2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • If Nuggets make big move, Aldridge fits profile

    Thu, June 27, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    This blog from our friend John Canzano caught my eye today: Blazers should shop LaMarcus Aldridge.

    To me, Aldridge is the kind of star who would take the Nuggets where they want to be. He’s a power forward whose numbers are consistently among the best at his position. An argument could be made Aldridge was the best power forward in the league last season. He’s only 27, and I was told back in May that Aldridge wouldn’t mind a change of scenery.

    After getting tipped off on the info that Aldridge could be available, that’s why I wrote this on May 25.

    What would it take to land a player of Aldridge’s caliber in Denver? Quite a bit. You’re probably looking at a package that includes Danilo Gallinari and/or Javale McGee and/or Kenneth Faried, in some shape or form.

    The Blazers won’t let him go without great return. Aldridge is too young, too gifted and too valuable.

    This Nuggets roster doesn’t need an overhaul. It does need a tweak here or there. If Aldridge is on the market, it’s worth a look.

    One final draft-night thought. Provided there’s no bizarre movement where a top-15 talent drops to the Nuggets, here are one man’s preferences on their move at No. 27:

    1. Pierre Jackson, Baylor 2. Isaiah Canann, Murray State 3. Trade out of the first round 4. Allen Crabbe, Cal 5. Ricky Ledo, Providence 6. Trade out of the first round.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • What if Aaron Hernandez were a Bronco?

    Wed, June 26, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    When a bizarre, newsworthy, even tragic, sports-related story hits the fan, my first reaction is usually this:

    What if this were a Colorado athlete?

    In this case: What if Aaron Hernandez was a tight end drafted by the Broncos?

    Given the relationship between the Broncos and their devoted fans, it’s tough to even think about.

    I wasn’t here during the 2010 draft and have zero knowledge of the Broncos scouting of Hernandez. I don’t remember reading of any interest. For what it’s worth, the Patriots selected Hernandez with the 15th pick of the fourth round of the 2010 draft. The Broncos didn’t have a fourth-round pick that year. Denver’s next pick was Perrish Cox, the corner from Oklahoma State. The Broncos didn’t take a tight end in the 2010 draft.

    The Pats released Hernandez today. My first thought: That didn’t happen already? I know, innocent until proven guilty. Even so, say Hernandez wasn’t arrested and it ends up he’s not responsible for this man’s death — given the information that has come to light since this whole thing went down, is that still a guy you want wearing the team uniform and in the locker room?

    It’s almost hard to believe Hernandez was a member of the Patriots up until today. Talk about a team with winning as its bottom line.

    In a high-profile investigaton that seems to be growing more troubling with every tweet or news story, it seems feels like one fact has been ignored: A man is dead. This is a sad, sad tale that seems to be far from over.

  • NBA draft thoughts

    Wed, June 26, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The draft is Thursday. I do adore the NBA draft. It is the best draft of the four major sports, slightly ahead of the NFL draft, in terms of entertainment value. One, it’s completed over a single night, not stretched over three days like the NFL draft, which is fine, but who has time to watch TV for three days? Two, the average sports fan can identify the majority of the prospects in the NBA draft; by the third round of the NFL draft, or the first round of the NHL or MLB drafts, the average sports fan doesn’t recognize most of the names. And if your team has a late-round pick, you accept there won’t be a star available, but you hold onto that hope your team finds a Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili… OK, the hope is that your team drafts a player the Spurs would draft.

    Here are four prospects I believe are undervalued (on mock drafts). I would take each of these players higher than they are projected to be drafted:

    1. C.J. McCollum, Lehigh — I see similarities to Stephen Curry, a hoops junkie from a small school; If McCollum slips outside the top 10, one happy GM deserves a pay raise

    2. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga — He’s NBA-ready with size (7-foot in shoes, 234 pounds) and best-in-class efficiency (64.7 percent FG vs. BCS-level schools); Here’s Tiago Splitter when Splitter was the next big thing

    3. Ben McLemore, Kansas — This is a tricky one, only because McLemore can’t go much higher than he will; It’s only that I would take McLemore No. 1 overall; I expect the St. Louis-area product will be the first All-Star out of this draft class, a better Dion Waiters, and I loved Waiters coming out of Syracuse last year

    4. Pierre Jackson, Baylor — Mainly because multiple college coaches tell me he was arguably the toughest defensive assignment in the Big 12, right next to McLemore and Marcus Smart. Jackson should be available to the Nuggets at No. 27. Grab him, Tim Connelly.

    And three prospects I believe are overvalued. It doesn’t mean I think they are bad players, only that I wouldn’t draft these guys as high as they probably will be drafted:

    1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana — Remember when the Nuggets drafted a shooting guard who couldn’t shoot? Oladipo is a different type of player (and a superior athlete) to Julius Hodge, but I have a hard time with a starting shooting guard with a suspect jump shot. I struggle to justify using a top-five pick on a defensive stopper.

    2. Alex Len, Maryland — I trust Mark Turgeon’s player-evaluation skills; the Terps coach knows good players from bad players. So when Turgeon says Len will be a better pro than amateur, it makes me wonder if it’s a mistake putting him this list. But I have at least one steadfast rule in evaluating high school prospects before they reach college: A kid should dominate at the high school level if he’s going to be an impact player in college. The same rule is true from college-to-the-NBA. Even as a 7-foot-1 center in a mediocre ACC, Len didn’t. Still, he must be a top-10 selection. Top-five? Dunno about that.

    3. Shane Larkin, Miami — Late first round? OK with that. Top-15? He’s 5-10, maybe 5-11. That would be a tough sell.

    My recent track record is decent, if unspectacular. Thought Damian Lillard was a future star and kind of reminded me of Isiah Thomas. I loved Paul George coming out of Fresno State. Completely whiffed on Wesley Johnson a few years back.

    For the Nuggets in this draft, I’m thinking a perimeter scorer: Pierre Jackson, Erick Green or Jamaal Franklin — or trade out of the first round and save the money guaranteed to a first-round pick. That would make for a productive Thursday.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Buffs and Nuggets on a basketball Tuesday

    Tue, June 25, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Good day of basketball today. This morning attended the World University Games trials at the USOTC. The state was well-represented with CU coach Tad Boyle on the sideline and CU rising junior Spencer Dinwiddie on the court.

    We’ll learn Wednesday if Dinwiddie is one of the 12 players to make the final cut. I saw him running the point and in the off-guard slot, and a pair of coaches told me Dinwiddie’s versatility make him an attraction option. This is a guard- and wing-heavy roster, though, so he needs to play well in Wednesday’s morning session.

    “Personally, I wanted to show that I’ll do anything to make the team. I wanted to show that I can guard three positions and I can play three positions,” Dinwiddie said.

    Then it was off to Brian Shaw’s introductory press conference as the Nuggets’ head coach.

    For anyone nervous about hiring a first-time head coach, Shaw’s cool demeanor and thoughtful answers probably alleviated some of those concerns.

    Shaw came across as the genuine article. He talked about his five NBA championships (three as a player) without blasting his own horn. He explained why — after a dozen interviews for coaching jobs — this was the first time a franchise said yes.

    “I think I got type-casted as a triangle (offense) guy,” Shaw said, admitting the rejections got “frustrating.”

    “I’m proud to say I’m from the Phil Jackson (coaching) tree,” Shaw said. “I’m proud to say I’m from the Frank Vogel tree.”

    Here’s what stood out to me the most: Shaw makes it easy to see why player development and player relations are his strongsuit. He played for seven teams but never as the star. The Nuggets are not a team of stars. It figures that he is keenly suited to mold their roster and develop their young talent.

    “If they wanted to cut corners, I would just remind them that the guy across the coast who plays your position and is one of the best in the history game, (and) he doesn’t cut corners,” Shaw said.

    That “guy” is Kobe Bryant, who once lobbied for Shaw to succeed Phil Jackson in Los Angeles.

    One man’s guess: In short order, these Nuggets will lobby for Brian Shaw to stick around for a while.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Talking about practice: Broncos training camp schedule

    Mon, June 24, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The Broncos figure to smash attendance records at training camp this season. If those sort of records exist, and I’m sure they must.

    Looking for an early (and free) look at Peyton Manning’s second training camp at Dove Valley? Here are the times for the first week of camp, which continues through Aug. 15 and is open to the public:

    July 25 — 8:50-11:30 a.m.
    July 26 — 9:25 a.m.-1:05 p.m.
    July 27 — 8:50-11:30 a.m.
    July 28 — 9:25 a.m.-1:05 p.m.
    July 29 — 8:50-11:30 a.m.
    July 30 — 9:25 a.m.-1:05 p.m.
    July 31 — 9:25 a.m.-1:05 p.m.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Fly-fishing feedback — thanks to all

    Mon, June 24, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Wanted to offer a quick thanks to everyone who got in touch about this fly-fishing blog post. Appreciate it. The feedback was overwhelming; it seems our loyal readership certainly has a thirst for fly-fishing columns. I’ll continue them when time allows. (Wouldn’t it be great if time always allowed for more time on the water?). Looks like a Gunnison trip is taking shape for early July.

    Along those lines, got on the water for a few hours Sunday. Hit the Colorado River at the Pumphouse station, hiking up Gore Canyon. Here’s a quick rundown. Lots of bugs on the water — Yellow Sallies and caddis, mostly — but most action was below the surface. Among the effective patterns: No. 18 Rainbow Warrior, No. 18 RS2, No. 16 Copper John (red), No. 8 Pat’s Rubber Legs, the Klee caddis emerger (an odd pattern I used to tie for the North Platte and have yet to name), No. 12 Stimulator. The river was running around 540 CFS and appears to be dropping with run-off in the rearview mirror. The water was slammed with drift boats, but those of us in waders had the canyon largely to ourselves.

    So — thanks again. Always good to get feedback from readers, feel free to get in touch with any thoughts (paul.klee@gazette.com).

    Solid variety of columns coming up this week. We’ve got the World University Games (with Buffs coach Tad Boyle and Spencer Dinwiddie among those in Colorado Springs today), the NBA draft, Rockies return to Coors after a long road swing and the NHL draft. I’m also taking a look at the race for Broncos tickets. When it comes to securing seats for Peyton Manning’s second season, it’s a jungle out there.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Avs continue with back-to-the-future approach

    Mon, June 24, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The future of the Avalanche arrives Sunday — the NHL draft, in which the Avs have the No. 1 pick.

    Their personnel decisions — at least when it comes to the front office and on the bench — continues to highlight the past.

    First, it was Joe Sakic assuming a hefty front-office role. Then it was hiring Patrick Roy as head coach. Today, Adam Foote, a Klee favorite in his playing days, was officially named to the coaching staff. The great defenseman will be the “defense development consultant.”

    So the Avalanche family reunion rages on. Between Sakic, Roy and Foote, there will be six Stanley Cup rings in the room. Foote also will have his No. 52 jersey retired…. joining Sakic and Roy in the Pepsi Center rafters.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Good timing: Rockies call up Dickerson

    Fri, June 21, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    So I had this great idea on Corey Dickerson, the Sky Sox outfielder on a white-hot tear in the PCL.

    Call him up to the Rockies. Trade one of the current outfielders (not CarGo, clearly) for much-needed starting pitching. Win the NL West.

    Good plan, right?

    Well, I’m batting 1-for-3. Just as I’m walking out the door for the quick drive south to Security Service Field — presumably to chat with Dickerson and Glenallen Hill — I’m informed Dickerson was called up to the Rockies and joined the team in Washington, D.C. He’s expected to be activated for tonight’s game against the Nationals, according to our friend Troy Renck of the Denver Post.

    The intriguing piece to this equation: Dexter Fowler, who was injured in this bizarre game a week ago at Coors Field, isn’t going on the DL. The Rockies simply will add Dickerson as outfield insurance… unless there’s something else at work.

    Could it be Rockies management is in it to win it and will — as I was going to suggest, and still might suggest in Sunday’s Gazette — move one of the other outfielders for additional pitching?

    Stay tuned. Either way, super for Corey Dickerson. He earned this promotion.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Next order of business for Nuggets: Find a coach

    Thu, June 20, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    This goes along with Friday’s column on the Nuggets new GM.

    I see a handful of similarities between new Nuggets GM Tim Connelly and former Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri.

    The background in scouting, particularly overseas. Working up the NBA ladder to land a GM gig at a young age (Connelly is 36; Ujiri was 39).

    Most of all, there’s a likable personality that hides a fiery competitive streak. Neither strikes me as as guy afraid to play hardball. Despite their relatively young age, they won’t get pushed around in a negotiation.

    But Connelly is faced with an early challenge Ujiri never had in Denver: Hiring a head coach.

    “The two guys we talked with are tremendous,” Connelly said, referring to Pacers assistant Brian Shaw and ex-Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who have interviewed with the Nuggets.

    I would be surprised if the Nuggets’ choice is Hollins. This doesn’t sound like a description of one of Hollins’ teams at Memphis:

    “In terms of style of play, we’re a fast-paced team,” Connelly said. “This is Denver. We’re going to play in the 100s.”

    This was the second time Josh Kroenke has used the word “fun” when describing the basketball culture he wants at Pepsi Center. Hollins isn’t known as a “fun” guy. Maybe he is, I don’t know. But that’s not his reputation. I think Kroenke is looking for a youthful, upbeat, promising head coach.

    Connelly suggested the Nuggets aren’t in a hurry and won’t necessarily go with Hollins or Shaw.

    There is “the potential to interview more candidates,” the new GM said.

    One thought: the Nuggets dragged their feet once — maybe twice — already in this tumultuous offseason. You don’t want that to happen with the coaching search and allow the Clippers, Grizzlies, Sixers, etc., to snag the best candidates on the market. They allowed Masai Ujiri and Pete D’Alessandro to escape. I don’t fault the Nuggets for failing to match Toronto’s offer with Ujiri; I simply wonder why a deal wasn’t done during the season, when they knew he was a keeper and his contract was winding down.

    Then, D’Alessandro was Kroenke’s first choice to replace Ujiri — but Sacramento scooped in and stole him away.

    “Pete and I discussed the (GM) position,” Kroenke said.

    I haven’t agreed with the doomsdayers, those who say the Nuggets in a world of hurt after seeing five members of their front office leave or get fired. The roster is still intact. Even so, it raises an eyebrow when the front office of a 57-win team runs for the hills.

    The Nuggets got a good one in Connelly.

    And his first order of business is a big one: Helping the Nuggets find their next coach.

    The reshaping of the Nuggets front office continues.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • To save their rotation, Rockies turn to…

    Wed, June 19, 2013 by Paul Klee with no comments

    … Roy Oswalt.

    Now there’s something I never expected to type. Well, maybe in 2007.

    This is 2013, Oswalt is 35, and the Rockies desperately need an infusion of reliable starts in their rotation.

    That’s even more true now than a week ago with the injury to Troy Tulowitzki, the best player in the National League this season, and with the slump (and exit) of Jeff Francis. The Rockies are on thin ice, losing five of seven, and right now I’m watching the Blue Jays beat up the Rockies again, 5-2, in the seventh.

    All of which is really too bad, because the NL West is so very average and so there for the taking.

    Anyway, Oswalt makes his first start for the Rockies on Thursday at Washington. It’s a big one, simply to see if he has anything left, or if this is a repeat of his comeback attempt last season with the Rangers. In 17 games, he fashioned a 5.80 ERA.

    Thursday’s a big start for the Rockies. Still believe they should make a move for more starting pitching. More on that subject later this week in The Gazette.