Time to see if the Nuggets are for real | PostIndependent.com

Time to see if the Nuggets are for real

Mike Vidakovich
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

The NBA playoffs are a little over a week away and Colorado’s professional basketball team, the Denver Nuggets, are desperately clinging to first place in the league’s Northwest Division and to home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The sometimes frustrating, but always entertaining, Nuggets have made a late-season push to position themselves nicely to make a run deep into the NBA’s version of March Madness. (Call it April, May and June Madness, since the champion isn’t crowned until around the time Glenwoodites are engaged in their own form of madness known as Strawberry Days.)

The early season trade for Denver native, and ex-CU Buff, Chauncey Billups has proven to be the basketball tonic the Nuggets were searching for to set them sailing among the league’s elite teams.

Billups brought with him from Detroit a mentally tough, team-first leadership style that is more conducive to what Denver needed than the 1-on-1, me-first play of Allen Iverson.

Even though the trade of Iverson for Billups has worked wonders for the Nuggets and has proven to be a major headache (and a sub-.500 record) for the Pistons, I’m the last person you’ll talk to who will get on Iverson’s case.

Allen Iverson is all heart on the basketball court. He plays hard every minute and has a passion to win that may be second to none.

His great flaw is that he’s the best player you will ever see who doesn’t understand that there are four other players on the court with him. He has scored in bunches throughout his career, but his game is more suited to the playground than a true team environment.

As for the Nuggets, the play of forward Carmelo Anthony and guard J.R. Smith will be the key to the team’s playoff fortunes.

Anthony has a tendency to play hard only in spurts. He’ll need to give consistent energy and effort if Denver is to avoid its seventh straight first-round playoff exit.

The mercurial Smith can change the face of a game in a heartbeat with his three-point accuracy and slashing drives to the basket. Smith came off the bench and hit eight 3-pointers in last Thursday’s showdown with Utah to pull the Nuggets out of a funk and lift them to victory.

If Smith and fan favorite Chris “Birdman” Andersen can shine in the playoffs, the boys from the Mile High City will be hard to handle.

If the Nuggets don’t win it all ” and they won’t ” my sentimental favorite has to be coach Jerry Sloan and his Utah Jazz. Sloan is in his 21st season coaching in Salt Lake City and has yet to experience the feeling of winning an NBA title.

Sloan is an old-school, throwback to days gone by who spends his spare time working on farm tractors and going to garage sales. At age 67, time is running short for Sloan to reach the NBA summit. I’d like to see him win it all before he retires.

In the preseason, I picked Portland to win the title. The Trailblazers have had a nice season, nipping at the Nuggets’ heels the entire year, but they are still a bit too young to wear Cinderella’s slipper this year. Look for them in the future, though.

If you’re betting green money, put it on Kobe and the Lakers. Should pay off nicely.

Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent

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