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Wait... It Starts Today?

Finally! After living under a boulder for a while (though it was a nice boulder, so at least I have that), I figure no better time to wake up than now. I mean, this is what we've all been waiting for, right? Rangers. Giants. Cliff Lee. Tim Lincecum. The World Series!!! Oops, sorry. Wrong sport.

Jazz. Nuggets. After opening the season and the playoffs against each other last season, it only makes sense that they'd start this season against each other as well. I mean, familiarity breeds contempt, right? Wait... that can't be good. Not with any sort of contempt automatically leading to 2 T's, a $1 million fine, and mandatory 24/7 coverage of the Miami Heat. Oh well, it is what it is. Two teams that pretty much hate each other (I don't actually know this for a fact) will face off again.

There have been changes on both sides. The Nuggets brought in Shelden Williams and Al Harrington, and lost ... um, no one of importance. And Hit-N-Run is still around, which may or may not be good, depending on his attitude. The Jazz, meanwhile, shifted half their team to Chicago. I mean, we always used to say that while the Jazz struggled for playoff position in the West, they'd be top 3 in the East. Now they get to prove it. Boozer, Brewer & Korver are over in Chicago... and only 2 of them are currently injured. Meanwhile, the Jazz brought back an old friend, added a replacement for someone gone, and drafted people and what-not. The Nuggets also welcome back George Karl, who missed the playoffs last year due to personal health issues. But, all things aside, they're still the team you know. The Nuggets. The Thuggets. _enver. Call them whatever you want, they're the opponents tonight. And you hate them, just like they hate you.

Last year, the Nuggets won 3 of the 4 games the 2 teams played in the regular season. Which sucked, because the Nuggets got home court during the playoffs. ... Of course, it mattered not because the Jazz ended up winning the playoff series anyways. But no one likes losing, especially not to fierce rivals. Which means both teams will be trying their hardest to win this game, and get an early start on the season. (Or so we hope.) I mean, Portland won yesterday, so they're already 1-0. Lose tonight, and you're 0-1. Not good. (Its never too early to be checking the standings.)

There are, of course, things to pay attention to. Amar addressed many of them, and did so well. I have my own list of, well... less serious (mostly), things to keep an eye on. While my list might not be as good as his, I have something he doesn't. And that is... um, I'm not sure. I guess I'll let you know when I figure out. I do have the benefit of being able to see snow on the ground right now, but that's not necessarily an advantage. Oh, and I have more tweets than he does... but that might just make me more pathetic.

First, something he mentioned. K-Mart (the Nuggets K-Mart, not the Rockets K-Mart, who played yesterday) and Birdman are both out. That leaves the Nuggets with a trio of Nene, Al Harrington (who isn't completely in condition for the season just yet) and Shelden Williams. Nene will get his. Harrington has range, but not really the bulk you expect from a big man. Shelden was a top-5 pick by the Hawks during their run of mediocrity. Behind these guys, they have... um... Renaldo Balkman? Pretty much, all I'm saying is that Pallo Jeffersapenko (+ Elson too) should be able to go to work inside. ... Not that you necessarily want Fesenko & Elson (ps... I'm really going to miss Koufosenko) going to work inside, but yeah, they should be able. It'll be interesting to see how Jefferson does (yes, I know there was the preseason... I missed it). Plus, Deron and Jefferson are now BFFs, so we've got that going for us. Chemistry for the win! And if Shelden Williams/Renaldo Balkman can shut down Pallo Jeffersapenko (+ Elson too), then its time to give up on the season. I don't care if its just one game. The only way that happens is if the Jazz decide to play blindfolded for charity. (And even then...)

Second, CJ. At points last season, we saw a basketball-smart CJ Miles. At other times, we saw a cocky CJ Miles that we wanted to ship to Alaska for a block of ice. We're all hoping CJ has smartened up, and coming off of the bench, he'll get his attempts (our second unit seems to be Watson, CJ, Hayward, Evans & Fesenko... of which, at any given time, 2 of the guys will be in Sloan's doghouse). If he's willing to drive to the hoop and play as such, then the Jazz are going to be much better off. If he's going to sit outside and launch up unnecessarily ugly treys, then we're in trouble. Speaking of trouble and doghouse... who's in it right now? Is anyone? Fill me in.

Third, outside shooting. The Nuggets love this. Billups. Anthony. JR Smith. Arron Afflalo. Al Harrington even. This team is not afraid to shoot. You can't leave these guys open to go double-team... they'll kill you. The Jazz, as we well know, struggle at this. Or, at least... they have in the past. And I don't see any reason to expect a huge change this year. (Hello, my name is Sujal... aka UtesFan89... and I'm kind of a pessimist.) Just don't let them get too many open looks. On the other hand, the Jazz have a group of shooters now (CJ, Hayward, Bell)... though I don't know if they'll be "makers" or not tonight. Hopefully they will. But either way, you have to stop the Nuggets.If they turn into the Suns, we'll have to turn into... the Blazers from last night? Which would be easier if Wesley Matthews was still around to help us do that.

Fourth, Carmelo Anthony (aka Hit-N-Run) may or may not want to be with the Nuggets. Whatever. Memories from the playoffs last year still bring pain though. If that keeps up, he'll go to the line 70 times in 3+ quarters, before fouling out with an offensive foul (extending his arm to push off on the drive) in the 4th. While the fouls are always welcome, the Jazz need to find a way to stop him WITHOUT sending him to the line over and over again. Heck, if it comes to it... let him get his, and stop the rest of the team. He can't win 1-on-5. ... Actually, that doesn't work. We can't stop Ty Lawson either. (Luckily for the Jazz, Linas Kleiza is now on the Raptors.)

Fifth, Earl Watson seems to have won the back-up PG spot. Which means there is only one thing to keep an eye on. Yep, you guessed it. End of the quarter jumpers! Who will he bring back memories of? Keith McLeod? Carlos Arroyo? Raul Lopez? Howard Eisley? Jason Hart? Brevin Knight? Kris Humphries? ... Man, I really hope its not any of the last 3. I figure we'll see at least one such attempt today... unless he decides to pass it to someone else. In which case, get ready for the apocalypse, because the Jazz don't do that. (The Jazz also run the pick-and-roll offense 150% of their offensive plays, never shoot a 3-pointer, and have been led by the Stockton-to-Malone tandem since 1942.)

Sixth, the Nuggets cheerleaders. Not, I'm not being weird or writing this while overflowing with hormones. But this could have a direct correlation to 1) how much Fesenko plays and 2) how well Fesenko plays. I suppose we'll also have to keep an eye on all the hairstylists in attendance, eh? That could be a bit harder. Oh, and AK. Its almost like he's got a degree in hair-style-ology. What they never taught him, of course, was that it doesn't work when you're doing it on yourself with the aid of a mirror. It only works when you're helping others. Which means that the rest of the team better watch out. AK is looking for victims subjects. With AK and Raja starting, how do they play defense? Who's on Melo and who's on Billups and who's on Afflalo?

The season is back. I've written another "too many words, dude" post. ... You expected different?