Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Mr. Smith goes to Denver, both Mr. Smith's

J.R. Smith & Joe Smith are the two newest Denver Nuggets, the latest moves in what has been a busy off season for the team.

The contract extensions for Carmelo Anthony and Nene were the big, splashy moves but the acquistions of Smith & Smith may prove to be equally important to the Nuggets' success in 2006-2007.

J.R. Smith, headed to North Carolina before deciding to throw his hat into the NBA draft two years ago, has the necessary athleticism to excel. He's 6-foot-6, with a strong body and can play the role of high riser around the rim. What he currently lacks is an understanding of the pro game and a consistent shooting stroke. Salting some mid-range shots into his game and peppering it more with some post-up action would allow him more room on his streaky jumper. Getting out and running the floor, well, not a problem for this young buck. You're going to love that part of his game, especially when he's runnin' with Anthony and Kenyon Martin.

He easily possesses the most potential at the off-guard spot that the Nuggets have had in years. The key is the maturation of his head. If that comes around, if he proves capable of responding to coaching and working on his craft, he could, remember this, become a scoring machine.


That's the clause in small print at the end of the contract that you can't or don't usually read.

As for Mr. Smith, the Big, that would be Joe, the former Maryland Terrapin who took the college game by storm, became the top pick in the draft, then proceeded to have a servicable but hardly all-star career.

Of course, he is a major improvement on Francisco Elson, as he can shoot, score, and rebound a little, and is known for being good in the locker room, which, in case you haven't noticed or have just been asleep in the back of the classroom, is sorely needed in Denver.

The Nuggets rap on this is that the addition of the Smith's, while not as sexy as the Anthony and Nene contracts, will make Denver a much improved team, health permitting. Chemistry will be easy to develop, and the depth and versatility of the front line, along with an improved backcourt, will equal 50 wins. Add another shooter and more might be possible.

Coach George Karl has the horses to get to and win a playoff series. The question is can he control the heads? And can he get along, professionally, with the emotional but highly competitive and talented toughman, Martin?

Bring it all together, in the sake of harmony and purpose and look out, as it will be Rocky Mountain party time, and the Nuggets will be a load.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Anthony Playing at High Level at World Championships

The United States improved to 6-0 at the World Championships with a 113-73 dismantling of Australia in Saitama, Japan. Denver's Carmelo Anthony led the Americans with 20 points, continuing his strong showing in the tournament.

Anthony, coming off his best NBA season, seems to be driven like a champion, determined to prove his name belongs amongst the most dedicated and best in the world. Lebron James is revered, Dwyane Wade has scoreboard with an NBA title and MVP trophy, and Anthony has...nothing yet.

Maybe that's what he needed, a carrot, a challenge. We started to see it during last season, as he overcame rocky off-the-court moments, and rebounded to become a clutch and prolific scorer. His rebounding and passing still leaves something to be desired, but Anthony is a player on the rise. Maybe he can't dominate as easy at 6-foot-8, at small forward, like superfreak James can playing on the wing with his passing and rebounding uniqueness, to go along with his score-at-will ability, and Wade with his unstoppable all-around game, but he is a player that can lead by example, wanting the ball at critical times and dropping in a game-winning bucket.

Look for him, health willing, to become more bold and successful as time goes on.

The key is for the Nuggets to keep finding pieces to put around him. Andre Miller, for all the heat he receives, is the best Denver point guard since some cat named Fat Lever. J.R. Smith has size, athleticism, and the beginning of a shooting touch. Marcus Camby, while aging and fragile as a Christmas ornament, is still a rebounding and shot-blocking force. Nene and Kenyon Martin have only one major problem. They are always stylin' in fine clothes on the bench, instead of sweating and producing on the court. Get healthy, stay healthy, find a diamond or two along the way and watch the organization, with Anthony the centerpiece, rise from the ashes to once again become a playoff team no one wants to play.

Until then...it's Carmelo looking good wearing another uniform.


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