Tag Archives: Denver Nuggets

Northwest Division Preview

New kid on the block

Doyle Rader: The Northwest Division looks to be one of, if not the most, competitive divisions in the NBA this season. Last year three teams (the Thunder, Nuggets, and Jazz) made the playoffs. Utah made a late push to secure their playoff berth only to be eliminated by the Spurs in the first round. Denver took the Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Semi-finals. And the Thunder eventually lost in the NBA Finals. This season the division is only deeper.

Both the Portland Trail Blazers and Minnesota Timberwolves were early season darlings to make the playoffs last season with the Blazers’ hot start and the emergence of Ricky Rubio in Minny. What curtailed these teams was the fire-sale in Portland and the injuries that plagued the Timberwolves. However, Minnesota has completely reloaded their roster in an attempt to make a playoff run this year. They just have to wait for Kevin Love to recover from his broken hand.

Travis Huse: What’s remarkable about this division is that each of its franchises is looking toward the future.

Let’s begin with what’s been going on in Denver: the Nuggets’ reload looks really enticing to me, much in the same way that the Pacers have the past couple of seasons. They’re going to play blindingly fast, group-effort basketball, a hard-nosed team approach. What really makes things interesting is Iguodala’s defensive role, alongside his ball handler abilities, which were hidden behind Lou Williams and Jrue Holiday in Philly.

Iggy will have to play the roles of Danny Granger, Metta World Peace, and Lebron James simultaneously, and how successful he is at integrating with George Karl’s style will determine the success of this team. Coupled with the maturation of Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee (seems strange to mention maturity and McGee together), this is a well-built team, with players who complement their teammates’ strengths. Next step: tightening up on defense.

DR: Yes, their pace belies a low defensive effort as they want to be streaking up and down the floor. However, this team has the potential to be quite serviceable defensively and it all begins with Iguodala.

He will be their premier perimeter defensive player and will be tasked with defending the opposing team’s best wing player and even point guards at times. Denver must focus its defensive efforts in transition. This is where the team will be most venerable. In the halfcourt they have the like of McGee and Timofey Mozgov, as well as Kosta Koufos (who I particularly enjoy watching), to anchor the middle with Iguodala patrolling the arc.

Where I think Iguodala will be most beneficial to the Nuggets is when they play the Thunder. It will be his job to guard Kevin Durant. Oklahoma City won this division last year on the back of Durant’s scoring so bringing an elite defender was very important for Denver.

TH: Yeah, OKC is still the hands-down favorite to win this division this year, regardless of whether or not James Harden receives an extension. But next year, who knows? There’s so much young talent on these teams and the stars for each team are about to truly hit their stride.

Damian Lillard running the Blazers could change the entire dynamic of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game, assuming they didn’t handicap themselves too much with Nicolas Batum’s contract. In the Northwest, they’re the furthest away from being a playoff lock, and I could envision this division becoming as competitive as the Southwest was a few years ago. They’re thin as hell as just about every position, but for a rebuilding team, they don’t look to be wallowing in their sorrow for much longer.

DR: You’re right, the Thunder are the class of the division. That shouldn’t change this year and perhaps Kendrick Perkins will actually be useful to them now that Dwight Howard is in the West. Yet, he is still a liability against the more hybrid centers.

As for Portland, Lillard has shown that he is ready to compete at the NBA level. In five games this preseason, Lillard has averaged 17 points on 50 percent shooting while also dishing out six assists per game. Beyond the numbers, he is assertive on the court, even aggressive at times. Against the Lakers he frequently attacked Steve Nash off the dribble, getting to the rim with ease once he became comfortable with the flow of the game. Of course, Nash has never been a good defender but it was impressive to see a rookie go directly at a two-time MVP with little regard for his mythos.

What will hurt the Blazers is their lack of depth. Jared Jefferies will contribute more than anyone knows off the bench, though it may not always show up in the box score. Joel Freeland and Meyers Leonard, the team’s only true center, are major questions who have considerable upside.

Outside shooting will also be an issue going forward. This is a team built around the mid-range jumper. If Aldridge goes down again, this team will wallow in the basement once again.

TH: You’re neglecting Batum here. His contract is so weighty, the Portland front office will push him to fill more of a starring role, and the hiring of Terry Stotts as head coach will also give him more responsibility. If Stotts is able to formulate this team based off what he saw in Dallas, and modify the 2011 championship core of Jason KiddJason TerryDirk Nowitzki (Lillard, Batum, and Aldridge, respectively), the Blazers have more than enough skeleton for their squad.

Which means:

Much is spoken on how the NBA’s system favors tanking. But teams are finding creative ways to rebuild without having to ride the lottery hoping for a once-in-a-generation talent. The Blazers are well on their way to rebuilding (only 7 months after blowing their team up), without having to seriously tank.

They were only 8 games out of the playoffs last year, and while this year might be a bit sore, Blazers fans should be optimistic. They managed a sizable reformation in the quietest way possible, and they did it with a vacant GM seat for over a year. Looking at what Neil Olshey created with the Clippers, it will be interesting to see how he fleshes out their roster.

Another franchise attempting a “soft rebuild” is the Utah Jazz, a team that has really reached a crossroads. Swapping Devin Harris for Mo Williams isn’t exactly a game-changer (it’s never a good idea to start a third-string PG from the Clippers), and Raja Bell is as good as gone. They need guard help badly, and the big man logjam finally must give. If the team still cannot decide whether they trust Enes Kanter or Derrick Favors, they need to move them sooner, rather than later. By all accounts, Kanter has an ego, and will not like playing second fiddle to Al Jefferson; but Jefferson’s much too good to move.

DR: If we are going to make a Mavs comparison when it comes to the Blazers, I feel that Batum represents more of a Shawn Marion role. Only his scoring responsibilities will be somewhat equivalent to Marionon the Suns.

As for the Jazz, they have a wealth of big men and they seem to be happy about it. I don’t think it’s a question about if they are willing to move Jefferson, but rather they could lose Paul Millsap. That would truly be a blow to this organization but as you pointed out they have Kanter and Favors.

Last season, Kanter was essentially a non factor. His skills around the rim were unpolished, to be kind, and played mostly during garbage time. So far in the preseason he has been drawing double-teams and averaging a team high 12 points per game. The jazz seem content to run out a platoon rotation in the post which should help later in the season as it allows their stars (Jefferson and Millsap) to rest. Kanter and Favors should garner around 20 minutes a night.

Mo Williams is a completely serviceable point guard. I doubt he can return to the form he showcased in Milwaukee, but he still has the ability to run an offense effectively while also scoring the ball. Like Memphis, Utah runs a lot of post plays but Williams’ outside shooting and ability to dish the ball should open up the floor creating opportunities for shooters like Alec Burks, Randy Foye, Gordon Hayward, and Marvin Williams.

Hayward will be key for the Jazz. He is quietly becoming a good perimeter defender and has gained a considerable amount of muscle since coming into the league. Tyrone Corbin has molded Hayward into a hardnosed, physical defender. It would not surprise me if he was at least discussed as a possible DPOY if his improvement continues. He won’t win, but he making the discussion is always a plus.

TH: I’m not saying that their big man platoon isn’t a bad idea. It’s a great thing to have through an 82-game season. However, both Kanter and Favors are starting-caliber players in the NBA right now. Favors is nearing the end of his rookie contract, a solid producer with room to grow (and a team option for next season). Aside from the solid production at a low price tag, these players are highly desirable for contending teams for many reasons. Kanter is a skilled big body who plays a thin position.

Would the suddenly broke Sam Presti really contemplate letting James Harden go in order to free up cap space? Probably not, but that is not a bad rumor to float.

I can only think of three NBA teams who wouldn’t listen to offers on Kanter, because they are seriously the only NBA teams without concerns in the middle. The Lakers have Dwight now; the 76ers are going to see where Bynum goes as a leader. I had to throw in the Raptors, because, well, they’re in a similar situation as the Jazz; the arrival of Jonas Valanciunas has made Bargnani more than expendable.

You’re also right about Mo Williams: He is a completely serviceable point guard. But with their lineup, the Jazz are one torn ligament away from Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson bringing the ball up the floor. The Jazz are lacking roster balance, and their contingency plan is Alec Burks.

DR: My love of the bad boy Pacers has always endeared me to Tinsley and Watson filled in well when Devin Harris was hurt last year. It could be worse for the Jazz.

One team with high hopes for the season is already bemoaning their star being out with injury. As I mentioned above, Kevin Love will miss at least the first month of the season with a broken hand resulting from the oh-so-cool-bro knuckle pushups. Luckily, the Timberwolves have reloaded their roster.

They brought in Brandon Roy, fresh from retirement, bad knees and all and added Andrei Kirilenko and Alexey Shved from Russia. Nikola Pekovic also hails from Russia and is one of the better centers in the league. Despite the number of white guys on this team, the Timberwolves are primed to make the playoffs. Hell, their guard rotation alone is enough to get them there and they are stacked beyond that. Once Love returns they could be dangerous in the West.

It will be interesting to see how Derrick Williams fits into the rotation. He seems to be the odd man out this year despite being drafted so highly two years ago.

TH: With Love out until December, this Timberwolves squad is left without its two young stars in Love and Ricky Rubio. How the team fares without them will be a good litmus test to see how the rest of the rotation fits. But this is also a team that, like you mentioned, added Roy, who’s never been afraid to put his team on his back. These injuries will strengthen the Wolves, and I anticipate one of their wings picking up the scoring slack. There are many questions as to just exactly who will rise, but their depth chart, from 1 to 3 is loaded with talent. J.J. Barea is only one year removed from being an unstoppable blur for the Mavs, and he’s still buried behind Rubio and Luke Ridnour. Shved’s a monster, and should have a fairly easy transition to the NBA with Kirilenko beside him.

And all that is forgetting Chase Budinger, who will be able to fit in much the same way that Wilson Chandler has in Denver, slashing and providing decent outside shooting (believe it or not, he posted a 40% 3-point percentage last season) for the second unit. The whitest of white dudes in the NBA these days, Budinger is often overlooked, but his time spent with Rick Adelman in Houston will give him an early chance to prove himself. He’s dangerous when left in the corner, and when Love and Rubio return, it will be key for them to utilize their passing abilities and wing talent.

Injuries or not, this team is going to be fast and fun, with a healthy amount of competition amongst players vying for minutes. The coaching change should help us to see a bit more specialization of players, as well as championship experience.

Oh, and they got rid of Michael Beasley. Thumbs up on that one.


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The Denver Nuggets: A Beautiful Mess

This sums up the Nuggets

When Dwight Howard was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three team deal, many thought that the Denver Nuggets landed one of the best players in the swap. Denver acquired All Star and Olympic small forward Andre Iguodala. His versatility and ability to play both sides of the ball will be integral for Denver in the coming season. This has many hyping the Mile High City as a team to watch. However, there is a bit of a problem. The Nuggets are loaded at the forward position with seven of their 15 players listed as a forward. Iguodala will start for the Nuggets but what kind of rotation will they employ?

The Nuggets will have athleticism in droves with players who can stretch the floor and (hopefully) guard the perimeter. Yet, that is almost all they have. If ever there was a Free Darko team, this is it. (Anthony Randolph being on the roster helps that claim.) Can a team exist with a roster full of forwards? If it can then head coach George Karl will certainly have to be creative.

Danilo Gallinari was the starting three for the Nuggets last season. This year he will likely not crack the starting lineup without a significant injury or some lineup shuffling by Karl, though some have suggested that he will start alongside Iguodala at either the two or three. But that doesn’t matter.

Denver will be a rangy mass of confusion, ingenuity, and joy. And all of that comes from the two forward positions and the potential log jam they create on this roster. Of course, depth is always a good problem to have and the Nuggets do have capable players filling out the rest of the roster. Let us not forget JaVale McGee is also on this team. The Nuggets have the ability to be the most dangerous and frustrating team in the league. That alone is exciting. And McGee! Never forget that he is on the team.

With all these wings, five of the seven forwards are small forwards, the Nuggets will have to focus on perimeter defense. They were last in the NBA in field goal percentage allowed in long 2-pointers and 3-pointers. Iguodala should help to alleviate this problem but this isn’t a defensive team at heart. Sure, it has players that can defend. McGee, Iguodala, and even Kenneth Faried, despite being undersized for a four, can hold his own. But this is an offensive team that likes to run, Denver had the second fastest pace last season, and that will not change in the coming season.

As noted above, the lineups that the Nuggets run out on the court this season will be the most interesting aspect of the team. Small ball will be a relative term when it comes to Denver but that is the style of ball we should expect most out of this team if they are to navigate their abundance of wings. Perhaps medium ball is a better term to describe their style of play based on size. Nonetheless, on-court groupings of Ty Lawson, Iguodala, Wilson Chandler, Gallinari, and Faried are completely plausible, though not wholly advisable. Yet, that is the allure of this tradition-be-damned team. Kosta Koufos and Randolph could be on the court at the same time as Corey Brewer and Andre Miller. Lawson and Miller will share the backcourt again and it isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Gallinari will play the five in limited stretches. It’s maddening and thrilling all at once because it can work. Karl’s open offense allows for it.

And then there is Timofey Mozgov.

Lawson’s pure scoring will be accented well with Iguodala’s ability to play off the ball, run the floor, and defend. Faried and McGee will man the post well. But the rest of the team is an enigma, aside from Miller, in how they will mold together into a cohesive unit, especially with Chandler coming back from injury.

This is an unbelievably deep team. There is no questioning that. They will hit their opponents with speed and the ability to score from anywhere. Denver is dangerous but they must maintain an incredible tempo to realize their full potential. George Karl knows this and will put his team and players into every possible situation to get the most out of them and this will give teams, and fans, reasons to pull their hair out.

Denver’s brash iconoclasm will cause many to question whether there is a method behind the madness or if they are functioning purely on calculated abandon. Their roster begs these questions but that seems to be the goal. Traditional positions are dead and Denver is currently at the forefront of experimentation. It won’t always be a pretty endeavor but it should work. This team has the skill required to compete in the ever-deepening competition in the Western Conference. By the time the playoffs roll around, the Nuggets should be considered a dark horse. That is, of course, if everything falls into place.

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A Conversation about the Western Conference Playoffs

Maybe next year, Ricky

Doyle Rader and Travis Huse discuss the basketball world, namely the Western Conference playoff picture (We can’t think of a creative name for these segments. Help us out.):

DR: I wrote briefly on the race to get into the playoffs and how cluttered it is yesterday with the knowledge that it wouldn’t be relevant today. It isn’t. In fact, it was smashed to pieces (not really). Right now, though, the West is stacked up from the sixth through tenth seeds and there will be a lot of position jockeying over the next week and a half to see who will actually make it into the postseason. Even the third through fifth seeds aren’t set in stone and the Spurs could win the Western Conference outright. It’s cray, essentially. Tonight the Rockets and Nuggets face off once again as both teams fight to keep their playoff chances alive. Last night Denver came out in the second half and ran rough shot all over Houston, getting out in transition for easy buckets. Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, and Ty Lawson were seemingly everywhere. It was an impressive win. If they can do it again tonight, Houston’s chances at making the playoffs will certainly begin to dwindle. How do you feel the West could pan out?

TH: I actually envision the conference standing pat from here until the playoffs, unless a team tanks for better positioning, like the Grizzlies did last year.  The Jazz have been playing fantastically as of late, but they’re still a game and a half behind Houston, and frankly, there’s no way that the Suns manage to squeeze in.  If there is any movement at all, I feel it’ll be upward movement from either the Mavs or the Spurs.  Dallas has been playing much better since the departure of Lamar Odom, which goes to show exactly how poisonous he was to that locker room; in fact, it seems as if the team has been brought together by kicking him out.  So there’s a distinct possibility they can overtake Memphis, in my mind.

In a typical year, San Antonio would be heavily resting their stars, so a few losses this week and next wouldn’t be surprising.  But with the increased workload Tiago Splitter‘s been able to handle, as well as the addition of Boris Diaw, Tim Duncan‘s been kept to 28.4 minutes a game.  Talk about cray.  Gregg Popovich is now in a situation where he might actually increase the minutes for Duncan and Manu Ginobili, to prepare for their roles in the playoffs.  For entertainment’s sake, I really, really, REALLY hope the postseason matchups stay as they are, though.  Clips-Grizz would be one of the most exciting, physical series of all time.  Blake Griffin can dunk over anyone, but if anyone can contain them, the Memphis bigs could.  Posters galore.  Lakers-Mavs would be a wonderful rematch of last year’s stomping, but a Bynum-Haywood matchup could be problematic for Dallas.  Spurs-Nuggets could be a highlight of the importance of depth, with each team being able to run 3 full squads at an opponent.  The 7-game format would be a dream for those interested in NBA coaching tactics, and George Karl against Pop is as close to the best as we can get in the first round.  The 8th seed is going to get reamed, though.  No question.

DR: Yeah, the fate of whoever lands in 8th has had their fate sealed. I hope Utah can sneak in there, though. The Jazz won their last meeting with the Thunder so that gives me the slightest bit of hope that if they make it to the playoffs they won’t be swept. Tyrone Corbin has done a fantastic job with Utah and should be rewarded with a playoff berth.

As for Memphis, doom and gloom is in the air as they head into the postseason. Marc Gasol hyper extended his left knee on Sunday and the entire city of Memphis is holding its collective breath. He will have an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury. For the sake of Memphis, who I see as a “dark horse” (what a cliché term) in the playoffs, I hope he is going to be able to come back quickly.

TH: Derrick Favors! I still love that kid, but he needs a role with a different team, or they need to get a guard out of one of their bigs.  The Jazz will rocket right back into the playoffs in the next season or two, their front office is too smart.  Which team missing out on the playoffs this season do you think will make it next year?

DR: I honestly feel like it’s the Blazers. They have been a steady playoff team over recent years but they blew it up this year. They are rebuilding and if they can get one or two solid players around LaMarcus Aldridge I don’t see any reason why they should miss out on the playoff party next season.

Also, the Timberwolves are right there. When Ricky Rubio went down you could hear that team’s balloon burst. Everything changed. Their defense collapsed, their offense grew stale. Nothing was working right for them except for Kevin Love. He’s the man. If the NBA had an NIT, these two teams would be a lock for it.

TH: See, I’ve got two possibilities, and they hinge on one signing.  If Steve Nash stays in Phoenix, it will signify some roster moves to improve the team.  Therefore, they’ll be able to make the playoffs.  If they don’t, Nash is gone and they’ll be looking at a major rebuilding.  Which, to be fairly honest, might be the best thing long term for the Suns.  In this very-likely scenario, I like the idea of the Timberwolves next year.  That roster is filled to the brim with underrated talent, and Rick Adelman’s already done wonders.  It’s the funniest goddamned thing that David Kahn actually set up a pretty complete basketball team.  Imagine if we’d told ourselves in 2009 (or 2010, or 2011) that it could all fit together.

DR: Well, the Wolves still have their issues. Michael Beasley still has yet to find a defined role on the team and it looks as though he isn’t even going to get a qualifying offer from Minnesota, so he will be playing elsewhere next season, and Adelman just doesn’t seem to like Darko Milicic. What will be interesting to see is how much Nikola Pekovic can improve his game during the offseason and whether Martell Webster will get a haircut. Above all else, they need to stay healthy. Rubio, Love, Barea, Beasley, Luke Ridnour, Darko, and Pekovic all missed serious time this season. No matter how well the team is playing at any given point, injuries are a team’s death knell.

Maybe David Kahn is craftier than we all thought, or maybe he just got lucky. I’m going with the latter.

As for the Suns, BLOW IT UP.

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Teams end season battling for playoff positions

Nothing is certain, yet, in the race for the last few playoff positions, but after last night, the picture is a little clearer. Heading into Sunday, Milwaukee, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, and Utah were all jockeying to hold or grab spots in the postseason. With about two weeks left in the season, the race to playoff seed is heating up.

Just a week ago, the Bucks were hot but have since hit a snag as they have faced some stiffer competition in the likes of the Thunder, Knicks, who they are trying to catch for eighth in the East, and the Pacers. They lost each of those contests. With six games remaining the Bucks need to either win out, there is likely no other option as they are two and a half games behind New York. Three of their remaining games will be against teams who are currently slated to make the postseason. They play the Pacers again, the Sixers, and the Celtics to close the regular season. Out of those three teams, Philadelphia is the most interesting.

The Sixers are currently experiencing a Mets-ian collapse since the All Star break. It looked, for a time, that they were going to run away with the Atlantic Division but now Boston has a firm grasp on the division title. Philadelphia has lost six of their last ten games and are now tied with the Knicks in last place in the playoff picture. A further fall from grace could lend a hand to Milwaukee as they fight to make the last seed.

Per usual, the West is cluttered when it comes to who is going to be the last couple of seeds heading into the postseason. Three and a half games separate the sixth seed Mavericks from the Jazz, who are currently tenth in the West. At this point it would take a complete collapse for Dallas  to miss the playoffs but they could certainly fall in the standings. Denver and Houston are tied in the standings and currently hold playoff spots. However, Phoenix is nipping at their heels sitting two and a half games back. Just a half game behind the Suns are the Jazz, who have surprised just about everyone this season as head coach Tyrone Corbin have molded into a formidable and balanced team. He needs to be mentioned in the Coach of the Year discussion, especially if the Jazz weasel their way into the playoffs.

An interesting twist to the race for the last two seeds in the West is that the Rockets and Nuggets play each other in a home and away Sunday and Monday. If either team drops both of these games it leaves the door wide open for the Suns and Jazz. Houston recently fell to both the Jazz and Suns and needs to sweep Denver today and tomorrow to essentially lock up a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the Jazz and the Suns face off in Salt Lake City on April 24 in what could be a crucial meeting if the Rockets or Nuggets fall on consecutive nights to the other. Utah has a much easier schedule to end the season than the Suns as they face the Blazers, sans LaMarcus Aldridge, twice and the Magic, who are without Dwight Howard. The Suns, on the other hand, also face the Blazers but then must play the Thunder, Clippers, Nuggets, then the Jazz, and they close the regular season against the Spurs. To put it succinctly, the odds are not stacked in Phoenix’s favor.

The most interesting aspect of the rounding out of the playoff teams is that all the teams in the Eastern Conference could enter postseason play with winning records. It has been since the 2004-05 season since every team in the East in the playoffs had a winning record. Unfortunately for all the teams vying for those last few spots, their season will likely end with a first round exit.

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Nene will probably test free agency

Rocky Mountain highway out of town

The Denver Nuggets dealt away their biggest star and all-star point guard this season. Now it looks as though their remaining star might walk away from the team on his own.

It is looking as though Nene will likely opt out of the remaining year of his contract and become a free agent. He is slated to make $11.6 million next season but feels that he could get more elsewhere. However, with a collective bargaining agreement still not in place for next season, it is not known how much money he could be offered, nor how or when a free agency period will exist.

Nene has played for the Nuggets for nine seasons but no longer feels welcome on the team and that his accomplishments are going overlooked. His comments disclose his frustration with the Nuggets.

“If I play happy, if I enjoy the game, my game improves. I did my best for the team, for the city. I tried to do my best for the fans. But the (Nuggets) need to understand you need to see the return on the other side, or you need to look for it. You need to look for it sometimes.”

During the regular season Nene averaged 14.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting. He also averaged 7.6 rebounds and two assists. These numbers carried over, almost identically, in Denver’s five game series defeat against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs.

Whenever the CBA is sorted out, Nene will likely be the top free agent on the market. Every team will take a look at acquiring him whether they have a need for a center or not. What Denver must do, if they hope to retain him, is show him that the team and the fans value his contributions and that they will get the piece in place around him to make a deep playoff run. If they cannot do that and Nene leaves, Denver may find itself on the outside looking in when the playoffs come around next season.

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Chauncey Billups returning to Knicks

More money, more shooting problems

The New York Knicks have answered one question pertaining to the future of the organization. According to a report by Chris Sheridan, the Kinckerbockers will pick up the option on Chauncey Billups’ contract for the 2011-12 season. New York will pay Billups $14.2 million dollars over the final year of his contract.

The Knicks had until Friday to decide whether the team wanted to spend the money on the 13-year veteran point guard or buyout his contract. The buyout would have only cost the team $3.7 million.

Billups only played in one of New York’s playoff games and just 21 regular season games with the team. Apparently, that was all the Knicks need to see. He averaged 17.5 points, 5.6 assists, and 2.9 rebounds as a Knick in those 21 games. However, those numbers do not tell the whole story.

After joining the Knicks, Billups’ shot selection became abysmal. With New York, he was taking almost two more shots per game than he was with Denver. This did not translate into increased production, though. His shooting percentage dropped from 43.8 percent with the Nuggets to 40.3 percent with the Knicks.

Worst of all was his tendency to take low percentage three-point shots while with the Knicks. With Denver, Billups averaged 4.7 three point attempts during a game and connected on 2.1 of them for an average of 44.1 percent. As a member of the Knicks, he upped his shot attempts from behind the arc to six per game while only making two. His averaged tumbled to 32.8 percent. That is almost a 12 point drop. Mr. Big Shot needs to find a new nickname.

Nonetheless, Billups, who will turn 35 in September, will remain in New York for one more season. One question answered, many to go.

Now the Knicks can focus on whether to pick up the option on General Manager Donnie Walsh’s contract. Rumors have been floating around that the two sides are close to a two-year extension.

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Ty Lawson almost sets NBA consecutive 3-point record

Feelin' it

When the Indiana Pacers made all but one shot in a quarter earlier this season it was impressive. What Ty Lawson did on Saturday night was unbelievable.

Through three quarters, Lawson connected on ten consecutive three pointers against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It would have been an NBA record for consecutive made threes without a miss until he hurled up a three as time expired at the end of the third that did not connect. George Karl stared at him for five seconds after the quarter was over before asking him why he bothered taking that last shot. Lawson simply shrugged. Heat checks happen.

He was 10-11 from deep. It is the most threes made in a game by any player in a game this season.

NBA records aside, Lawson, through three had a career high 37 points on 11-16 shooting while also hitting five of his six free throws. He also had seven rebounds and six assists with one steal through three.

Needless to say, the Nuggets were well on their way to the win column by the time the third was over.

Denver set a franchise record with 19 made three-pointers in the game.

The NBA record for most consecutive three-pointers made in a game without missing is held by Latrell Sprewell (New York Knicks; February 4, 2003) and Ben Gordon (Chicago Bulls; April 14, 2006) who each made nine.

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