Tag Archives: Denver Sports Blog

Week 1: Explicating the Inexplicable

How much should Denver fans realistically expect from this man and his football team? Thankfully, McDaniels usually looks more decisive than he does in this picture. Photo Credit: everyjoe.com

How much should Denver fans realistically expect from this man and his football team? Thankfully, McDaniels usually looks more decisive and confident than he does in this picture. Photo Credit: everyjoe.com

September 12, 1:46 PM:

I’m currently stretching in anticipation of the Broncos season opener tomorrow. I pulled my back out this morning, and I now have less than twenty-four hours to make sure my back and arms are limber enough to hoist large objects and lob them at my TV. I’m not necessarily planning to throw anything at my TV, but I must be ready at a moment’s notice to hurl inanimate objects because things could get ugly rather quickly tomorrow.

Yes, I’m a very worried man. I’m worried that I just pulled my back out and I’m only 23 years old. I’m worried that I might break a pricey plasma screen before noon tomorrow. I’m worried that Josh McDaniels might ultimately regret leaving Papa Belichick and Brother Brady, the comforts of Gillette Stadium, and blazing his own trail westward through this sick and twisted world; we all die alone, Josh…we all die alone! And I suppose I’m now worried that I just referenced death a mere 150 words into this column. I haven’t even discussed the Broncos’ playoff chances yet. Things indeed look quite grim at the moment.

September12, 2:33 PM:

You tell me that he doesn't at least make you slightly nervous. Remember, he has a lot of nukes to back up that terrifying gaze...Photo Credit: Time Magazine

You tell me that he doesn't at least make you slightly nervous. Remember, he has a lot of nukes to back up that terrifying gaze...Credit: Time Magazine

Nevertheless, perhaps I should re-evaluate my fears? I’ll always dread heights, flying on small airplanes, sharks, and Vladimir Putin, but enough is enough. I can rationally explain why I remain weary of each entity I just listed (Note: Putin was in the KGB, knows judo, is a despot, and his cold stare haunts my dreams). Yet, upon further reflection, I cannot fully explain why I’m so afraid of watching the 2009 Broncos. I can speculate that the defensive line is porous and raw, the offense is overrated and anemic, and that Kyle Orton’s odious pre-season play will carry over into the regular season. But I cannot confirm any of these suspicions. The truth is no one can, and not just because the Broncos have yet to play a down. Simply put, we do not know enough about the Denver Broncos to declare them a horrendous football team.

The Broncos are a mystery wrapped in an enigma shrouded by vagueness. They are far and away the most puzzling team in the NFL. Every facet of this team is new. The lineup is one enormous question mark. Though it is easy and tempting to hastily write off question marks as flaws, I caution you to avoid doing so. If an NFL team is heading towards a disappointing season, one can usually isolate and identify said team’s specific problems. For instance, this year you could say, “Jamal Lewis is old, used up, and bad,” or “Norv Turner and Wade Phillips are spineless dweebs, who will each serve as President before they can so much as spell ‘playoff win’,” or “Matt Millen spent eight years ‘building’ that franchise.” Trying to identify the Broncos’ specific problems is a futile exercise because we currently know so little about the components of Our Town’s football team.

Does he scare you now?? Photo Credit: huntersmark.com

Does Mr. Putin frighten you now?? Credit: huntersmark.com

September 12, 3:27 PM:

The offseason was turbulent. The regime change at Dove Valley has been tough to swallow, and the Broncos struggled mightily during the pre-season. But pre-season football is meaningless; the Lions went undefeated during the 2008 pre-season. I expect the Broncos to prove that they are a better football team than most expect, especially on defense. Mike Nolan is a brilliant defensive mind; he worked wonders for the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive coordinator between 2001 and 2004.

The Broncos defense possesses an attractive mix of aging wisdom and young, raw talent. Alphonso Smith and Darcel McBath will learn how to play NFL football from Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins. Could you ask for better teachers? Bailey and Dawkins are not only top-ten players of all-time at their respective positions, but they are also consummate professionals. Josh McDaniels almost certainly considered this when he traded next year’s first-round pick for Smith. (Note: I watched Smith and McBath at training camp. McBath possesses nice size and is a ballhawk, who will likely take some time to adjust to the speed of the NFL. Smith is a legitimate talent. He might not be as great a punt returner as the Broncos expect him to be, but his footwork is fancy and he is freakishly athletic. Smith does not jump. He bounces.)

Alphonso Smith was great at Wake. Now the Broncos need him to step up his game in the wake of this coaching change.

Alphonso Smith was great at Wake. Now the Broncos need him to step up his game in the wake of this coaching change.

I’m also excited about the Broncos linebackers. Elvis Dumervil will excel in his new position as an end-backer hybrid; he also plays at 200% on every down, which I love. Andra Davis, a savvy veteran, plays hungry football. Remember that Davis recorded twenty tackles in a single game several seasons ago. He is a bargain for the Broncos’ cap and brings an intensity and positive attitude that this team desperately needs. At 30, Davis is playing for financial security, so he will listen to his coaches, execute the game plan, and never take a play off. Additionally, look for Mario Haggan to flourish in blitz packages. Haggan is enormous (a taller version of London Fletcher) and looked great in training camp. The team recently named him a defensive captain for the upcoming season. Super Mario might be my new favorite Bronco.

The defensive line is the Broncos’ most looming question mark not named “Kyle Orton.” Many analysts argue that the Broncos lack necessary star-power up front, and therefore will not mount an effective pass-rush and will struggle to contain the run. Yes, the Broncos do lack proven talent along the front-three. However, who says a star will not emerge from this group? Ron Fields was an All-SEC tackle at Mississippi State and Chris Baker might have been a top-50 draft pick had he not been kicked out Penn State for assaulting two of his classmates. At least we know that Baker will play with some emotion; the last thing the Broncos need is another Jarvis Moss.

Mike Nolan dresses for success...and is a much better defensive coordinator than head coach. I feel quite comfortable with Nolan directing the Denver defense.

Mike Nolan dresses for success...and is a much better defensive coordinator than head coach. I feel quite comfortable with Nolan directing the Denver defense. You should, too. Credit: sportscrackelpop.com

I anticipate that Nolan will rely on his linebackers and hybrid end-backers to rack up sacks, not his front-three defensive linemen. The defensive line will perform inglorious, grunt work while Dumervil, DJ Williams, and Super Mario assault opposing quarterbacks. So, who cares if the Broncos’ front-three lacks star power? All that matters is that the front-three are big, strong, and do not take plays off. Fields and Baker, like so many faces on this defensive unit, are playing for their reputations and future contracts. The defensive line will make mistakes, but I predict the line will always play with enthusiasm and learn quickly from each mental lapse. I mean, these guys have no choice but to perform each Sunday or else they will hit the waiver wire the following week.

The mix of journeymen and prospects on defense, specifically along the defensive line, is indeed a major question mark for the Broncos. But do not write off the unit just yet. The defense will benefit from its lack of proven pro-bowlers. Uncertainty could inspire players to work harder and rise to the moment, leading to increased productivity. For the record, I have much less faith in Kyle Orton’s arm than the Broncos’ revamped and unproven defense. Ok, I’m going to say it: Nolan will have a top-fifteen defense by season’s end.

September 12, 4:19 PM:

Change is often an uncomfortable exercise. As humans (and Broncos fans), we crave and strive for change while simultaneously rejecting its nerve-racking effects. But we can’t have our cake (or coach) and eat it, too. In the words of former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” The Broncos had to make a change. They may not be Super Bowl contenders yet, but the organization had slowly decayed for the better part of a decade under the direction of Mike Shanahan. At this point in time, fans obviously cannot confirm that the organization has significantly improved. In the same breath, it is fruitless to convince yourself that the Broncos have regressed since last season.

We don't have to forget what Shanahan accomplished. The late 90s were the best of times. Too bad last year was the worst of times. Fare thee well, Shanny.

We don't have to forget what Shanahan accomplished. The late 90s were the best of times. Too bad last year was the worst of times. Fare thee well, Shanny.

It is quite simple. The organization needed a new head coach. Pat Bowlen fired the coach that needed to be let go and hired a new coach. A smart, affordable, and unproven coach at that. Only time can solve the mystery of the 2009 Denver Broncos, so let’s just wait and see how this entire situation plays out. It is acceptable to be upset with and worried about the franchise, but what are you going to do? Not root for the home team? Not watch the games?

If you are particularly livid, perhaps you should hold off on purchasing tickets and traveling to Invesco Field; never invest in a faulty product, such as Kyle Orton. Yet, you should also consider that you and only you lose by fully boycotting the Broncos this season. You’re effectively punishing yourself for decisions that you had no hand in making. Sit back, relax, and at least be thankful that the Broncos have adopted a proactive mentality. The organization boldly displayed that it is willing to risk it all in an effort to avoid mediocrity. As a fan, what more could you ask for? We need to give this team a chance to prove itself before we take the easy way out by turning our backs on the franchise.

Uncertainty defines the 2009 Broncos. The team will live and die by its numerous question marks. But these question marks also reinforce the team’s overall potential, starting with Coach McDaniels. Be rational and keep in mind that the Broncos organization was headed towards the cemetery last January. These offseason moves have temporarily resurrected a dying franchise. Additional moves might be necessary, but allow the present to unfold before abandoning the future.

And how about now?

And how about now?

September 13, 2:15 PM:

Ok, I planned to write a running commentary of today’s game. Unfortunately, I found it too difficult to constantly muster up words to describe the events unfolding in Cincinnati. Referring to the game as “awful” does not say nearly enough about the overall level of play I just witnessed. Boring? Yes, the game was boring, but boring events seldom leave one incensed and shocked. Frustrating? This game was not just frustrating to watch, it was wearisome to tolerate. I’ve never suffered through three hours of football like I did this afternoon. Watching the Broncos offense was like eating mud. The activity did not kill me, but my health did not benefit from the experience and it was hard to keep myself from vomiting. So here are my thoughts on “The Game That Shall Not Be Named”…

Fouts was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in '93. He will never be voted into the American Broadcasting Hall of Fame because he sucks at broadcasting. Dan, please step down at CBS and stick your real passions: throwing footballs, golf, and beard growing.

Fouts was voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in '93. He will never be voted into the American Broadcasting Hall of Fame because he sucks at broadcasting. Dan, please step down at CBS and stick to your real passions: throwing footballs, golf, and beard growing.

– Dan Fouts is the worst commentator on television…in any sport. Period. His jokes about what NFL players did and looked like during the 60s and 70s were so thoughtless, pitiful, and numerous that I considered muting my TV. I only kept the volume on because Gus Johnson is a golden god.

– Where was Brandon Marshall during that entire game? Hold on, let me rephrase that. Who pressed a scalding iron to Brandon Marshall’s hands on Saturday night thus rendering his fingers and palms useless for today’s game? I know Marshall missed training camp, but he looked totally “checked out” against the Bengals. I’ve never seen such a powerful man expend less energy and roll over as easily as the 6’5″ 250-pound Marshall did in his first game back from suspension. One more performance like today’s dud and it might be fair to claim that Marshall has indeed packed it in for the season.

Maybe Marshall needs a little more time to study the playbook. Yet, you’d think that he spent the bulk of his time away from the team learning the new offense so that he could earn himself a new, lucrative contract? Of course, that assumption is far too rational, considering I am writing about Brandon Marshall.

Marshall might as well have dropped his pants and pooped in the endzone at Paul Brown Stadium, and then followed that up by urinating on the Broncos’ bench. His performance today was that offensive. Furthermore, public defecation would have been more productive and required greater attention to detail than any route he ran or catch he “tried” to make.

– Kyle Orton was brutal. Broken pinky aside, Orton looked indecisive, weak, and confused all day. I understand why McDaniels acquired Orton to replace Cutler. Orton is smart, tall, and allegedly possesses untapped potential. Yet, I worry that Orton is hopelessly average. He therefore remains a poor investment for a franchise that claims to be so devoted to avoiding mediocrity.

After watching Sunday's game, the Coen brothers decided to re-make their 2001 film "The Man Who Wasn't There." The re-make will be call "The Men Who Were Not There," it will star Marshall and Orton in place of Billy Bob and James Gandolfini, and the plot will chronicle the rivetting game that occurred in Cincy on Sept 13, 2009. Word on the street is that the re-make is a silent film, Joel Coen says it makes it adds shock value that makes you feel as though he or she was on the sidelines at Paul Brown Stadium."

After watching Sunday's game, the Coen brothers decided to re-make their 2001 film "The Man Who Wasn't There." The re-make is a silent film called "The Men Who Were Not There. " It stars Marshall and Orton in place of Billy Bob and James Gandolfini, and the plot chronicles the "electrifying" game that occurred in Cincy on Sept 13, 2009. When asked why it is a silent film, Joel Coen replied, "The deafening silence adds to the film's authenticity; the lack of speech makes you feel as though you were actually on the sidelines at Paul Brown Stadium...or watching it on TV in Denver."

Orton lacks the competitive drive that defines all successful NFL players. Think about it. He had the opportunity for four seasons to run away with the keys to the Chicago Bears offense. He never did. His competition was Rex Grossman and (our favorite) Brian Griese. Each time Orton won the starting job he managed to hand it back over to his lowly competition. He does not have “it.”

As far as weak-armed quarterbacks go, I’d much rather have Chad Pennington on my team than Kyle Orton. At least Pennington took losing the starting job in New York personally. He clearly used the Jets’ lack of faith in him as motivation to succeed once he landed in Miami. Maybe Orton is just reserved, but he did not look like a confident player or a leader out there today. This does not bode well for the Broncos’ offense. My mouth still tastes like mud…

– Rey Maualuga has already arrived. He should not have dropped to the second round of the draft. Maualuga and Keith Rivers make the Cincy defense one of the more underrated units in the NFL. I bet Knowshon agrees with me.

– Denver, please remain patient with Knowshon Moreno. He did not look good in his first regular season appearance, but he will move the chains by week ten.

– My faith in the Broncos’ defense remains firm. While the Bengals offense did not perform at an elite level, an NFL defense always deserves credit for holding an opposing offense to one touchdown and 86 rushing yards. Super Mario recorded a sack (num, num, num, num, num!), Champ’s legs looked healthy and fresh as he held Ochocinco in check, and the front-seven constantly harassed Carson Palmer and kept him from ever finding his rhythm.

– I’m a huge Josh McDaniels fan. Say what you will about his stubbornness or his offseason decisions, but this man is an intense competitor. He has a presence and belongs in the NFL. Coaching is his craft and he holds himself accountable for the performance of his players. Watching him berate Orton for taking a sack that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range and forced a punt late in the fourth quarter was the most exciting moment of the game…until the luckiest play in Denver sports history occurred.

McDaniels is also smart, meticulous, and persistent. He rebuked the officials when the game clock was incorrectly set to 20 seconds following the Bengals fourth-quarter touchdown. Moments later the game clock was re-set to 38 seconds, which paved the way for the luckiest play in Denver sports history. McDaniels hates mediocrity, and I bet he is also a sore loser. These are qualities you want to see in an NFL head coach. Plus, I think he and I are technically part of the same generation, which is exciting.

– I’m not a fan of CSI, CSI: Miami, or CSI: New York. The proliferation of primetime crime dramas has officially gotten out of control. If the government can control the H1N1 virus, then they can certainly solve the current crime drama pandemic. This is a real problem that affects all of us.

Sorry, Marvin. I too thought you had this one in the bag. Don't worry, things'll turn around...wait, they probably won't. At least you tried, right?

Sorry, Marvin. I too thought you had this one in the bag. Don't worry, things'll turn around...wait, they probably won't. At least you tried, right?

– I feel sorry for Marvin Lewis. He is not a great head coach and he is not going to win many games this season. He won today’s game, but then he didn’t win today’s game. Bummer, man.

– 1-0 has never felt less good. Recall that Ed Hochuli advanced the Broncos to 2-0 last season. That said, the defense looked solid, and this team could make some noise if Marshall and Orton never ever again play like they did today.

I’m excited for Hood Jr. vs. Hood Jr. when the Broncos play the Browns next weekend. I think the Broncos will build off of today’s improbable victory. Furthermore, there is no way next Sunday’s match-up will play out as unpleasantly as “The Game That Shall Not Be Named.”

Watch it one more time. I’m still completely speechless. I started laughing hysterically when it happened. First of all, thank you, Gus Johnson. Your passionate commentating on this play made the game interesting for the first time since kickoff. Dan Fouts, why did you have to ruin this moment? Please do not answer me out-loud, just think about it. Second, pay attention to McDaniels after Brandon Stokley scores. His intensity is awesome. He doesn’t even celebrate. Rather, McDaniels immediately screams at Orton to go for two. I swear the man is never satisfied, and that is a great thing. Finally, Kyle, I’m sorry, but you actually did nothing right on that play.

September 13, 11:45 PM:

I leave you with a parting treat…trust me, you’ll enjoy it. I will now go to sleep a happy Broncos fan.


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Are You Not Entertained?

Who is ready for some Giamba Juice? I know I am.

Who is ready for some Giamba Juice? I know I am.

I went to Jamba Juice yesterday for an afternoon pick-me-up. After several moments of deliberation, I settled on an Aloha Pineapple smoothie. I usually order a Strawberry Whirl, but for some strange reason I shook things up yesterday. The Strawberry Whirl is not an exciting frozen beverage. The drink’s strawberry-banana base does not shock one’s taste buds and it even bears a boring name. Yet, what the Strawberry Whirl lacks in boldness it makes up for in its consistently delicious flavor, making it a safe bet. I however have been watching far too much Rockies baseball as of late to settle for safe bets.

Maybe it was the wild orange and green walls that caused me to avoid the Strawberry Whirl. Or perhaps it was the fact that I had slugged my way through 48 ounces of coffee before 2 PM and was feeling frivolous. Electric colors and caffeine aside, I truly believe it was the Rockies that persuaded me to up the ante on my smoothie order. I thought of Giamba Juice while standing in line at my local Jamba Juice and immediately determined that it was time to knock my tongue out of the park.

The recent moves to acquire Juice Daddy and Jose Contreras demonstrate the Rockies commitment to the present. As a fan, I could not be more pleased. The looseness of the Rockies clubhouse has already rubbed off on Giambi. He is as relaxed as he is poised. Furthermore, pitching in the National League will probably allow Contreras to challenge John Smoltz and Brad Penny for the Cy Young Award.

That's not naturalm...but Oak Express is!

That's not natural...but Oak Express is!

I am particularly thankful for the Giambi acquisition. Getting Contreras was a shrewd move, especially after Aaron Cook went on the DL, Jon Garland was traded to the Dodgers, and Penny signed with the Giants. Giambi however energizes the Rockies in a unique way. He brings the flair (and clutch batting) that the Rockies need at this juncture of the season.

I was in attendance last Wednesday when Giambi hit his game-winning, go-ahead, two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning against the New York Mets. Witnessing this moment made my week. Not only did I pay a mere ten dollars to sit three rows behind first base and was allowed to bring a Chipotle burrito into the game, but I also saw firsthand how comfortable and confident Giambi is now that he is playing for the Rockies. Giambi still baffles and intimidates pitchers. Even at 38, Giambi lacks a “hole” for pitchers to throw at. He also has great eyesight, which allows him to draw plenty of walks and get on base even when he is not ripping lasers over Luis Castillo.

Giambi will devour NL pitchers one-by-one as the Rockies march into the playoffs. But more importantly, Rockies fans and players have already rallied around Giambi…and his epic handlebar mustache.

Juice Daddy has turned his frown upside down since arriving in Our Town (that rhyme was great, right?). Plus, his handlebar has flourished at altitude. His current mustache is much fuller and bolder than the one in this dated picture.

Juice Daddy has turned his frown upside down since arriving in Our Town (that rhyme was great, right?). Plus, his handlebar has flourished at altitude. His current mustache is much fuller and bolder than the one in this dated picture.

I myself headed straight to the dugout store after Giambi was named Player of the Game in an effort to purchase a Giambi jersey t-shirt. In the afterglow of Giambi’s late-game heroics, specifically his “graceful” slide into second base, I became a man on a mission. I planned to buy the shirt, immediately remove its sleeves, and then wear my new Giambi cut-off to the bars on Blake Street. Unfortunately, Rockies retail was not prepared to fulfill my request. The t-shirts were “on-order” and had yet to hit the shelves. I’m hoping to pick at least one up during the next homestand.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy calls Giambi “Russell Crowe.” This is one of the most creative and appropriate nicknames I’ve ever heard. Giambi is a gladiator. He beat cancer and battled his way back into the spotlight after admitting he used steroids. Furthermore, Giambi’s grizzled appearance and lumberjack forearms would make you believe he just might beat you down with a corded phone if he drank too much and you looked at him the wrong way (yes, Russell Crowe actually did this to a desk clerk at the Mercer Hotel in New York City).

JD doesn't just stand for Juice Daddy. That bottle is actually the size of a Geo Metro. What a powerful combination...

JD doesn't just stand for Juice Daddy. That bottle is actually the size of a Geo Metro. What a powerful combination...

But looks can be deceiving.

Giambi is soft spoken and wise. He is the perfect mold for these new-look Rockies. The Rockies needed a left-handed power stroke off the bench and Giambi needed a new home and a clean slate as he enters the twilight of his career. He deserves the success he is currently enjoying with the Rockies. Giambi’s previous achievements earned him a second chance in pinstripes, just like Crowe’s better roles influenced moviegoers to forget “A Good Year.” If Hollywood had given up on Crowe in 2006, which was not “a good year,” we never would have enjoyed “American Gangster” in 2007.

Jason Giambi was Maximus in his former life.

Jason Giambi was Maximus in his former life. P.S. Russell Crowe, like Giambi, is a badass.

As I sit and watch the Rockies dismantle the Cincinnati Reds, I can only smile each time the camera zooms in on Juice Daddy. His iridescent shades are radical and his graying handlebar is charming. His grin remains childish. It is clear that this bear of a man still has something to prove. It is also obvious that his love of the game endures. He is calm, collected, and very cool. Above all else, Giambi is having fun again.

Giambi, not catcher Yorvit Torrealba, has just trotted over to the mound in an effort to settle the nerves of 21-year-old relief pitcher Jhoulys Chacin after his first three pitches registered as balls. This is why the Giambi experiment will work. He relishes his role on the Rockies, and he is cool enough that all the young guns will listen to him.

The Giambi acquisition made sense on paper and in theory several weeks ago when the Rockies sent Giambi to Colorado Springs. The box scores over the last ten days indicate that the Rockies front office is a clever bunch. Giambi has more than a little left in the tank, especially now that he faces NL pitchers everyday. He has singlehandedly won the Rockies two games since he joined the big league club, and the Oakland Athletics are paying the bulk of his salary. Now that’s “moneyball,” Billy Beane!

Oh wait, nevermind...Russell Crowe actually is not a badass. This photo + Watching "A Good Year" on an airplane three years ago=Me reconsidering everything I've ever thought about Russell Crowe.

Oh wait, nevermind...Russell Crowe actually is not a badass. This photo + Watching "A Good Year" on an airplane three years ago=Me reconsidering everything I've ever thought about Russell Crowe.

Moreover, the Rockies made a bold and somewhat historic statement by remaining so active before and after the trade deadline this season. Pursuing Garland and landing Giambi, Contreras, Betancourt, and Beimel shows how special a year this is for the Rockies. This organization has never been in as favorable a position as the one it currently occupies.

The front office went on a post-trade deadline mission because this time around they knew their team had more than a fighting chance. Dan O’Dowd and his staff neutralized specific holes in the Rockies lineup with a slew of calculated, post-trade deadline acquisitions. The front office has never been in the position to make such deals.

The Rockies were a good team in 2007. However, they were not a playoff threat until they went on a 20-game tear to close out the regular season. They entered the 2007 playoffs hot, but the Red Sox eventually exposed their lack of depth and talent. The 2007 World Series might have ended differently if the Rockies had been twenty games over .500 in August and acquired some extra pieces…

Dan O'Dowd is the new Billy Beane. They are similar in many ways, except Beane was projected to be the next Ted Williams and O'Dowd LOVES God. Note: I found this picture on another wordpress blog that is called "JCSuperstars." Check it out, they have an entire section called "Become a Christian."

Dan O'Dowd is the new Billy Beane. They are similar in many ways, except Beane was projected to be the next Ted Williams and O'Dowd LOVES God. Note: I found this picture on another wordpress blog that is called "JCSuperstars." Check it out, they have an entire section called "Become a Christian."

This year is different. The Rockies strung together months of consistent baseball for the first time in franchise history. Therefore, the front office sought to ensure that the team is deeply armed, offensively potent, and defensively solid as it embarks on its postseason journey. The fans continue to reap the rewards of the front office’s hard work. The Rockies are overflowing with young talent (just look at the plethora of outfielders) and the clubhouse is chock full of interesting story lines. We are privileged to follow a team as exciting and intriguing as the 2009 Rockies.

Aloha Pineapple! Aloha Jason!

Editor’s Note: September 15th

I’d like to inform everyone that the Huffington Post is coming to Denver! The Huffington Post will launch a Colorado-specific online publication on September 15th and I’ve been asked to regularly contribute as a sports/culture columnist. As a result, I’ve built a new site for myself at the url http://www.callitmilehigh.com, which will also launch on September 15th. The new site looks amazing. It will have an archive of all my dated columns, but it also boasts several new features, including an online store and a video archive. Thank you so much for your continued support over the last several months. The Huffington Post discovered me because all of you read what I have to say. Please tell your friends about my new site and the Colorado Huffington Post. I’ll continue to put my best work out there because I truly appreciate your readership. Thanks!

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The Rox (Finally) Found Me

I haven't missed this ballpark in years. I suppose it is finally time to go back...

I haven't missed this ballpark in years. I suppose it is finally time to go back...

I confess that there are two Colorado entities that I’ve remained skeptical of in recent years: The Fray and the Rockies.

Even as The Fray rose to super stardom, I was never comfortable listening to their music. I’ve never been comfortable listening to The Fray because I think their songs are dreadful. I cringe and turn the dial whenever KBCO plays a new Fray single. The group’s trite, overwrought lyrics are not even a guilty pleasure. The Fray is not piano rock or an alternative rock band. The Fray is yet another bad Christian rock band represented and popularized by Sony. That’s it.

I did not attend Denver East High School, but I nonetheless maintain strong ties to the institution. Two of my brothers went to East and many of my friends are Angel alumni. None of them are proud that The Fray featured the East High campus in a 2005 music video.

Great, you guys are in Tokyo! Now please stay there. Also, consider singing in Japanese, so I'll no longer comprehend your lame lyrics. Arigatou.

Great, you guys are in Tokyo! Now please stay there. Also, consider singing in Japanese, so I'll no longer comprehend your lame lyrics. Arigatou, fellas.

A typical fan of The Fray takes solace in the band’s hackneyed sound. Fans find lead singer Isaac Slade’s fauxhawk, faith, and pain (and his faith in pain) curiously endearing. I’ve been told that one should listen to The Fray to sooth the soul following a break up or to boost morale after a steep fall from grace. I however would play the band’s latest album, the self-titled hit “The Fray,” on a loop to initiate a break up. I am fairly certain that I could end our relationship by drowning my girlfriend in the group’s collective sorrow and confusion. The track “Where the Story Ends” seals the deal. Hearing that song for the eighth time undoubtedly convinces her that I am so depressed and emotionally frail that I cannot even help her pack up her belongings before she rushes out my door.

The Fray is not a good band. They choke on their own melodrama while Slade wishes he were David Gray. Though the band’s members hail from Colorado, it is unfortunate the group recently headlined the Mile High Music Festival. The song “You Found Me” sounds like something a fourteen year old falls in love to at Bible camp. I hear the band’s next project will be laying down the soundtrack to Young Life’s rendition of “When Harry Met Sally.”

Moving on…

I have been unwilling to trust the Colorado Rockies for much of the past decade. Truth be told, I gradually lost interest in the Rockies. As a little leaguer, I was overjoyed to finally have an MLB team in Denver to root for. I remember attending the Rockies’ second game at Mile High Stadium. I purchased a pennant that read “I Was There!” and displayed a large illustration of the stadium. Upon returning home from Mile High, I promptly used a sharpie to mark where I had sat at my first Rockies game. The pennant stayed on my wall for several years, and the little black “x” between first base and right field continued to reinforce Rockies optimism.

That look just screams, "I love hookers and booze."

Ladies and Gents, Denny Neagle! That look just screams, "Sure, I enjoy being a big league pitcher. But I truly love hookers and Old Grandad Bourbon. Got a problem with that?"

My passion for the Rockies faded due to a combination of factors. For one, I stopped playing baseball. It was therefore easy to cease caring about the Rockies as the Blake Street Bombers disbanded, the losses piled up, and the franchise introduced Dinger as the team’s mascot. It was somewhere between the birth of Dinger and Denny Neagle’s infamous car-date on Colfax that I gave up on the Rockies. I did not necessarily care about Neagle’s legal woes; I was actually much more disturbed that the most shameful mascot in sports history represented a Colorado team.

Denver’s baseball culture waned following Y2K. After leading the major leagues in attendance during the mid-1990s and proving that Denver was indeed a baseball town, things went utterly wrong at Coors Field. And people, including myself, could not have cared less.

I moved to Boston soon thereafter and discovered a true baseball Mecca on Lansdowne Street. I was taken aback by the rich tradition and history of the Red Sox. Everyone in Boston followed the Red Sox. The Red Sox are to Boston, as the Broncos are to Denver. Red Sox games are always televised, and more importantly the majority of the public always watches them. When I lived in Boston, local sports radio hosts spent hours debating then-manager Grady Little’s decision to remove Nomar in the seventh inning of a seemingly meaningless May game against the Texas Rangers.

Dante, unlike Neagle, was a class act. And I want that t-shirt.

Dante, unlike Neagle, was a class act Rockie. And I want that t-shirt.

The truth is that no baseball game is meaningless in Boston. Far too many Red Sox fans care about their favorite franchise year round. The same can be said about the New York Yankees and their fan base.

Baseball is inescapable on the East coast. Red Sox and Yankees fans are like soccer hooligans in Europe or futbol fanatics in Central and Latin America. I discovered a much more exciting brand of baseball in Boston. Fenway is never empty and tickets to the big games are nearly impossible to acquire. Attending a Red Sox-Yankees game is a privilege, and going to Fenway during the playoffs will change any sports fan’s life. Yet, Bostonians and New Yorkers are equally humbled and rowdy when they attend regular season games. Their relentless enthusiasm amazes me. We are not as constantly passionate about the Rockies because professional baseball is not as significant in Denver as it is in Boston or New York.

Though Rockies fever enveloped Denver during the 2007 playoffs, I remained skeptical. At heart, I feared becoming a bandwagon fan. I had just spent the majority of a decade disinterested in Rockies baseball. It was not that I disliked the franchise. Rather, I simply did not feel anything for the Rockies because I had not tracked their successes and failures since I was a pre-teen.

Rocktober ’07 was an interesting period of my life. It brought about more personal reflection than admiration or excitement. I nonetheless emerged from Rocktober just as I had entered it: disinterested in the Rockies and pissed off that Dinger still existed.

Who honestly conceived this as the face of the Colorado Rockies? I'm even more incensed that someone actually collects a pay check to be Dinger. Please donate the mascot's salary to charity so I feel better about this whole situation.

Who honestly conceived this as the face of the Colorado Rockies? Come on! I'm even more incensed that someone continues to collect a pay check to be Dinger. Please donate the mascot's salary to charity so I feel better about this whole situation.

This summer I decided to make a concerted effort to fall back in love with the Rockies. I followed the team in the Denver Post and on ESPN.com, but these articles did not suffice. As a last resort, I read Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball. It is now safe to label me a “changed man.” I see the game of baseball in a whole new light. I watch games unfold pitch by pitch and truly appreciate the value of homegrown talent. If you are reading this column and have not read Moneyball, finish reading this column and then go read Moneyball. You do not even have to like baseball for the story to fascinate you. The book alters the way one views and dissects professional sports.

It also explains the current make up of the Colorado Rockies. The Rockies are one of the MLB’s premiere “moneyball” teams. The franchise creatively and frugally fills the holes on its roster with savvy veterans and efficient role players, while simultaneously growing talented and uniquely effective minor league prospects. Dan O’Dowd’s tendency to decline huge paydays to homegrown Rockies not named Helton and Francis is not such a travesty after all. Furthermore, it is actually a boon that O’Dowd often acquires notable players during the last year of their contracts only to part with them at season’s end (i.e. the Jason Marquis situation). Baseball, like finance, is a transient business; understanding when to let go of an asset is as important as knowing when to acquire it in the first place.

Truth be told, I did not attempt to reconnect with the Rockies on my own volition. My good friend Kevin, a New Yorker now living in Denver, convinced me to give the Rox another shot. I am already glad I did. I publicly re-pledge my fanhood to the Colorado Rockies! So there. I said it, and I promise I mean it.

I'm excited for Jim Tracy's passion and boisterous managerial style. I'm fully committing to Tracy and Co. by heading to Queens, NY next week.

I'm excited for Jim Tracy's passion and boisterous managerial style. I'm fully committing to Tracy and Co. by heading to Queens, NY next week.

I nevertheless remain unapologetic about my years of ignorance. It was a dark period for baseball in Colorado, and I proved my worth by refusing the urge to jump on the bandwagon during Rocktober ’07. I would be forced to repent if I had immediately fallen back in love with the team during the World Series run. But I didn’t.

As a testament to my commitment to the Rockies, I will attend two of the Rockies upcoming away games against the New York Mets. I’ll dig up my Dante Bichette shirt, travel to Citi Field, and root for the Rockies.

I’ve officially restored my faith in the purple and black. And no, I will not celebrate by listening to The Fray.

P.S. Thanks, Kevin. Maybe Yankee fans are not as evil and selfish as I previously thought…

Videos:

Check out Dan O’Dowd’s mid-season assessment of the Rockies

Like father like son? Take a look at Dante Bichette Jr.’s home run during the ’05 Little League World Serious. Also, pay attention as proud coach Dante Sr. cheers from the bench. We miss you, Dante.

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Filed under Rockies

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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