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NBA PM: No Gallinari, No Problem For Nuggets?
Posted By Bill Ingram On April 8, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
When the news broke that Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari was going to miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, you would have thought that the Nuggets were dead in the water. It wasn’t the way the Nuggets’ players were talking about the situation, of course, but the way the national media reacted made it sound like the Nuggets may as well just pack it up and go home. Multiple headlines over the last couple of days were some variation of “Nuggets’ Title Hopes Dead.”
There are a couple of problems with those headlines, however, starting with the assumption that the Nuggets had title hopes before Gallinari tore his ACL. Head coach George Karl has to preach that, of course, and his players had better believe it, but that doesn’t mean the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs were going to just roll over for a team that no one outside of Denver seems to believe has a legit shot at a championship this season. For the Nuggets’ title hopes to be dead they must first have realistic title hopes, which doesn’t appear to be the case.
The second, and perhaps more important, assumption is that the loss of Gallinari in some way completely wipes out the team. All of a sudden people have been talking about Gallo as if he were Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki to the Dallas Mavericks or LeBron James to the Miami HEAT. Gallo isn’t even the Nuggets’ leading scorer at 16.2 points per game on the season. The Nuggets are a very deep team, and they are deeper on the wing than most NBA teams. On Saturday, as they hosted the Houston Rockets in their first game without Gallo, Karl simply inserted Wilson Chandler into the starting lineup and he poured in 21 points in helping the Nuggets tally their highest point total of the season in a 132-114 win. Karl admitted that losing Gallinari does affect the Nuggets, but he knows his other players will rise to the occasion.
“My team has been very good about meeting challenges, both schedule-wise and injury-wise and perseverance-wise, and they have a competitive spirit that for a young team is pretty strong,” Karl said.
“We have a very deep team and we have a lot of players step up,” Chandler said. “Basically the whole team stepped up.”
Indeed, it wasn’t just Chandler who stepped up. Corey Brewer scored 22 points off the bench leading seven players in double-figures. Just another day at the office for the Nuggets, who have seven players averaging double-figures this season and two more who average better than nine points per game. When you figure in that the Nuggets blew out a potential first-round opponent with both Gallo and leading scorer Ty Lawson (plantar) out of action, you have to think it bodes well for Denver’s playoff expectations.
None of this is to say that the Nuggets won’t miss Gallo at all; they are absolutely a better team with him in the lineup. But does his absence in any way change their postseason hopes?
What’s a realistic ceiling for Denver this postseason? I don’t think even Nuggets fans would argue that they are better than the Spurs, who beat them two out of three times this season, or could take a seven-game series from the defending Western Conference champs in OKC. On the other hand, if the Nuggets don’t get out of the first round, where they will most likely face Houston or the Golden State Warriors, it will be a huge disappointment. Chandler, Brewer and Andre Iguodala give them plenty of options at small forward and should help them get out of the first without Gallo. If the Nuggets do, indeed, get out of the first, then they will have gone as far as most pundits are willing to say they’ll go.
The Nuggets have been as good as any team in the Western Conference since getting Chandler back and finding some home games on the schedule in January. They promise to be a tough out, even for the likes of the Spurs and Thunder. They were going to be a tough out with Gallinari healthy, and they will be just as tough an out with Chandler and Brewer playing larger roles. The bottom line, however, is that their ceiling is no higher without Gallo than it would have been with him, and overlooking the Denver Nuggets is just as dangerous a proposition as it would have been with Gallo in uniform.
HOOPSWORLD TV: West’s Non-Playoff Teams
Yannis Koutroupis and Alex Kennedy discuss the non-playoff teams in the Western Conference and what’s next for them.
Dirk Nowitzki (Finally) Getting Impatient?
Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki deserves a great deal of credit for his loyalty. In an era where few players stick around with one franchise for their entire career, Nowitzki has set his sights on hanging up his Nikes with the same team that he started his career with in Dallas. That loyalty has been tested a few times, but never more than it has over the last two seasons, when Nowitzki watched as Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson and team owner Mark Cuban took a championship team and pushed it to the NBA draft lottery.
This year’s Mavericks will fall well short of the 50-win mark that has defined them for most of Nowitzki’s career, and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1999-2000, Nowitzki’s second year in the league.
“Now that I already reached my goal (of winning it all), I really want to finish my career in Dallas,” Nowitzki told USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick recently. “But saying all that, I don’t want another year next year with the same as this year, (with) the frustration and playing for the eight or nine seed. I think we all know that this is a very big summer for us. Donnie knows. Cuban knows. We want to get back to the championship level.”
Of course, last summer was supposed to be a very big summer for the Mavs, as well. Deron Williams and Dwight Howard were supposed to be the headline free agents and the Mavs were just sure that they would land at least one, if not both. Williams, after all, is from Dallas, and would surely love to play for his hometown team. Meanwhile, Dan Fegan, Howard’s agent, is a good friend of Cuban, so surely those connections would turn out strong enough to lure a key free agent or two to town.
Not so much.
Williams walked out of a meeting that Cuban was too busy to attend to learn that the Brooklyn Nets had acquired Joe Johnson via trade, and that was enough to inspire him to re-up with the Nets. Howard, of course, decided to opt-in to the final year of his contract and put off free agency for one more year. He would be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in August.
The Mavs made the best of the situation, adding young players with upside like Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo while also adding free agents with something to prove in Chris Kaman and Elton Brand. If Nowitzki had been healthy all season there’s even a chance, based on how well they have played of late, that Dallas might have made the playoffs anyway, but there was no way this team was going to compete for a championship. They would have done well to survive the first round.
So instead of fighting it out in the postseason, Nowitzki will have to sit and watch the majority of his former championship teammates extend their seasons in places like New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Denver.
“I tried to make the best out of it the last two years, and then I had some injury problems,” said Nowitzki, the former MVP who missed the first 27 games of the season because of right knee surgery. “But looking back, I think it was sad. I miss some of those guys we went to war with every night, but I think it’s going to be a big summer for us.”
Nowitzki may be right. The strategy Nelson and Cuban used to let all of their key free agents walk away after the title year in order to avoid paying older players also means they have a ton of cap space this summer. The Mavs have just $27.9 million in guaranteed contracts for next season, so they can make significant offers to free agents like Howard, Chris Paul, David West, Nikola Pekovic and Brandon Jennings. Of course, Paul is busy recruiting players to the Clippers, so it seems unlikely he’s leaving town. Likewise, Howard appears to be a lock to stay with the Lakers and West is priority number one for the Indiana Pacers. The Timberwolves can’t afford to let Pekovic go, but Portland appears to be next in line if he leaves. That leaves only Jennings, who is restricted and can be matched by the Milwaukee Bucks. Even if they let him go, does Jennings inspire hope that the Mavs will be back in contention? He shouldn’t.
There are always trades, but of course the same scenario that gives the Mavs so much cap space this summer also means they have little to offer in terms of assets. They could help a team in need of a salary dump, for sure, but that’s a hard way to build a contender.
There is a hard reality to be faced here, and that is that one of the fiercest competitors the NBA has ever known and certainly the best European player to ever play the game is probably never going to see the second round of the playoffs again. Nowitzki is talking about retiring after another year or two, and it’s difficult to see how the Mavericks put a championship-caliber team around him in that short period of time given the current state of the roster.
The NBA Ups The Ante on Green Week
Over the last few seasons the NBA has become a leader in the global movement towards sustainable energy use, something the league spotlights during Green Week. This week is the NBA’s annual Green Week, and as part of their ever-increasing efforts to reduce the league’s own carbon footprint while also raising awareness of the advancing Green technologies, the NBA is offsetting the energy used during all 67 games being played this week.
““Well, it’s something we did at All-Star 2009,,” Kathy Behrens, NBA EVP of Social Responsibility & Player Programs, told HOOPSWORLD. “Everything we do here, we get great advice and counsel from the National Resources Defense Council, and so, on the one hand the offset allows us to highlight the fact that you can do those offsets, and that there is something valuable in that, and so it’s something they’ve encouraged us to do. We’ve never done it for Green Week and we just felt that it was a great opportunity to take what we’d done at All-Star over the course of Green Week. Obviously, we have a lot more games than just the activities we do, so 67 games, when we look at it, and Sterling Planet which is a partner that the NRDC introduced us to, we just felt like it was a terrific opportunity to kind of highlight what we’re doing, highlight the importance of offsets, the opportunity of offsets, the renewable energy that that promotes, so we’re excited about it.”
A number of the NBA’s arenas are now LEED certified (Toyota Center in Houston, Amway Arena in Orlando, The Rose Garden in Portland, American Airlines Arena in Miami and Staples Center in Los Angeles, to name a few), but not all are by a long shot. In order to help offset all 67 games, a concerted effort has had to be made by every NBA venue to reduce its environmental impact.
“Even though many of our arenas are not LEED certified, all of our teams at our arenas have taken steps to participate in these kinds of programs,” Behrens said. “They have done things that are more environmentally friendly; they’ve made some small changes and some big changes. Obviously, the bigger changes have resulted in some of the LEED certification, so one of the other things that we have been doing is also trying to do a better job of measuring our environmental impact, and seeing where we can share the best practices and make some changes. So, working with our arena operators and working with Sterling Planet, we were able to sort of determine the amount of electricity used during the 67 NBA games taking place during Green Week in all parts of the country in all different kinds of arenas. That’s why we partner with the best in class when it comes to this so we can make sure that we’re doing it right, and then they work with us to purchase the offsets and hopefully the end result is that it works to reduce the carbon footprint and we feel good about that part.”
Of course, the next logical step would be for the NBA to offset all energy used during an 82-game season, but a project that ambitious is not quite ready for prime time.
“It wouldn’t be fair to say it’s in the works, but as with everything, what we’ll do is we’ll sit down with our partners when Green Week is over and we’ll look at things that we think worked well and things that present opportunities to do again,” Behrens said. “As I said, the offsetting is something that we’ve done previously at All-Star, so we’ll continue to look at other ways and opportunities we can do that kind of piece of it.”
What the NBA will look to do next is help the individual teams better understand the tools and metrics that are available to them, as well as help them understand the economic advantages that tend to go along with doing business in a more sustainable way.
“The next thing that we’ve planned is this program that we’re doing which will allow all of our teams and venues to track, analyze, and identify their costs, savings, opportunities, and so we’re doing this measurement tool,” explained Behrens. “It’s something we’ve been working on with a company called Renewable Choice Energy and the NRDC. We’ve been working on it for probably a year and a half; it’s a complicated process, but one we’re excited about and our teams are excited about. As you know, the NBA, from a business perspective, we believe in sharing the best practices among all of our teams, around issues of ticket sales, sponsorships, and community relations, so we’re trying to do the same thing in the Green space. So many of our teams have been real leaders in their community and real leaders with their arena operations that we want to make sure that we share that with all of our teams, so this measurement tool will give us a great opportunity to identify things big and small that our teams can do in their arenas.”
The best part of all is that individual teams are starting to run with the Green initiative, even going out into surrounding communities and helping raise awareness about the programs that are available.
“Absolutely,” Behrens affirmed. “I think with all of this, this is not just kind of a top down. The teams taking the lead in their markets, we’ve seen that, in places like Portland and Miami, Atlanta, the things that they’ve done with their arenas, but also the programs that they’re doing in their communities. Some of our teams are doing events with schools and with community-based organizations, sharing information with their fans. This is something that our teams are embracing, and I think one of the things that we say about this is it’s just not a matter of priority as a certain matter of social responsibility. We see it as a real business opportunity, as well, because it can result in real savings for our teams and also it really allows them to connect and partner with great organizations in their local communities.”
Later this week we’ll visit with NRDC Senior Scientist Allen Hershkowitz , who will sound off on the advances being made by the NBA and exactly what the league is doing to offset the energy used during all Green Week games.
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