Nate and I from The Denver Stiffs answered 5 questions from each other for the series. My answers to his questions should be getting posted sometime this morning at their site.
Here are my questions and his reponses,
1. I think your struggles down the stretch were primarily a result of not having Kenyon Martin. Obviously Karl's cancer and absence from the team was a huge factor as well. Was there one of those that was the bigger issue, basketball-wise? Or was there something else?
I really wasn't sure that the Nuggets were going to miss coach Karl as much as they did, but his loss really hurt the club. Actually, if I'm George (signed a one-year extension this season) I start dropping hints now to Stan Kroenke, the Nuggets owner, about how much I was missed and the #4 seed reflects that ... maybe that hefty raise looks reasonable now?! But to really answer your question ... both Karl and K-Mart were missed equally. Martin's intangibles were dearly missed as he is Denver's best big defender, rebounder (on both ends) and he gives Denver their swagger. The Nuggets on the floor have their leader in Billups, their star in Melo and their heart is K-Mart. You can't survive without your heart. Cheesy, but true. Karl was missed because he's just that intimidating, but friendly and wise boss. In a lot of our jobs we have bosses like Karl and if you sit back and think about your boss being gone and how much can go wrong, that probably happened with the Nuggets. Player rotations suffered a bit, Billups admitted to stressing out over added responsibility and as my co-writer Andrew Feinstein says ... the Nuggets were rudder-less without Coach. Nuggets Nation is very interested to see what player rotations Adrian Dantley comes up with in this Utah series and we are also all hopeful that K-Mart's knee holds up, but he certainly wont be quite the same in these playoffs and may only be able to play limited minutes.
2. This isn't really playoff-related, but I guess it is in a way. Kenyon Martin and Carlos Boozer were free agents at the same time when they were signed by their respective teams. The Jazz even pursued Kenyon Martin. Looking at their careers since then, both have had injury issues. Boozer has more offensive polish while Martin is a much better defender. If you could go back to that year, would you swap players?
Was Boozer really a free-agent or didn't he backstab the Cavaliers and sign with Utah after backing out of his verbal agreement? Ha ha ... I got jokes! There is no way I would want to swap players, even if I could pull a Michael J. Fox and go back in time. Unlike some Denver fans, I've been on the Kenyon Martin bandwagon since he was slamming down furocious dunks with the Cincinnati Bearcats. In fact, in college my buddy Rory and I couldn't wait for the Nuggets to sign Martin. We knew Kenyon was going to be a Nugget and we wouldn't have it any other way. But yes, if both guys could stay healthy that would be nice. Now, if I could go back in time and place a bet in 1985 on my Denver Broncos to win the 1997 Super Bowl ... that I would do! Or maybe have the Nuggets draft Caron Butler instead of Nikoloz Tskitishvili ...
3. We'll leave Deron and Melo out of this question. Other than them, who is going to do the most damage against the other team?
After reading your answers to my questions I'm a little worried about this Wesley Matthews kid, but I think Nene has a chance to be a real difference maker. My Nuggets faithful reading this might be shaking their heads saying, "Yes, if he would dunk the freaking basketball!" With Mehmet Okur not being the most athletic big man out there, coupled with his sore Achilles could be a major issue for the Jazz. Are the young bigs off the bench going to be able to keep up with Nene? If the Nuggets coaching staff or players can get Nene angry and get him touches he could really do the most damage in this series. We had readers last season offer to let K-Mart chew them out before games if that would pump him up ... maybe we need to do that or just have someone whipser "Louis Amundson says you're soft," into Nene's ear before games. The Suns bench guy really seems to get the anger sharks to swim for our Brazilian.
4. If one team advanced solely on being the best team to knock off the Lakers, who would that be?
The Nuggets. Honestly, Denver didn't go 3-1 against L.A. by accident this season. Every team wants to be the one to knock the Lakers off. After losing to them in the Conference Finals everyone in Nuggets Nation wants to see if Denver was really just a couple inbounds passes away from being able to knock the Lakers off. And I think the players are really eager to test them out once again. The funny part is that the Suns and Mavericks might be the biggest tests in the West this post-season, but you can never count out the defending champs. Am I wrong though in thinking the Lakers just don't seem to have "it" this season? It will be very interesting to see what the Thunder can do in Round One. You know ... if Kevin Durant is getting those Superstar calls that the Laker just never seem to get ... ha ha ha.
5. Finally, which combo would you take? Deron Williams and Karl Malone or John Stockton and Carlos Boozer (you read that right)?
Are you asking me if I'd take them on the Nuggets (ed. note, I wasn't)? Blah, no thanks! Those guys are all Jazz players through and through and I don't want to see any of them wearing DENVER across their chest. If I'm Utah though ... I take Deron Williams and Karl Malone. Nothing against John Stockton, but Williams is the better player. Maybe he isn't quite the passer, but he's the better player. The combo of Williams, a big point guard, and Malone, a Mack truck of a forward, I think the Jazz bring Utah their first ring.
Bonus. If you could attend a playoff game in Utah, let us know how you'd act and what your method of attack would be.
As crazy as it is ... I've never been to an NBA game outside of Denver. The funny part, I recently moved to Wyoming where no NBA teams play, but where basketball is actually pretty big. So, I'd assume I'd just make the short drive to Utah for like Game 3 or 4. I'd have to pack my trusty friend Crown Royal for when I got to my hotel. After gulping down most of that bottle I'd toss on my Billups jersey, throw in a BirdHawk and go looking for trouble before tipoff. OH, that would probably not bring about any good results. No, I'm actually pretty calm at games and don't really like annoying opposing fans, so I think I'd be respectful of my surroundings and root my team on without being a complete jerk. It's always more fun to get along with opposing fans and understand that it is a game and it's an event to unwind at and to have a good time. I'd love to see a game in Utah though ... amazing crowds. But you can catch me at Pepsi Center getting rowdy with the Melo's Yellows section come playoff time! Best of luck Utah fans and thanks for having me John. As I said on Denver Stiffs (before I knew about the injuries) I see the Nuggets in 5, but it wont be easy.