Saturday, June 30, 2007

Nuggets falling; crystal ball; Knoxville truth

The Nuggets took a big hit on draft night when Portland landed Greg Oden and other parts to go with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. If it doesn't materialize this season it will in a year from now when the Trail Blazers will pass Denver for years in the Northwest division standings.

Utah, with Deron Williams running the point, Carlos Boozer banging inside and an array of other complimentary parts will also keep the Jazz playing at a higher level than Denver.

The Sonics, for now, even with the additions of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green still have no interior defense or solid backcourt play and are not the Nuggets equal.

Minnesota is not going to rise up either.

So the Nuggets are now only the third best team in the Northwest and no better than the seventh-best team in the Western Conference, no matter how many in the media that believe they can be a power. Denver could even fall as far as ninth in the conference playoff race.

Crystal ball

The WSN can see it coming -- Kobe Bryant will get his wish to be traded.

No way he's going to call off the dogs on owner Jerry Buss' cajones on this one. Bryant will make life so miserable that Buss tells general manager Mitch Kupchak to schedule surgery with another team to remove the growing cancer that Bryant is becoming.

Want more?

Bryant will end up more miserable in his new digs and won't, repeat, won't win another title.

Things like this just happen. If you have to believe in something, believe this money statement.

No more titles!

Kobe is a player to remember but a dog of a person sort of like a San Francisco outfielder we all know. How about Bryant and Barry Bonds start making buddy movies as Chump and Hump.

Who are those boys

The Rockies look more like the Bad News Bears or the Royals every day. How does a team go 19-27, then 20-7, and now 0-8? Manager Clint Hurdle is going to end up getting whacked for such inconsistent play but he's not the hack on the mound each game. The pitching coach is not to blame either. It's the actors, the bad ones, who are listed on the roster as arms.

Jeff Francis gets a passing grade as does Aaron Cook. Rodrigo Lopez has been a surprise. In the bullpen, there have been some quality performances but overall, this group of pitchers is a joke. The Rockies will wait for Greg Reynolds to arrive but he's the only one even close as a starter to being major league ready and he alone will not turn the car around.

Only in Knoxville

So tell me how yet another Phil Fulmer football player can get in legal hot water, this time for the entrepreneurship of selling crack cocaine, and yet the coach keeps his job?

Fulmer is John Gotti all over again -- the Teflon Don. Win a national championship, win a lot of games and fill Neyland Stadium and you can near-annually have players getting handcuffed and photographed and the school administration still loves you and fails to worry about the image of the institution.

From 2005-06, 15 Vols were either arrested or cited for behavior unbecoming a solid citizen. But I guess Tennessee's colors are orange. Maybe the shade should be changed from creamsicle to jump suit orange.

Suppose for a moment, if you will, how long such similar behavior would be tolerated in Fort Collins, Colorado Springs or Boulder. Would Sonny Lubick, Troy Calhoun or Dan Hawkins be anything more than spoiled meat?

Hawkins should ask for refund

CU needs a home-run threat at running back. Thomas Perez was highly thought of but busted out academically. P.T. Gates was marketed as the next Reggie Bush but he too looks to be an academic fraud.

So who else, legitimately, can challenge pocket back Hugh Charles?

Opportunity has been created for a bunch of unknowns. The rest of the roster should smell blood in the water and seize the day and become someone.

Ram on the rise

CSU, it says here, has offensive talent that could really step forward in 2007.

We've mentioned running back Kyle Bell, tight end Kory Sperry and quarterback Caleb Hanie but how about receiver Damon Morton, who went from four catches to 48 and from 101 yards in receptions to 722?

Morton had eight quality games a season ago. If he can even out his performance and take his game to greater heights, say to 55 catches for 1,000 yards then the Rams are going to have the outside threat to complement Sperry underneath and Bell blasting through defenders in the running game.

Quarterback looking for love

Cade Cooper, a junior college standout at Snow College in Utah, is transferring from BYU. Any quarterback-hungry schools can start their sales pitches now. Remember, Snow once produced former Oklahoma standout Josh Heupel.

Final Salvos

Maybe it's just the WSN party punch getting to me but I'm truly jonesing for some Broncos training camp action. Come on now, it's been a little too long to ask one to wait for some more football.

We can close the season on the Rockies any day now. You wanna cry "uncle" or shall I?

So honestly, did Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd really think the pitching he put together was going to fool the National League for more than a couple of months?

Barry Bonds is now at number 750 and counting and wow, if that is not one large, pretty number. Give the man credit -- bombs of all sorts can be going off around him, whether they be steroid allegations or ex-mistresses coming out the woodwork to whack him, he never stops focusing on being a dangerous hitter, even at an age when most players are retired. Bonds is truly a freak show but he is also a special talent that has been thoroughly committed to producing greatness and for that, I have to salute him.

Quick, amigos, would you trade Nene for Yi Jianlian, the Milwaukee Bucks cranky draft pick?

Carmelo Anthony for Kobe Bryant?

What about Todd Helton, Joe Koshansky and Ian Stewart for Rangers big bat Mark Teixiera?

Javon Walker for Randy Moss?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Smith's travel plans change; Fazekas smiling

What a few minutes for CSU's Jason Smith. Looking like he has a job offer for Miami, F-L-A, and not only that but he was set up to work with the amazing Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O'Neal, Alonzo Mourning and being able to soak up all that winning aura. Then, like that, poof, he's going to Philly to earn a living.

The good news is that Smith will play for the 76ers. They need any big man that can play. Smith will have to get stronger and accept the challenge of the Association but he should be a longtime pro.

Fazekas a lucky man

Ralston Valley High School and University of Nevada big man Nick Fazekas has already scored in the NBA.

Getting picked by Dallas, even if in the second round (expected), is like chasing the hot girl of your dreams, missing out on her and somehow ending up with someone even better. Yes, he'll make less money to begin with but going to a championship-level team that plays a finesse game with Dirk Nowitzki to learn from, well how perfect is all that!

This is a great set up for Fazekas and the WSN expects him to develop into a solid contributor for the Mavericks.

Nuggets Noise

Chirp, chirp.

Chirp, chirp.

Oh, just so you know, Von Wafer is the answer to Denver's hoop dreams.

Von Wafer.

NBA notes

By the way, love what Portland did, getting an defensive presence who is also a high-character guy in Greg Oden, an athletic wing and shooter in Rudy Fernandez, dumping selfish, immature Zach Randolph, picking Duke's Josh McRoberts, an athletic, explosive talent who can also block shots and shoot a little but still one giant enigma, in the second round, which will make him work to stick in the league, and finding Derrick Byars, another scorer, also in the second go-around.

Not a bad night's work for a scrub team starting the evening in the poll position.

Throw in that the Blazers already have Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster and Portland might again be a power and soon.

A +.

Seattle getting the sports car of the draft, Texas' Kevin Durant -- maybe one of the best consolation prizes in league history. Milwaukee bagging Yi Jianlian was a fantastic gift. Remember it. Now if they can just convince or brainwash him into loving Wisconsin. Forget all the slams against Yi. Yao Ming was supposedly a stiff when it came to athleticism, and weak to boot but last I checked he's not a punk, right? Remember this, as well -- Don Nelson and Golden State tried to trade up to get Yi. It was Nelson who pulled off the trade to get that big German some years ago, name of Nowitki. Know him? Nelson knows talent.

Other smart teams -- Atlanta for picking Al Horford and Acie Law IV; the Lakers for grabbing Javaris Crittenton to play the point; Utah for finding a shooter/scorer in Morris Almond (the Jazz are going to remain a factor in the West); Memphis making Mike Conley, Jr. it's floor leader; Charlotte, for being smart enough to cough up the rights to no. 8 overall selection Brandan Wright for Jason Richardson; Golden State for getting more size on the roster with Wright and also picking Italian Marco Belinelli, a shooter with other flaws that will likely be minimized in the Warriors running approach; the Clippers scoring point guard Jared Jordan in round 2; Chicago scoring wide-body Aaron Gray in round 2; and Detroit deciding on Rodney Stuckey, a physical scoring guard.

Personally, I'd swap Ray Allen (now a Celtic) for Allen Iverson right here, right now. Allen is what the Nuggets need and Danny Ainge long lusted after Iverson for Boston.

Milestone 2007

It's a season for record breaking in Major League Baseball and on Thursday two WSN Iron Dogs showed well as Craig Biggio collected career hit 3,000 in Houston's victory over the again hapless Rockies and Frank Thomas smoked home run numero 500 for his career. To be great you have to be very good for a long, long time. These two have done that and should be recognized for consistency and durability in a day when many get sidelined often.

Biggio is a Hall of Fame player and so is Thomas. They both did it the old fashioned way -- they worked for it. They also played for more than loaded paychecks.

Lost in translation

Biggio was the story in the Astros victory but there were other notes of interest. Aaron Cook showed up to pitch (one run over seven innings), showing his often-missing capability; Chris Iannetta reminded us he's still on the team (homered), Troy Tulowitzki continues his recent display of power (homered again); Ryan Spilborghs showed he has a place on this team (the sparkplug homered) and Brian Fuentes blew yet another save (what up, homey!). The Rockies -- this just in -- are schizophrenic. Fire manager Clint Hurdle and hire Dr. Phil.

Bad year farming

For those who are awaiting the next big thing out of the Rockies farm system in the coming months, primarily Triple-A Colorado Springs, don't expect anything much from the usual suspect -- Ian Stewart or many others. Fact is the organization's top prospects are stuck in the mud in 2007.

Stewart, a former no. 1 draft pick, isn't embarrassing himself but he hardly looks like the next great power source for Colorado either. Regardless of what some experts are writing, Stewart is not going to be ready for Coors Field this season. The best approach is to leave him in Colorado Springs now, bring him back to spring training and hope that the light goes on and his average rises and his bat starts crushing balls off fences and over walls.

Stewart isn't the only one not living up to the hype.

Outfielder Seth Smith, who was expected to have a big year, has been a disappointment as has pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, a star that is burning out. Infielder Jayson Nix is showing life but is still nothing more than hardly adequate with the bat. He's not ready offensively and may never be.

The one man who gets an above-average grade is first baseman Joe Koshansky, who is a little older than most for Triple A. He's not homering at the same pace as the past (10 through June 27) but his average (.325) and acceptable strike zone-judgment make him attractive for a team not locked down with Todd Helton's contract.

The good news is that Double-A Tulsa is again producing talent. On the mound, starter Greg Reynolds, relievers Juan Morillo, Sam Deduno and Jarrett Grube and even Ryan Mattheus and Franklin Morales, two more starters, are showing real promise. If only a few of them register on the ricter scale then Colorado will be in much better shape at the big league level.

Here's how we have them rated at WSN, with the starters running like this: Reynolds, Mattheus, and Morales; the relievers hierarchy goes: Grube, Morillo, and Deduno. Remember we don't grade on "tools" and potential. We want and love production.

The breakdown? Reynolds knows how to pitch and will make the "bigs." Mattheus is smart and that goes a long way. He is not a top prospect but could be an end-of-the-rotation guy. Morales is one of the many teases in the organization -- million dollar arm but one that is too much for him to control. With a little restraint, he could become a force. Grube is the most developed reliever, a solid bet to reach Denver while Morillo and Deduno are big arms who don't live up to potential. Both could excel in The Show but could also end up being Joe Who's?

The only hitter of note is a graybeard, third baseman Christian Colonel, a 25-year old who was a fifth-round pick in the 2003 draft. Colonel isn't dominating (.310, 9 HRs, 47 RBI) but has been surprisingly productive. He's a longshot for Denver but could reach the majors elsewhere.

Final Salvo

Woodrow Paige, say it ain't so. You know what we mean. Don't tell us you went stupid as a big name at ESPN and thought you were bulletproof with women. I'd like to believe its' all a lie but not sure I can. That said, you are innocent before being proven guilty. You are innocent, aren't you? Or was that butt simply too good to pass up for a famous ESPN staffer?

Air Force AD Hans Mueh still has not forgiven Jeff Bzdelik for dumping the Falcons for CU. Who knows what the agreement was when Bzdelik was hired but this is the culture of athletics in this country. You prep for a better opportunity. Mueh should be happy for the shining moments that Bzdelik provided and try to take advantage of them. Privately, I think Mueh is raging and will not be satiated until Bzdelik "fails." That, I'm afraid, sir, is not going to happen.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

NBA buffet, sexploits, recruiting

If a proposed three-team trade goes down, as Yahoo Sports is reporting, with Kevin Garnett heading to Phoenix and Amare Stoudemire to Atlanta, then how much did those team do themselves right? Garnett is a better rebounder and passer, even if seven years older than Stoudemire, but does this move make the Suns better than the Spurs, and what about that megaton contract of KG's? Stoudemire in Atlanta sounds like a no-brainer but giving up two top-11 draft picks and a serviceable center in Zaza Pachulia leaves me rubbing my shaved dome. Stoudemire will sell tickets and help the Hawks get to the playoffs but this might not have been the best move for a franchise in need of a point guard. Maybe if it has the money to steal Chauncey Billups, Atlanta will have a team again.

Shedding Garnett's salary is the wise thing to do for Minnesota. That project just wasn't working and wasn't going to anytime soon. If the Timberwolves score, as reported, those two coveted draft picks, and if it can be astute in using them, they can remake the mix of the franchise quickly. The question that remains and looms large is will that be adequate compensation for KG? No, not really, but stopping the financial bleeding of that contract as well as separating from an unhappy partner is a very good thing for future flexibility and chemistry.

The WSN is all for Kevin Durant as the top pick in the NBA draft but Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post makes a powerful opening statement for Greg Oden. The biggest concerns regarding Oden, at least in this space, are his injury history and apparent lack of passion on the court, not his talent level.

And congratulations to Jason Smith of CSU, who is about to get rewarded for his college basketball education. No more scrapping for pizza money. It's time to get paid. Check out a fantastic article by Kelly Lyell of the Coloradoan detailing former pro coaches and players opinions of the Rams big man.

Here it comes, just as predicted, and it was only predicted because it's an annual event -- the Rockies summer nose dive. The pitching is awful, the hitting average and all those feel-good moments from a hot streak are being stained by a six-game (and counting) losing streak. So is management trying to find answers or is it going to allow the team to again sink out of the divisional race, holding on to, as most loser organizations do, the motto "wait 'til next year."

Poor Barry Bonds. Seriously. For once, you have to feel for the creep. It appears his ex mistress (dummy!) is about to spill all about their sex life. Now how unbelievably wrong is that! Not even a schmuck like Bonds deserves such a knife, does he? Of course, if he's the Superman sexually that he is on the baseball field, then this might be very good PR, and something to talk about other than steroids. But if he really took dope and his mistress noticed, this could, um, be, you know, embarrassing.

Feeling lonely? Try catching a Tampa Bay Buccaneers home football game. The courts have said the team can continue pat-down searches for security purposes. Honestly, I've been patted down before, had my pants pulled away from my waist (that wasn't a gun) and while it is mildly irritating, considering it is in the name of safety for all of us, I think I can handle the fondling or having someone run a device over my body so I don't up as Middle East mincemeat one day.

Look at the number -- 340. How does a pitcher win that many games? Greg Maddux just did. Color me a big fan, and I hate that word, of the old goats still laying brick -- Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, and Randy Johnson. To be as good as they have all been for so long is really a sight. The very big truth is this -- the game needs them, especially with all the cheating amongst hitters in years past coming to light in recent seasons.

Did you see former stud quarterback recruit Zach Frazer, who packed up and left Notre Dame, is now looking at Cincinnati and Connecticut? Cincinnnnnnati and UConn. Think those two schools would have gotten a look when Frazer was in high school? Not knocking going for the glitz and the dream as an 18-year old but if some preps would actually take a moment and look at the variables that could affect that dream, such as all the other highly-regarded players at their position at the school that excites them and think with their big head instead of their little one, they wouldn't be bottomed out on the depth chart and looking for new digs often.

Huh? Don't think this guy has been introduced to CU linebackers' coach Brian Cabral. Penn State has produced some boys who can get to the ball but who was the last great Nittany Lion at that position? Ted Johnson was a rock until injuries tore his body up. Chad Brown was a playmaker, Greg Biekert was underrated. Even Hannibal Navies has earned some dough in the League. Maybe the prep should have said, if you want to be the best in Pennsylvania, you go to Penn State.

Let's see if I have this right -- apologists are swirling around for pro wrestler Chris Benoit, who, fresh off strangling his wife to death and suffocating his child, hung himself. It seems, we hear, that steroids might be to blame. Sort of reminds me of mothers who get a pass for killing their children from feminists on the basis of post-partum depression. Not saying steroids don't have a negative effect or that post-partum depression doesn't exist but sometimes you just have to admit people are bad, as in KILLERS. Sorry, but in this court of opinion there are no passes for killing unless you're a soldier, where the job sometimes require something unseemly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Rockies woes, Buffs and Falcons lose

Loving the Rockies typical summer swoon (five games and counting). The pitching has disappeared and Colorado looks like the big chump it was earlier this season. Oh, they'll come out of it, they always do after a prolonged fog, but the question is how many games will they lose in the standings before they do? This is an annual pattern. The ultimatum? Don't be so tight fisted on prospects. Look to make a deal for pitching first, an impact bat second. Prospects are unproven. Look for established veterans.

Now is the time for the Nuggets to be creative and aggressive. They should be a good team in 2007-08 but how good? Playoff success good? Contender worthy? Doubtful unless they bring in more than a rookie free-agent shooter. Said it before -- the WSN thinks the boys in the Denver front office are workin' it and will take some mighty cuts to make something flashy and positive happen on draft night. Perimeter shooters, a lockdown defender and a jolt of chemistry-inducing character are all on the wish list. An acquisition doesn't have to be through the draft, it could be in the form of a veteran.

CSU and CU kicking off at 10 a.m.? What, a 7 o'clock in the morning spot wasn't available? Hey, getting on TV is very important for these two schools but how ready to hit and be hit is someone by 10 a.m.? Maybe the fan doesn't care, who knows. The players will adjust. They have no choice. Regardless of the necessity of this move, it's still ridiculous.

CU and Air Force not being to use their brain power to create a football series -- disappointing. Would be great local theater. Could have happened with some effort, desire and will. Should have happened. Didn't happen. Truly, what it came down to was that CU didn't want the competition to actualize itself.

CU coach Dan Hawkins does have a point about a series potentially limiting dates with marquee schools but the Buffs and Falcons don't have to play every season. How about a home-and-home series that takes place once in a while?

Buffs elite running back recruit P.T. Gates is looking iffy to be eligible come fall. The JUCO star simply is not a classroom stud. He was a gamble Hawkins had to take because Gates had the talent CU needed and he was willing to commit while many other stars laughed at the offer.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Billups and boys looking, lusting for more

Think Chauncey Billups has a sweet deal or what?

His wife or his girlfriend, depends on how you choose to look at the Pistons, still want a relationship with the former George Washington High School and Colorado Buffaloes shooting star but they know that Billups has the itch, being antsy to play the field, get some attention, and score.

The Pistons don't like it one bit but they are still in love. They know if they say "it's us or the highway" that Billups will say. "o.k., the highway" so instead they bite their lip and hope with all their might that all the sexy voices with deep pockets don't make a strong connection to take Billups away from them.

This could still work out, I suppose but it doesn't usually doesn't, does it?

Relocating fantasies

O.K., everyone is burnt out and wants to move on in the NBA.

O.K., maybe not everyone but some big names are fed up and want out of town.

So, forget about the stupid money math that has to line up to make a deal and let's just find compelling situations for these yahoos.

First up, Kobe Bryant. Let's take his fathead ego and put it in Chicago, where he desires and see if he can handle the Ghost -- Michael Jordan, and all his trophies.

Ship Kevin Garnett to Houston in exchange for Tracy McGrady and some spare parts. This allows KG to play with Yao Ming, which is a gift he deserves. Of course, today there are rumors Garnett could end up in L.A. with Bryant, which while media worthy does not necessarily make the Lakers markedly better, especially when you consider the subtraction includes Lamar Odom. All such a trade would do would be massaging of massive egos.

Jermaine O'Neal to the Nuggets. That's right, to Denver. Cough up Marcus Camby and Nene and move whatever other guys from team to team to make it work, as long as you can do it without Carmelo Anthony being included.

Hey, I don't like, at all, giving up Camby or Nene but O'Neal is a better all-around talent than both of them.

Quick hits

Give CU coach Dan Hawkins credit. Publicly, he is positive and resilient over almost anything, including foodgate. He seems to believer or understand that obstacles or cheap shots come your way in this life and there is no use complaining about them. Just sac' up and move on.

Talking about the Buffs, they do a great thing for the fans, if they can build up the program first, by signing up for a home-and-home series with West Virginia. If CU can get pump up its' talent level, and get the program out of first gear, CU-WVU could turn into exciting viewing. CU also is going to play more arena football, agreeing to a series with Hawaii. Maybe that also helps the school in its' recruiting efforts on the islands. It did lose its' series with North Carolina in football, which the Buffs will be compensated for, because the Tar Heels also rejected a basketball series. What?!

Those Rockies, just when you think you've corrected their ways as children, they go back to their loser tendencies, primarily because they can't pitch a lick.

Eduardo Najera is leaning towards not opting out of his contract, thinking Denver is still the place for him. On a winning team, Najera is a great fit for all the intangibles he brings. That winning team might be the Nuggets but it also might be someplace else through trade next season.

Former Nuggets star Fat Lever is working a basketball camp in Boulder. Man, still miss that dude. Little man with the big, big heart, rebounding, passing and o.k., shooting too much. He was a winner.

Lever said in a Daily Camera story that Allen Iverson is not the Answer if Denver wants to win a championship. Disagree. Maybe he isn't the answer but it is not outside the realm of possibility for Iverson to win a title with the Nuggets. The WSN did not like the trade to bring A.I. here but the team's obstacles to winning it all don't all lie on his head.

Happy Birthday

Shannon Sharpe turns 39.

Can you believe Derek Jeter turns 33 today?

And the great Greg Lemond is 46.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Broken bodies and accountability

Look in the mirror, at least a little, will you, those who complain.

A story getting big play right now is about benefits, or the lack of for former NFL players, and it's one hot issue.

The question is -- who should pay?

The players think the League has completely failed them and maybe, in the case of long-retired players, that's true. But something that isn't getting asked or written about is how much of the responsibility lies with the players, both current and former?

Shouldn't people who make a fantastic living, knowing full well the risks of the profession, think of another career endeavor if they fear crippling consequences? Should they also debate living like kings or rock stars while they are playing, instead choosing to sock heavy dough away for the post-career medical costs? Shouldn't current players also come together to help those from the past?

This should not all be about the League and the union, should it?

There are a lot of sad stories out there that will appeal to anyone with a heart but it's like me smoking for a lifetime then asking where's my help when I contract lung cancer. Playing football is like being a coal miner. You know you are going to an early grave doing it but it pays too well for you to make an alternative decision.

Writers gone wild

Ideas, by themselves, should not be discouraged.

Yet, questionable quality always should be.

Reading some Denver columnists musings regarding ideas about the Rockies personnel was startling, as in made little sense.

Seems to me that some esteemed writers who I hold in high regard believe that Garrett Atkins could or should be moved for more pitching, with some even believing the organization has major league-ready bats on tap.


Atkins is having a disappointing and putrid season that defies explanation but are we supposed to bury our heads in the sand and completely forget his two prior campaigns and just sell him off as distressed property? Maybe then, we can watch him hit 25 homers and drive in 100 runs for another team.

And how about the idea to promote last year's number one pick, Greg Reynolds, currently in Double-A, now? Remember the name Ubaldo Jimenez? Cruised through Double-A last year and then looked like a lost boy in Denver. Now he barely looks like a prospect at Colorado Springs, with no signs of past dominance. Long-lost Rockie Jamey Wright also dominated Double-A and look what happened to him.

And the Rockies dealing Aaron Cook? Here's a guy who has been falsely touted as a potential ace for who knows how long (not his fault) but trading him? While the guy is a no. 3 starter at best and probably best suited to be a no. 4, where a lot of pressure would be off him to perform, he still has real value, although he is starting to remind me of former Rockie underachiever John Thomsen. That said, he could be a very good arm in that spot in the rotation. Use Jeff Francis as your anchor, and Rodrigo Lopez, for now, as your next arm, followed by the mess that is the rest of the bunch.

No doubt this team needs pitching but will come in time from the farm system, or when two many bats prove to be quality or when a free agent realizes Coors Field doesn't play like it used to and a pitcher really can be successful here, especially if he can control and command his fastball while also possessing a slider and change up.

Final Salvo

Happy birthday to Dikembe Mutombo, who is 41-years young today. Still playing pro basketball, still showing signs of his brilliant past. Still making an impact in the world away from the court.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

WSN Big Sunday Truth

Going to say it right here, right now -- Colorado preps are going to impress on NBA draft night next week. We all know about Kersey's Jason Smith's attractiveness to scouts but Ralston Valley's Nick Fazekas is wowing scouts too. Fazekas looks as weak as a runway model but his skill set is so strong that he will still thrive. Once he gets to the pro game, hires a nutritionist and personal trainer he will put on 15-20 pounds to at least give himself a chance to survive the rigors of the Association against the muscle hounds he will face. Both of those trees will exceed the pro contributions of former CU center and current Indiana Pacer David Harrison, he of solid talent but questionable motivation.

If there is one intangible to admire about new quarterback Jay Cutler it is his apparent comfort zone with the expectations and pressure that go with being the Broncos quarterback. Brian Griese and Jake Plummer each had their shining moments in Denver and looked the part of Cool Hand Luke in moments but come the tough times, both wilted. Cutler may too but there is a vibe that the guy has some cowboy in him, a rough-and-tumble dude who will roll with the punches and shut people up with his determination, competitiveness, will and talent.

When did Vanderbilt become a jock school, a sports factory? With Cutler (NFL), pitcher David Price the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft (Devil Rays), reliever Casey Weathers the eighth choice to the Rockies and Derrick Byars expected to go in the first round of the NBA draft this week, the Commodores look more like Texas than they do Stanford.

2006 NFL draft, one-year review

Vince Young
, Tennessee
---Showed electric running ability, leadership skills and a winner's edge. Too bad he resembles Michael Vick as a passer right now.
Matt Leinart, Arizona
---In a difficult situation in Arizona, a loser's paradise, but with an offensive line and better coaching, he could become the heady, steady leader and premier passer he was drafted to be.
Jay Cutler, Denver
---Gunslinger who looked stiff and mechanical but showed flashes of big, big talent too.

Walt Weiss was solid, Neifi Perez certainly had his moments and Juan Uribe showed promise of a thunder bat but none of them flashed "IMPACT" like current Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. Maybe he never makes an All-Star game, maybe he doesn't go to the hall of fame but if the cat stays healthy, he is going to be a Derek Jeter-type influence in Colorado -- the glue, money and a strong heartbeat for this franchise.

Cha-ching. Do you hear the cash register ring with each season outfielder Matt Holliday puts in the books? His price tag for Colorado or any new suitor just keeps going up and he just might become too rich for the Monfort family's taste. Remember this one mighty big detail -- the very last thing the Rockies want to do is dole out another Todd Helton anchor-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean contract, which again proves to be one big hammy for the organization if Holliday gets hurt and can't produce at previous levels of excellence. Not many teams have been taken to the cleaners hard like Colorado has over the years with bad deals -- Bill Swift, Bret Saberhagen, Daryl Kile, Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton. Watching Holliday walk one day soon is a very real possibility. Brace yourselves.

Final Salvos

Yo, Blazers, don't go dumb now. Forget Greg Oden, a broken-down horse already, even if a rare thoroughbred, and go with Texas freak of nature, Kevin Durant as the first overall pick. If you don't have the stones to do so, trade out of the top spot so you don't end up with egg all over your face -- again. LaRue Martin, Sam Bowie, need we say more.

Dan O'Dowd, don't be shy. Sack up and look hard for a trade that will improve you for the next three-to-five years. Don't look beyond that as too much changes. Rockies fans deserve some hope. Give it to them. Trade prospects if necessary to get some punch in the lineup and a front-line starter, if available. You don't have to make a deal but you better sell out trying.

Dan Hawkins, hate to say it but allowing your son to sign with CU was a bad idea. Unless Little Hawk becomes all that and a bag of chips, you will suffer with low blows over nepotism while also struggling to bring in a top quarterback recruit outside of Idaho for the next few seasons because they won't trust you to make an unbiased decision on the starter's job.

Allen Iverson proved the naysayers (like me) wrong with his play in Denver. He can change his supposed stripes and go from being primarily a street baller to good teammate and still have an impact because you showed team play is not foreign to you. That said, you're not going to win here either until the front office brings a quality 2-guard, and some better role players to town. Playoff celebrations also won't happen until this group can pass a chemistry test.

Marcus Camby, hey, how did you like being named the best defensive player in the entire Association and then have people, almost exclusively the media have the temerity to question your ability on that end of the court? Wow. Yeah, Tall Cool One, I thought all that was real funny too. Better yet, now there is talk of shipping you out of town even though you are the best middle man in this basketball wasteland since Dikembe Mutombo. That, well, not so funny.

D.J. Williams, time to show up for work, brother. You've been over-hyped since you first hit campus in Coral Gables. You've given us glimpses of talent here in Denver but how about busting out in 2007 and showing us what you're all about as a linebacker in that Broncos "D." I think there's mad game in you somewhere. How 'bout getting hungry to make plays?

Speaking of getting hungry

Was thinking of taking y'all to lunch today up Boulder way but word on the street is that CU shut down the gravy train on discounted meals. I know that every five-star recruit in the country just crossed the Buffs off their preferred-school list. See, it's not playing time, party atmosphere or academics that lures the big fish and it's not even being groomed to go pro in a winning program or TV face time; no, see, instead it's all about the cafeteria food. Who knew, amigos? For this blatant transgression, CU is getting punished. Lost now is all hope of a Big 12 title and a national championship, I'm sure. God bless the NCAA infractions committee. Justice served. I'm sure they can sleep better at night knowing they policed the ranks like the gestapo they are. Anyway, can I still get a cookie?

Happy Birthday

Broncos cornerback supreme Champ Bailey turned 29 on Friday, the same day rags-to-riches quarterback Kurt Warner woke up 36 years old.

Today, former CU punter Mitch Berger's birth certificate shows him to be 35.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Rockies bully Yankees, CU gets first rounder

Colorado sweeps the Yankees. Sweeeeeeeeeps the Yannnnnnnkeeeees. Wow. This group of misfits (18-27) has really stepped up (20-7 over last 27 games) and become someone. What kind of brew is being stirred in the clubhouse? Look at the standings, rub your eyes and realize the Rockies are in the divisional race. If the pitching isn't a mirage, if the offense continues to improve and if, if, if the team makes a power play for a veteran, who knows what might be possible -- a wild card? Colorado still needs another bat and another proven pitcher if it is going to be anything this season. If it sits on the roster, the Rockies will fade.

So the question is -- would you trade prospects for a chance to win now? Todd Helton is unmovable. Garrett Atkins should be, despite his lousy season. Yes, Ian Stewart has solid potential, yes Joe Koshansky has talent, yes Greg Reynolds looks like a major leaguer but if the right bat, the right arm is out there you have to step away from the wall, put yourself out there and go for gold.

Beating Roger Clemens, even these days, when he should only be doing commercials, is a special accomplishment. Look at all the Hall of Famers fans saw at Coors Field on Thursday -- Clemens, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez -- and yet the Rockies win. Does it get any better than that?

I see where Troy Renck of the Denver Post used the word "ace" and Aaron Cook in the same sentence. Does Cook play cards? Hey, I love the guy but he never was, isn't and will never be a pitching ace. He's a middle-of-the-rotation guy who can surprise once in a while. Case closed. Drive home safely.

The Sporting News has picked Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday as an All Star but snubbed crafty lefty Jeff Francis. Holliday deserves the lust but Francis does too, as he has been stingy on the mound in both the National and American leagues. shockingly stabbed Holliday in the back in deference to Barry Bonds. Show me the math on that one, please.

NCAA misguided

Here we go again. The NCAA blasts CU for meals violations?

Meals violations.

As in undercharging athletes.

Yet, steroids, no big deal.

Yet, USC and Reggie Bush got away with big-time fraud.

Yet, Notre Dame gets its' own network and now the SEC wants its' own too.

What about Nebraska's weight room or Texas' budget?

All those aren't superior advantages that most don't have?

Do they see how much of a joke they are?

Not saying that what CU did was right but to pee your pants and mete out your little man-justice looks weak.

The NCAA, like the IRS, should be blown up, figuratively speaking.

Nuggets Noise, Smith drafting, Roby's failure

The Nuggets need a big shooting guard who can flat out fill it up. The good news is there are guys like that out there this year and if Denver sits on its' hands and does nothing, it will only have itself to blame come next season when it loses early in the playoffs. I'm getting the strong feeling, yes I am, that the boys in the front office have something cooking for draft night. They know they don't have enough in the backcourt to go deep in the playoffs and that they have to make it happen now to make it happen then.

Think me off my rocker but CSU forward Jason Smith will be drafted ahead of former McDonald's All-American and Dukie Josh McRoberts and Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter. He'll end up being better than both and get this, better than Florida star Joakim Noah. That said, Smith won't be a starter in the Association, but instead a quality backup.

If CU guard Richard Roby wouldn't have had his confidence shattered this season, if he would have brought it hard every game, he would have ended up a top-15 pick. Jeff Bzdelik is very happy that didn't happen as he now gets to coach his first year in Boulder with a first-rounder on his team.

Maybe I'm drunk on optimism but my first blind look into next winter has me ready to say CSU basketball is going to be highly competitive and its' going to win some games it likely shouldn't while CU is going to push for an NIT bid (but fall short) even without one quality big man on the roster. Man, I am drunk!

Sweeping the Nation

Former Rockies catcher and Marlins manager Joe Girardi stiffs the Baltimore Orioles, who wanted him to manage their franchise. The truth, amigos? Joe G. turned down the job for one reason -- he didn't want to get fired again. And with Peter Angelos the owner, that was a distinct possibility. Girardi realized that better opportunities would arise, possibly in, are you ready for this -- Colorado, St. Louis, or with the Yankees (for whom he played) or White Sox.

A little advice for NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker. Life is good -- don't get married. Not even to Eva Longoria. Dude, it's a Hollywood marriage, you both travel, she's a mini-star, you're a star, hate to say it but it won't last. Go out for Chinese and don't come back. Save yourself, save each other. Try to trust me on this one. You go the other way and I'm giving you and her 3 years, tops and a bomb of emotional carnage.

O.K., brothers, just thought you might like to know this.

Now, getouttahere. Hope to see you back soon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

CU saved, Marshall scoped, Mutombo loved

Some CU fans longed for New Mexico State's Reggie Theus to replace Ricardo Patton as men's basketball coach, which really was a fresh, bold idea. It would have also proven to be a poor one as Theus has just been sold himself with smoke and mirrors to coach the Sacramento Kings, saying, ignorantly "I'm an NBA guy coaching in college." Theus, it says here, will get chewed up and spit out, regardless of his NBA-guy claim, and end up back in the college game, where he can be a dynamic coach.

You'd think college coaches like Theus would be paying attention to the pro failure morgue of Carlesimo, Kruger, Floyd, Hamilton, and Calipari. The smartest cats, like Coach K and Roy Williams, never take the bait. Even Billy Donovan reneged on Orlando before it was too late.

CSU is excited about the commitment of Andre McFarland. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound forward sounds, if you listen to coach Tim Miles, like he's full of heart and a winning mentality. If he can play too, well, the Rams might have themselves somebody.

Broncos on tap

So, we know what Broncos wide receiver Javon Walker can be but what about Brandon Marshall? What's his upside? His strong qualities are size, strength, blocking and aggressiveness. What he lacks is speed and polish. The book is still open on him as no one really knows what he will become. He had but two quality games as a rookie. However, if he applies himself to his craft, if he is willing to be humble and learn from Walker and grandpa Rod (Smith), there are enough positives he could evolve into a second-tier pass catcher and an all-around player. The next two seasons will tell all.

Tight end Tony Scheffler will never be Shannon Sharpe but he could turn out to be a long-time starter because of his size, soft hands and mojo with quarterback Jay Cutler. He just has to stay healthy, block better and learn the nuances of the game.

You have to wonder about the defensive-line rotation now that Denver has brought Big Daddys Sam Adams and Jimmy Kennedy to town to go with fellow mountain, Gerard Warren. Where do rookie Marcus Thomas and interior short stack Elvis Dumervil figure into the mix? Will say it now, if the Broncos don't lose track of ED, he could explode this season as a pass rusher, although you have to wonder if the team also feels that way with its' draft-heavy run on lineman.

Nuggets Noise on Mutombo, defenders, draft

One of this space's favorite all-time athletes is Dikembe Mutombo.

Maybe it's because he was something the Nuggets never had before him -- a personable, brash, fly-swatting board hog who just happened to be good people. What impresses more than his basketball accomplishments is his humanity -- his love and passion for others far less fortunate and his will to to pour his heart into big change, as his hospital and research center project in the Republic of Congo proves-- showing the capability that athletes have to make a profound difference.

His example of what an athlete can accomplish with his fame and riches is something that all pro sports commissioners should look at and realize should be shared at every rookie symposium when athletes enter the pro ranks. Hope all the commissioners are listening. Make it happen. It shouldn't be about winning the lottery, getting 'fat' with materialism and easy livin'. Here is my closing statement your honor:
This world is and will long be a better place, because for the time that Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo walked and lived this life, he gave all of himself and showed, yes, showed love for people, not dollars, realizing that power comes in giving, not hoarding, as many of his contemporaries fail to understand.

His name, his time on this earth will long live and be respected.

No, this is not a eulogy.
For the record, letting him leave town for Atlanta years ago was one of the absolute dumbest, and most stupid moves ever in Denver sports history. It was obvious then and remains so today. The Nuggets looked like buffoons for that bumbling behavior.

Former Nuggets guards T.R. Dunn and Elston Turner are now settling down in Houston, assistants to new Rockets coach Rick Adelman. Ah, remember the days of Denver defending in the backcourt? Dunn and Turner were sickly shooters but could jock up an opponent.

Most likely to be traded come NBA draft night?
  1. Future draft picks
  2. Eduardo "Senor Grit" Najera
  3. Nene
  4. Marcus Camby
Rockies Rap

Former Rockies player Joe Giradi, who was widely respected for his dugout work in Florida before getting dismissed is apparently going to become the next manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Great choice...for the "O's." Who knows if being owner Peter Angelos' pool boy will be rewarding for Joe G. but it will be interesting to see if the manager can make the whole greater than the sum of the less-than-impressive parts Baltimore fields each game. Seeing Girardi compete against his ex-boss -- the Boss, George Steinbrenner -- will be entertaining, especially if the Orioles can work over the Yankees a little bit.

Colorado pitcher Jeff Francis has been a successful find and development for the franchise. He is fast becoming one of the better lefty pitchers in the game.

Garrett Atkins will again hit for power one day. Todd Helton won't. He's cooked. He's no more than an expensive singles and doubles hitter. He's the modern-day Mark Grace or Tony Gwynn with the stick. That said, Atkins lack of pop and production has killed the Rockies offense this season. They need power in that lineup and no one has been a bigger drain on it than the third baseman. He's not the only big bat doing little this season, however. There is something going on in the game that no one is writing about that I know of and that is, overall, power numbers are down. Not saying anything more than that -- I don't have to.

Rightfielder Brad Hawpe's arm gets toasted for it's strength and accuracy, as well it should. He is Larry Walker-esque with it. Now, if he could only hit like the Canadian. At least he's not the constant in-patient that Walker was so hey, he's got that goin' for him. If Hawpe can continue his powerful plate production he will take a step to another level as a player, at which point, he should be immediately dealt for a large booty, as he isn't likely to ever be a consistent 25-homer, 100-RBI guy.

Most likely trade chum for Colorado this summer if it decides to sell
  1. Aaron Cook
  2. Josh Fogg
  3. Brian Fuentes
  4. Yorvit Torrealba
  5. Brad Hawpe
  6. Jeremy Affeldt
  7. Willy Taveras
Sweeping the Nation

Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Barry Bonds have or had the competitive fire to be great. They all achieved elite numbers but they are going to find that allegations of steroid use will not bring them the public adulation after their playing days that they had hoped. It is going to be a real awakening for them. Lying about it all, as Pete Rose has found out, won't bring forgiveness. The sad reality is all these men were so talented at their sport they could have still been names for the ages without dabbling into the dark areas of possible cheating.

Linkin' you Up

Mile High Report (Broncos)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Things work out for Brown, Rams will rise

Former CU standout Chris Brown doesn't end up, as predicted by some media reports, in Chicago, where he would have been a good fit back in his home state, but instead decides to stay rooted in the South, resigning with the Tennessee Titans, where, if healthy, he will be a lock to be the team's starter, considering Travis Henry is now a Bronco, Lendale White doesn't want to act like a pro and is a future washout and draftee Chris Henry is more workout warrior than productive groundhog.

New CSU basketball coach Tim Miles says his job will be one of the biggest rebuilding jobs he's had. AD Paul Kowalczyk told me the program is a long ways away from where he hopes it will be. Yet, it says here, with Miles enthusiasm and Kowalczyk's proven history of success that there will be excitement on the floor, facilities and recruiting will improve and Rams basketball will become a factor in the Mountain West Conference within four seasons.

Funny how some in the NFL believe that Jake "the Flake" Plummer will one day return to play. Plummer could make things happen on the field but after experiencing the circus that was Arizona, then being dealt from Denver, a winning organization for rebuilding Tampa just plain ticked him off. Not motivated by money we all hear, it is doubtful that former Bronco will suit up again. Look for him to enjoy travel and maybe one day end up as an studio analyst maybe making connections with a new receiver, Keyshawn Johnson.

Know Chone Figgins? Remember that he was a fourth-round pick of the Colorado Rockies back in 1997? Well, he was, and that little fire starter just made news by banging out six hits in a game for the Angels against Houston on Monday. The diminutive one with the big game is a career .285 hitter, who over the last three seasons has averaged seven homers, 60 RBI and 49 steals. As an old friend of mine, a Red Sox fan (not mentioning names, Mike Rogers), used to ask me, why can't the Rockies get players like him?

So CU has lost Texas wide receiver verbal Chance Blackmon, supposedly because his pops believe Colorado is too far away from home. Bull. The reason Blackmon is now supposedly giving the Buffs the cold shoulder is as simple as "2-10." Word is that the other highly-touted WR recruit, Corey Surrency could also fly the coop. Once Dan Hawkins team starts posting winning records and earning bowl victories these kinds of things will stop.

The Rams have offered John Elway's quarterback son a scholarship. That's sweet, isn't it? Romantic. It's also like me sending an invitation to a party to Jessica Alba. Think she'll come?

The Yankees will be in town and regardless of their record, that series should still be a must-have ticket. Throw in future Hall of Famers on New York's roster and well, can you help me get a seat?

Rockies rookie catcher Chris Iannetta has fallen flat on his face this season but it would be foolish to forget how fast he rose through the farm system. He appeared ready for Denver. He wasn't. He would be best served by getting a little refresher course in Colorado Springs, where he can play and rebuild his confidence. There is no reason he can' still become a quality starter who can hit for average with moderate thunder in his bat while showing acceptable defensive and game-calling skills.

Nene has announced he's not too bright and the Nuggets just sigh. The big forward has decided he will play for Brazil's national team this summer. Huh? All we heard in 2006-07 was his body hurt like hell and with LaPhonso Ellis and Kenyon Martin's careers being significantly downgraded due to broken-down bodies, we really don't want to hear about Nene exposing his legs to more risk. Thought the big Brazilian got married? Where is Mrs. Nene when you really need her, unplugging this foolish decision.

Go read the Daily Camera and try to contain yourself over the motley crew of free agents the Nuggets have brought to town for mini camp. Mateen Cleaves is the big name but the problem there is the guy last was relevant as a player like, oh, I don't know when.

Sweeping the Nation

How big is a golfer when the birth of his child is big news to media outlets. Congratulations to you, Tiger Woods, that's what fame brings. Next up, the paparazzi will be digging in your trash, jamming a camera in the face of your baby and your wife and if you react poorly the world will judge you. While you are too classy to do such a thing, personally I wouldn't blame you if you
go Sean Penn on them all.

Word in the wind says that the NBA is upset that Portland and Seattle scored the top two picks in the draft and thus will be able to grab elite talents Greg Oden and Kevin Durant away from the East coast where the NBA would like to have those players for marketing purposes. Well, guess what? This East coast sense of entitlement is stink. And this idea that the NBA will suffer financially on a serious level without Oden and Durant is just sour grapes. Tough. The league instituted one of the biggest jokes in sports with the draft lottery so if Boston or whomever didn't land the big fish then look in the mirror and shut the hell up.

Am I old if I ask if tennis even exists as a sport anymore? Growing up, never played it but always would flip through channels if I could get my father off of watching golf (which I did play) to check for baseball and yes, tennis, because there was always a big name in action (Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and many others). Then as I grew up there was still Pete Sampras and wild child Andre Agassi. These days, who is there -- Roger Federer? Who is he? Is that the name of my accountant?

Warrior voices

From Greg Greene, who believes this space's assessment that CU's men's basketball program will be better off in the long run than Kansas State's supernova of a program due to the coaches in the equation -- Jeff Bzdelik and Frank Martin.
"Truth, I disagree with you on the future of Kansas State's men's basketball. I think Frank Martin will win and win big in Manhattan, and I also believe he will be able to replenish his squad with blue-chip prospects. The man can flat-out RECRUIT. Martin will surprise to the upside. Wait and see."
Greg, Greg, Greg. Contrary to popular belief I love optimism and yours has me ready to high five, sing the fight song and scope cheerleaders but have to break in with a reality update -- recruiters who can't coach, and what evidence is there that Martin can do that at the collegiate level, end up at the bus stop looking to get back in the game as recruiting specialists.

KSU went with Martin solely, sorry Greg, to prevent a jail break (Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen, amongst others) that would send the Wildcats plummeting to the depths of the conference. Hey, hope the Cats can indeed build on their resurgence as it's good for the Big 12's reputation. Still believe that the Buffs hiring of Bzdelik will prove more astute as he has the pelts to prove he can coach.

Final Salvo

Peace and love sent the way of the family of Indiana Hoosiers football coach Terry Hoeppner.

Over the last 18 months, the man battled two brain surgeries and all the pain and anxiety that must go with them before passing away Tuesday at the age of 59, which seems old until you actually grow up and realize just how young it is.

The last couple of years I've seen family and friends fall to cancer and it gets me how our amazing human bodies can be so destroyed internally, how we betray it or it betrays us. For Hoeppner's family, may you be surrounded by great people.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tight ends, draft thoughts, Bryant notorious

A healthy Tony Scheffler at tight end for Denver, to go along with former Buff and Broncos newbie Dan Graham should greatly accelerate quarterback Jay Cutler's development. With the two gifted tight ends to work the middle (lessening the downfield risks for a second-year QB), Travis Henry expected to be a solid if unspectacular running back (think Mike Anderson), and Javon Walker on the outside, the Broncos should regain the ability to score 20 points a game.

If Brandon Marshall rebounds from his offseason stupidity and emerges at the other wideout position, the "O" could take it one notch higher, scoring 24-plus a contest and take the anchor off the neck of the defense, allowing the team a potential 2-3 game improvement in wins and yes, earn a playoff victory.

Rockies Rap

Peter King of
has recognized Kaz Matsui's play, comparing him to Ichiro. Now maybe Matsui isn't Ichiro even on the Rockies second baseman's best day but his strong play isn't a recent development. King's national responsibility, in football, is to blame for being slow to notice as the Japanese import and Mets domestic trade has been wonderful since coming to town. He may be limited to pop-gun power and not in the class as Ichiro or Hideki Matsui but the evidence is clear -- he can rake and bake, a definite burr under the saddle of opposing pitchers, a real gnat.

The good news, you ask? The Rockies have now signed first-round draft pick Casey Weathers, a hard-throwing reliever out of Vanderbilt. The bad news even for a team in need of a shut-down arm out of the bullpen? He was the wrong guy to pick no. 1. Should have been California prep hitting-machine Matt Dominguez, Midwestern prep-super arm Jarrod Parker or big bat-Southern outfielder Jason Heyward.

Nuggets draft thoughts

Would the Nuggets possibly trade a big man, say Marcus Camby or Nene, during the NBA draft? It's a reach to say that would all come tumbling down but it isn't out of the question if this aggressive front office is working the phones as you might imagine it is these days.

While Camby's defense is appreciated a Mile High by club executives he is aging, injury prone and attractive on the market. Nene, once he got healthy and in shape, played the best basketball of his career and is also good looking to opposing clubs.

The two Nuggets are better than most of the giraffes in this draft class so to move one of the Brittle Brothers, Denver would need to demand in return a high-quality 2-guard or a solid scorer off the bench at the 3-spot and a difference-making defender.

USC guard Nick Young, Vanderbilt swingman Derrick Byars and Georgia Tech small forward Thaddeus Young would all look good on this team as athletic scorers with size while Young's teammate, point guard Javaris Crittenton would add size and playmaking ability to the backcourt.

Rice scorer Morris Almond could be a surprise target for the organization as well.

A veteran presence would likely be preferable to coach George Karl but ignoring the draft is something the new leadership of this franchise seems unlikely to do.

Big Man on Campus

Arron Afflalo of UCLA was a first-team All-American primarily because he played at UCLA. Yes, the cat could score a little and defend a little more but he couldn't rebound nor pass and was hardly a typical star. Yet some see him as a first-round pick in the NBA draft. Less acclaimed Jason Smith of CSU is a better prospect this season and Richard Roby of CU could be the same next season if he is willing to listen to new coach Jeff Bzdelik as well as work on his attitude and raise the standards for himself. Roby has top-20 draft potential, maybe top-15 if he is willing to mentally claim it for himself. That starts with building up that rock-star party body, working on his shooting and developing an all-the-time motor.

Bryant a homewrecker

Kobe Bryant in Denver would dwarf the excitement that the Allen Iverson move generated. While that will never happen it is important to talk about the Lakers wunderkind and stick Bryant again for who he is off the court. A basketball talent of great magnitude, he continues show how clueless he is -- a public relations nightmare -- tarnishing how people view him and will remember him upon the conclusion of his career.

While he has long inferred he wants to make his own mark he has, honestly, really been chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan's accomplishments. While MJ had his issues he was also a team player driven by winning, with the rings and trophies and recognition to prove it. Bryant sells he is about winning but in reality, despite his share of hardware, he is about the beauty of himself. From the running off of Shaquille O'Neal and now his desire to be traded he has proven it. His game in the past has proven it on many occassions from the volume of shots, the poor shot selection, the refusal to take shots, all of it.

Now, with his latest tantrum, KB has to leave his family, the Lakers, feeling betrayed. They allowed Bryant to wreck a good thing. Kobe was kept because he was younger. L.A., however, would have been better served by kicking his tempestuous backside out of the house for a monster package and keeping O'Neal.

The Lakers will not get equal value in return for Bryant now but his subtraction will allow for the next attempt at revival of that franchise.

Bryant could lift the Bulls if dealt to Chicago but heading to New York would only allow him to be the best player on a good but hopeless-championship dreams team. If Phoenix or Dallas were to go all out to get him, which would be a foolish move on their part unless they can get away with grand theft, those would be wise juvenile home picks for Bryant and those franchises to consider.

Sweeping the Nation

Bears defensive lineman Tommie Harris wants Donovan McNabb, not Rex Grossman, as the team's starting quarterback. Harris is going to be in some locker room trouble for desiring someone else's man. Of course, you can see his point. McNabb is a better provider for the offense and Grossman is just a good guy who doesn't live up to his team's expectations. A divorce is coming, it's only a matter of time.

Read of talk of Daunte Culpepper backing up Brett Favre for a season then becoming the cheese. This, football wise, seems like low-risk, high reward for the Packers. If Culpepper's head could be on straight for such an idea, this could be a great hook-up. Culpepper doesn't lack talent nor competitiveness, only health and resiliency.

Barry Bonds now says it's o.k.. for the Giants to trade him, which is odd as can be if you think about how much he has loved being a Giant and how you would assume he would like to become the all-time homer king as a Giant. What this says is Bonds is tired of the mess he's brought upon himself and he foolishly believes running from his troubles will make things better. He also is tired of playing for an also-ran. San Francisco used to be a National League West power. No more. Bonds would like to win again.

Hearing of a trade scenario in which Boston would get Kevin Garnett, a undeniable talent but overrated. Basketball is a team game but Garnett's gifts do not lift up others. Him alone as a Celtic is not going to bring Boston playoff success again. Giving up a chunk of your core to get him has to be thought out seriously.

So, Tiger Woods, how does it feel to be merely mortal? Contrary to many in love with competition, as I usually am myself, I find it way more interesting when Woods owns the field.

Final Salvo

If you like this space, spread the word. If you think it is a wasteland, well, spread the word, quietly.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

UPDATED: Warrior Sports Sunday Truth

The Nuggets front office was definitely paying attention to the NBA Finals, especially how, for all the talk about Tim Duncan and LeBron James, how the Spurs backcourt of Tony Parker Longoria and Manu Ginobli dissected the Cavaliers defense to the bone.

Denver feels a healthy Allen Iverson will give them that Spurs-type advantage, the same strength that Miami had with Dwyane Wade, the same weapon Detroit had with Chauncey Billups and Rip Hamilton, to win in the playoffs.

With J.R. Smith likely having to be written off as a player at this point, his on-court and off-court immaturity maddening to coach George Karl and management, this prediction is ROCK SOLID -- the Nuggets will aggressively pursue help at off guard this offseason, seeking a starter, either by making a trade to re-enter this month's draft or by acquiring a veteran, to give them the power on the perimeter, with Iverson, to balance the team's inside strength.

Where have you gone, David Thompson?

Tales of two programs

Recently, Kansas State has either been on par with CU basketball or worse. Now, the Wildcats, after the brief but successful Bob Huggins' tenure, are a rising program (which won't last) due to a major B-12 shot of talent.

Prep phenom Michael Beasley, last year's star recruit -- Bill Walker, and highly-regarded Jacob Pullen, show how quickly a program in this sport can be revived. That said, the window of opportunity for KSU is going to slam shut in a season, maybe two when Beasley and Walker likely bolt for the NBA and new coach, Frank Martin, gets replaced.

Ironically, without comparable talent, the Buffs, with a better coach in Jeff Bzdelik, are better set up for long-term success.

Rockies Rap

Was talking with Brandi Griffin of Purple Row about Colorado baseball this week so the WSN could share with you a perspective from someone so immersed in that organization's team that she should be on its' payroll.

If I were George Steinbrenner of the Rockies I might just dismiss general manager Dan O'Dowd (I'd buy him ice cream first) and make Brandi my Brian Cashman or Theo Epstein.

So, what is wrong with Garrett Atkins? He's warming up a little now but he's been plain bad in 2007.
Garrett's 2006 was out of line with what we would have expected given his minor league career but his 2007 has even been more of a fluke. As the last few games have showed, he's still got the ability to cause some real damage on offense. Last season's production for Atkins came mostly in the second half -- I'd expect a similar surge this season.
Is the Rockies philosophy 'just remain patient' or can we expect them to sell out and pursue opportunities on the trade market, if not this season, then come winter?
I don't think they will make any major moves to upgrade before the trade deadline. Rodrigo Lopez and Kaz Matsui both have contracts that end after this year so if we slip out of contention by the end of July, I could see the team trying to unload them for players that would help in 2008. I don't think we'll drop far enough back for this to happen, though.

This winter, there's going to be some movement. Besides trying to re-sing Matsui and/or Lopez, the team has to figure on big raises for Matt Holliday, Brian Fuentes and possibly Atkins. I'm certain the Rockies are not going to be able to keep all of them, particularly if we keep Todd Helton and his salary around as well.

Right now, I think Fuentes will be traded and the team will try to keep Atkins and Holliday with multi-year deals. I think we'll get a nice return of players for Fuentes as elite relievers tend to be overvalued by general managers.
Will Helton be a Rockies player at the end of this season?
I will say "yes," with about 90 percent certainty. After October, the odds of him leaving will go up considerably, but I still think the most likely scenario will have him in a Colorado uniform in 2008. His contract prevents it from trading him two ways -- first, by the sheer size and second, by the veto decision on trades it gives him. With the number of teams a possible deal could be made with so limited, it really ties the team's hands. My guess right now is that Helton will be a Rockie until the end of the deal in 2011.
Your personal impact players in the Colorado farm system?
Ian Stewart will be a big-time player when he finally arrives. Like Holliday, his talent is solid even if the stats don't show it yet.

After that, Greg Reynolds and Brandon Hynick seem like safe bets to be consistently solid starters. Reynolds has been underrated since drafted and could be a Brandon Webb/Carpenter -type top-of-the-rotation starter. Hynick's got middle-of-the-rotation stuff but a (Greg) Maddux-like mind for pitching so he's a good bet to outperform scout's expectations.

Casey Weathers (the team's first-round pick this week) will be our version of (Detroit flamethrower) Joel Zumaya.

Besides those guys, there are a lot of more questionable calls, but I really like (Sam) Deduno, (Franklin) Morales, (Matt) Macri, (Eric) Young Jr. and (Dexter) Fowler, (Dan) Mayora and (Hector) Gomez as the top talents in the full-season leagues.
The National Sweep

Tiger Woods
is within two strokes of the lead heading into today at the U.S. Open. If we were on top looking down on the competition, he'd likely be a lock to win. Looking up, he is still dangerous, just not as much so. His competitive drive might be the best but can he make the necessary adjustments to let his talent win out?

When the major players in the arrogant world of law turn from morality in their attempt to administer justice, we all have a major problem, whether we are involved in a case or not. What happened in the Duke rape trial involving the school's lacrosse players and the stripper was disgraceful.

The DA, Mike Nifong, now resigning, abused his power as many in that field do. There simply is not enough punishment for those found guilty of such actions. Being disbarred is not a sufficient societal remedy. Being fined or going to jail for a limited amount of time would not be justice. The law, whether it be police or courts, protect their own but its' high time that stops. In the case of the Nifong, he should receive a prison sentence commensurate with violating the public trust and stripping citizens of fair and just treatment. We're talking 20 years. Strip police or in this case, court officials of their arrogance and air of invincibility and we get better government.

Prayers and peace sent out to Bloomington to Indiana University football coach Terry Hoeppner, still struggling physically after two brain surgeries in 18 months. Bill Lynch, an assistant, will now take over as the Hoosiers top leader as Hoeppner is not well enough to build that program. Maybe, IU will become a national story this season. These kinds of things do tend to evolve into inspirational benchmarks for humanity.


Carmelo Anthony trying to relax this offseason but getting exposed, so to speak, by Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star.
"The league and the players association also should work with the NCAA on doing something to eliminate AAU basketball. Our players are too raw and too difficult to coach because AAU basketball — and its undisciplined style of play — has become more important and influential than high school basketball.

I hate to keep using LeBron James as the example because I absolutely love his mental maturity and willingness to be coached, but he is an AAU player. AAU is the reason he doesn’t have a jump shot. AAU is the reason he’s so unskilled in the low post.

AAU is the reason Carmelo Anthony is one of the worst teammates you could have. Yes, he got lucky and won a national championship in college. Trust me, it was luck. His game isn’t about winning. It’s about putting up numbers. He can’t see the floor and what his teammates are doing because that’s not necessary in AAU ball."