Nuggets must give Nikola Jokic the keys to the franchise

The television cameras captured the growth during a timeout huddle. The moment came near the end of the Denver Nuggets’ 112-106 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, an all-or-nothing game that finished their season without a playoff appearance for the fifth straight year. There was Nikola Jokic, engaged in an intense conversation with his teammates.

He was not goofy or stoic. He was zoned in. It was the moment that should erase all doubt. Jokic is ready to be a star.

It’s been coming for weeks. There were reports that Paul Millsap talked to Jokic about needing to lead the team. It was clear that the coaching staff wanted this from Jokic. Everyone watching the Nuggets knew the potential was there. We were all just waiting on Jokic.

And he arrived.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/nuggets-must-give-nikola-jokic-the-keys-to-franchise/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

New Denver and its culture is built around Coors Field

My first Colorado Rockies Opening Day was a decade ago. Thinking about the Denver of the late-2000’s compared to now, it feels like a different place entirely. Lower Downtown is more than a couple of streets—it’s now a couple of neighborhoods. The ballpark district has joined LoDo as the place to be around baseball.

My first opening day, 10 years ago, was the year after the Rockies won the National League Pennant. My friend Aaron and I attended the 2007 play-in-game and found ourselves back at Coors Field for Opening Day 2008. We skipped classes our junior year of high school and headed to the ballpark.

The Rockies lost that day, but we made the memories you seek at a big event like Opening Day. We have been patrons in the Opening Day crowds several times since then, ready to ring in another baseball season.

Little did we know how much the ballpark area we were walking around would change. The Democratic National Convention took place in Denver later that summer. Some cite the event as the beginning of modern growth in Denver. Our identity as a well-kept secret hidden by the mountains was out.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/new-denver-and-its-culture-is-built-around-coors-field/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

A season of improvement — with or without playoffs — will help youthful Avalanche

If the season ended today, the Colorado Avalanche of 2017-2018 would be defined by their improvement. No longer the laughingstock of the league, they have improved their place in the standings by over 40 points. Nathan MacKinnon emerged as an elite star, and the promising supporting cast of rookies and youthful Scandinavians have the Avs set up for future.

With this team, a 20-point improvement in the standings (10 more wins) would have seemed like a positive step in the right direction. The accumulation of young talent and prospects (helped by the Matt Duchene trade at the start of the season), is fun to watch develop.

This team would not stand pat with just being exciting. Propelled by shooting star MacKinnon, the Avs worked their way into playoff contention. The defense started playing far better than anyone expected. The veterans provided leadership on and off the ice. Semyon Varlamov and Jonathan Bernier stole some games in net. And the playoffs didn’t seem like a thing that can only happens in other basketball/hockey arenas.

About a month ago, they finally hooked me to the possibility that they might be a playoff team. I started dreaming of the 300 MPH anxiety that accompanies playoff hockey (scientists have yet to find a measurement for the stress of playoff overtime hockey).

After three losses in four games, the walls are closing in on the Colorado Avalanche’s playoff chances. With five games remaining, it might take four wins to enter the playoffs this year.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/a-season-of-improvement-with-or-without-playoffs-will-help-youthful-avalanche/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Nuggets must remove all barriers around Nikola Jokic while helping him grow

The Denver Nuggets remain in “development” this year as their playoff dreams continue to spin away like an errant pass that won’t stay inbounds. There is one question above any other that needs to become the franchise motto. Every personnel, coaching and development decision needs to answer this question: “How does this make Nikola Jokic better?”

Right now, Jokic is a potential NBA star waiting in the wings. Denver hopes he ascends to great heights—more than his 6’10” frame. His unstoppable offensive game, at its best, is more than other teams can handle. Unfortunately, Jokic and the Nuggets are inconsistent, with Jokic sometimes disappearing altogether from games.

Thus, this team is still just about potential. Now, to be fair, it’s a lot of potential. Jokic, triangulated with guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, all but oozes a series of tantalizing glimpses of what might become.

Potential, however, goes in two directions. It is either actualized into results or erodes and becomes wasted potential.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/nuggets-must-remove-all-barriers-around-nikola-jokic-while-helping-him-grow/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Avalanche riding high, Nuggets barely staying alive

If the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche were two cartoon characters running a race, Tuesday night was the moment where the Avalanche pulled even, the Nuggets’ eyes got wide, and then the Avalanche sped past.

Tuesday was a snapshot of both teams’ seasons. It was the culmination of momentum building for the Avalanche and inconsistency for the Nuggets.

Thursday night provided a better result for the Nuggets, but their problems persist. The Avs, meanwhile, are suddenly gaining speed as the finish line approaches.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/avalanche-riding-high-nuggets-staying-alive/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Bud Black stares down the next Rockies peak

After making the 2017 National League Wild Card Game, the Colorado Rockies found themselves at their season’s peak. While they advanced no further, the team’s climb from obscurity to playoff relevance was elating. Now they have their sights set on other mountains — taller ones — as they look to embark upon a World Series run. To make this climb, the Rockies must find a way to power through the approaching adversity of another baseball season.

It’s always harder the second time. Just ask Colorado Rockies manager Bud Black.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/bud-black-stares-down-the-next-rockies-peak/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Among Colorado’s four major sports teams, Avalanche find themselves in best shape

The Colorado Avalanche still have chance at a playoff spot! What a turnaround, right?

Last year they deserved the attention of a street performer who tries to play their shoe like a flute — it had comedic appeal, until it got too painful and you had to stop looking. That crash-and-burn mentality only looks good on a team that’s trying to lose. The Avalanche established themselves as the worst NHL team in the last decade.

So competing for a playoff spot with a month left in this year’s season is amazing.

A young, exciting team that’s making progress — one with an emerging superstar and tons of potential for the future — now that’s worth paying attention to.

The Avalanche are fighting for their playoff lives right now. They seem to like their own chances better than the hockey world at large does. They may not earn a playoff berth this year, but they still have a shot. In the NHL, if you make the playoffs, you have a chance to win the Stanley Cup. If they don’t make it to the postseason this year, it’s still a huge step forward after the horror story that was last season. The future is bright.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/among-colorados-four-major-sports-teams-avalanche-find-themselves-in-best-shape/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

For Buffaloes, ‘the right way’ isn’t winning them basketball games

The Colorado Buffaloes did not have the better team on Wednesday night in Boulder when they took on the USC Trojans. Their seniors did not play up to the competition and their offense was sporadic. In an electrified atmosphere fueled by the pregame activities of the student section, things turned to desperation in what will be another lost season for the Buffs.

USC swept CU on the season with an all-too-easy 75-64 victory.

The Buffs are playing basketball the right way, but that strategy isn’t leading to wins. The Buffaloes have lost three in a row and have a 7-9 PAC-12 record.

Buffaloes coach Tad Boyle has brought recognition to a basketball team that was considered a major program only through its conference affiliation before his arrival. In his eight years at CU, he’s developed legitimate NBA talent, led the team to one conference tournament title and to the NCAA tournament four times.

For the Buffaloes, there won’t be any madness in March this year unless they win the PAC-12 tournament. Their play on the court is what’s maddening, and they can’t even back up their coach’s challenges to the NCAA recruiting system.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/for-buffaloes-the-right-way-isnt-winning-them-basketball-games/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

A promising spring training for the Colorado Rockies… again

The Colorado Rockies come into Spring Training with a lot of promise. Last year, without much notable national attention, the Rockies found a way to make the playoffs. They did so with a combination of timely pitching, including surprising performances from their starters. They also pooled veteran and young hitting to propel them all the way to the new heights.

Of course, the year was 2008.

By October, the Rockies’ promise did not bloom into playoff rewards. They finished the year 74-88.

The 2007 ‘Rocktober’ run ended up feeling like a fluke after the 2008 season. Matt Holliday, a cornerstone of the team that made the 2007 World Series, was traded after the season.

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/a-promising-spring-training-for-the-colorado-rockies-again/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports

Another trade deadline with the same Nuggets concerns

This one just doesn’t sit quite right for me. I think the Denver Nuggets did a fine job adding veteran point guard Devin Harris from the Dallas Mavericks—they needed someone to run the second unit. However, everything else around the trade deadline worries me—the bigger issues surrounding the Nuggets still exist.

The Nuggets have an established young core of Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray and Gary Harris. Fans hope that this team can evolve into an NBA title contender. Do the other personnel decisions around the deadline make sense for the Nuggets current trajectory?

I’m not sure—this deadline still holds the look of a franchise torn in too many directions with several possible paths forward. We’ve been saying that for the past two years. The questions become more complicated if you consider this the opening of the Nuggets playoff window for the foreseeable future. Here are some thoughts on those moves:

Continue reading: https://milehighsports.com/another-trade-deadline-with-the-same-nuggets-concerns/

Originally posted on Mile High Sports