deep breath and moment of repose yesterday afternoon. The Nuggets upgraded and filled out their roster by acquiring SG Arron Afflalo and PF Walter Sharpe from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for a second-round draft pick. This trade is yet another savvy basketball and financial move by Mr. Warkentein, especially in the wake of Dahntay Jones’s departure to Indiana.

Due to the emergence of Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, Afflalo flew under the radar in Detroit. Expect him to be front and center in Denver. Afflalo, a defensive specialist, immediately becomes the Nuggets’ back-up shooting guard. Coach Karl will likely depend on him to slow down an opposing team’s most offensively potent guard. He is also an effective three-point shooter, who possesses a serious upside at 23 years of age.

Most importantly, Afflalo uses his head. He respects the game and understands that playing in the NBA is a privilege and not a right. Riding the bench behind Hamilton, Iverson, Stuckey, and Bynum taught him how to earn his minutes. He plays with desire at both ends of the court, and the Nuggets are markedly better for acquiring him. Wait a second. This 23-year-old sounds a little too good to be true. Upon further inspection, he kind of is.

Afflalo is an intelligent young man. As a freshman at UCLA, Afflalo made the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll during his spring semester. Even as he spent countless hours in the gym and on the road pursuing an NCAA tournament bid, Afflalo maintained the discipline to go above and beyond in the classroom. Qualifying for the Honor Roll at UCLA is not easy. Making the Honor Roll at UCLA while simultaneously committing oneself to an elite Division I sports team is an incredible achievement.

Arron Afflalo’s story only gets better.

Afflalo improved drastically during his sophomore season at UCLA. He grew into the team’s leading scorer by averaging 15.8 points per contest, but he also led the Bruins’ defensive charge. Afflalo’s scoring and defensive prowess drove the Bruins all the way to the Final Four in 2006.

Afflalo put on a show during the 2006 NCAA Tourney, as he constantly came through on offense and defense in clutch situations. The sophomore shooting guard hit the game-winning three-point shot against Alabama, advancing the Bruins to the Sweet Sixteen. Yet, it was Afflalo’s tight defense down the stretch that turned his own shot into the game-winner. Alabama held the ball during the game’s final seconds, but Afflalo refused to back down and forced point guard Ronald Steele into missing the potential game-winning shot for the Crimson Tide. Afflalo demonstrated his two-way abilities again during UCLA’s upset over Memphis in the Elite Eight. He shut down Tigers leading scorer Rodney Carney, a player the Nuggets briefly considered acquiring this summer, and added 15 points as the Bruins reached the Final Four. I’d bet my season tickets that Mark Warkentein dissected that game tape in the past two weeks…

Afflalo’s most significant performance of the tournament came against Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen. Afflalo scored 15 points and matched up well against 2006 Player of the Year Adam Morrison (remember him?) during the Bruins’ comeback victory. However, it was not Afflalo’s athletic abilities that set him apart during this particular night in Oakland. It was his head and heart.

Afflalo is a class act. After sparking the comeback that brought the Bruins to '06 Final Four, he helped Morrison off the floor. Arron, a sociology major at UCLA, really does understand people in the face of great societal pressures.

Afflalo is a class act. After sparking the comeback that brought the Bruins to the '06 Final Four, he helped Morrison off the floor. Arron, a sociology major at UCLA, really does understand people in the face of great societal pressures. Unfortunately for Adam, Arron didn't major in psychology.

The Bruins trailed the Bulldogs by 9 points with three minutes remaining in the game, but Afflalo’s team successfully rallied to reach the Elite Eight. The defeat crushed Morrison. He had played his heart out the entire season, and I’m fairly certain he left his soul on the court against UCLA that evening (Note: Morrison has never been the same since this game ended). After the final horn sounded, Morrison remained face down and inconsolable at center court. Before celebrating his first trip to the Final Four, Afflalo joined teammate Ryan Hollis, picked up the Gonzaga captain, and helped him off the floor. This act remains a defining display of NCAA sportsmanship.

For the record, Afflalo accomplished all of this before turning 21. His instincts seem to grow better with age. The following season Afflalo averaged 17.4 points per game and was voted Pac-10 Player of the Year. On winning the award, Afflalo stated, “It is good that contributions on both ends of the floor are recognized … If you truly have a love and passion for the game, then you should work at every aspect of it, not just the part that gives you (attention), that being scoring.” These words have to be music to George Karl’s ears, and it is easy to see why Chauncey emphatically endorsed Afflalo when the front office consulted him on the trade.

As Joe Sakic walks away from the Denver sports stage, it is comforting to see that the Nuggets are hiring quality personnel. The team already possessed a gentleman in Nene, but acquiring Chauncey gave the Nuggets a new identity. The Nuggets have grown into a classy bunch on the whole. I hope they build off of last season’s success not only by continuing to win, but also by accepting the challenge of acting as the full-time face of pro sports in Colorado. They are currently Denver’s most talented pro team, after all. Afflalo’s defense and three-point range will undoubtedly help the Nuggets rack up victories next season, and his small salary looks great on the team’s financial ledger. But I’m also confident that his presence will have a positive effect on his teammates, as well as the city’s perception of the franchise.

One thing remains certain. Afflalo is clearly a student of the game.

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