2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Nuggets: Primer for the NBA draft (and more Hype Machine)

    Fri, May 30, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Wrote this column for Saturday on the Nuggets’ draft situation. This blog goes with that column.

    Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly is smart enough not to tip his hand, but I believe he sees Jabari Parker as the can’t-miss star of this draft. That’s a great sign for the new front office’s ability to evaluate talent. He’s right.

    There are four top prospects in this draft. I’ve written several times it’s just an OK draft after you get past the elite prospects, and there are four elite prospects: Parker, Embiid, Wiggins, Dante Exum. The Hype Machine drummed up a load of propaganda for the rest of the draft. The Hype Machine tends to do that, mostly in college recruiting, and then when the talent is exposed as flawed at the college level, the hype subsides by the time the NBA draft rolls around.

    So it makes sense that if the Nuggets don’t trade into the top four, the smart move is to trade out of the No. 11 spot, get everything you can, and build assets. The other option is to keep the No. 11 and draft Zach LaVine, if he’s still there, and I don’t expect he will be, because the UCLA guard should shine in predraft workouts.

    This Nuggets roster is acutely flawed, at least when it’s applied to the kind of basketball Brian Shaw wants to play. It doesn’t dribble, pass or shoot particularly well, and his system is based on the game’s fundamentals. So the Nuggets, if they stick to the Shaw plan, have a long, hard-to-watch road ahead. That’s tough to say, but it’s true.  

    The question that dogs the Nuggets from year to year: Do you need that Hall of Famer to win a championship? 

    “I think that’s the most tried-and-true method. It certainly helps,” Connelly told me. “But I don’t think so. There was more parity in these playoffs this year than I’ve seen in a long time. It’s hard to get that top 10, top 15, top 20 guy. I don’t think there’s one way to win in the NBA. But it’s a whole lot easier when you have one of those guys.”

    There’s a notion out there, supported by local writers who don’t know the game, that the Pacers are “winning big” with a unique formula. They suggest the Pacers are “winning big” with a roster that lacks a superstar. In reality, the Pacers are winning big because they play in the vulnerable Eastern Conference. In the West, that’s the fifth- or sixth-best team, at best. If you saw them get swept by the 2012-13 Nuggets, you’d agree.

    The Nuggets got good when they drafted a superstar. It happened 11 years ago. Remember that?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: Quick reactions as OTAs get underway

    Wed, May 28, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    OTAs.Construction     OTAs.Fox

    OTAs.Harris     OTAs.Harris

    There was no Sean Lee situation as the Broncos opened their Organized Team Activities at Dove Valley on Tuesday. Cross your fingers, Colorado, that it stays that way. 

    “You can’t make the club from the tub,” as John Fox said afterward, and the Broncos won’t win the Super Bowl in late May. But with a key injury, they sure could lose it. Health, as the Broncos learned last season, is a fickle thing.

    The Broncos are mostly healthy. Chris Harris and Von Miller performed strength-and-conditioning drills off to the side. Kevin Vickerson was in uniform but isn’t practicing. 

    And there was Rahim Moore, who missed the playoffs, and Derek Wolfe, who missed the playoffs and more, back on the field with the first-team defense. So those were good things.

    Other things, good or bad? Duke Ihenacho switched to Steve Atwater’s No. 27 jersey. Patriots escapee Aqib Talib got acclimated to his new practice field: “Where’s the clock at?” Talib spent ample time chatting up first-round pick Bradley Roby between snaps. Bulked-up Demaryius Thomas looks like a hybrid tight end or something. He’s large, having clearly added muscle. New safety T.J. Ward was on the field, opposite Moore.

    “We’re on top of it,” Fox said of Ward’s legal situation. “We were aware of it.” 

    Oh, yeah. Peyton Manning wore shorts. And stayed upright.

    Thus, the first day of OTAs could be considered a success. 

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Rockies: Skip the injuries excuse

    Tue, May 27, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Rox.Tulo

    It stinks to lose Nolan Arenado. Were there two or three better third basemen in baseball this season? Not that I’ve seen.

    So it stinks to lose Nolan Arenado. Tyler Chatwood, too. And definitely Brett Anderson. Really, really liked what we saw from Anderson…. before he got hurt. If Carlos Gonzalez is down for longer than the remainder of tonight’s game against the Phillies, that would be a major blow. The Rockies say CarGo is listed as day-to-day.

    If this seems like deja vu, it kind of is. The wheels came off — no, the bus broke down — last season when injuries hit the Rockies like a whitewater raft crashing into a boulder.

    The injuries stink.

    The injuries are no excuse.

    Not in San Francisco, which can list these injured players this season: Brandon Belt, Matt Cain, Tim Hudson, Santiago Casilla and Marco Scutaro. Not exactly bums. The Giants responded by leading the NL West by 4.5 games (over the Dodgers) and five games (over the Rockies). Bruce Bochy is doing his best Gregg Popovich.

    What will the Rockies do? Better leave the injuries excuse at home. After years of solid draft slots and unlimited prospect propaganda, there should be an answer (or three) in place. Don’t waste Tulo’s (above) epic year. Don’t waste a promising start to the season. Don’t waste a lineup that should, and usually does, hit in the dark.

    Figure out a way to stay relevant into August and September. If the Rockies fade and the front-office brass trots out the injury excuse, feel free to tune them out. At some point it doesn’t carry weight anymore.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Rockies: Rain, rain go away… from Coors Field

    Thu, May 22, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Rox.Rain Rox.Basement

    Eventful day here at Coors Field.

    On the field? Not really. It’s 2-2 in the sixth. In the sky? Definitely. It’s Rain Delays 2, Baseball 0. We’re in the second of two extended weather delays, the first of which implored Coors Field officials to evacuate staff and media into the basement (right). That was for the tornado warning that spanned the metro area.

    Come to think of it, the basement of Coors Field, with its high cement walls and bunker-like feel, might be the safest place in Colorado during a tornado. Thankfully, there was no tornado and we moved back upstairs.

    The tornado sirens never went off in LoDo. Not today, at least. They did on Wednesday — twice — and several of the Giants players ventured out into the dugout to see what in Tulo’s name was going on.

    As Giants pitcher Matt Cain told me, “We got here and it was raining. Then on Monday it’s 80 degrees. And I’m looking at the mountains and they’re covered in snow. Now it’s raining again.”

    Back to the now. We’re in the second weather delay (left). This one’s been going for about an hour. What happens in the press box during a rain delay? Much like any other time, very little of substance. Mark Kiszla and I have broken down every possible angle of the Nuggets’ upcoming draft. I did radio. Thrice. Brandon Krisztal built a family of Rockies bobbleheads. T.J. Ward visited a strip club (kidding, kidding). Lots of Twitter usage.  

    Anyone looking to read a weather column in Friday’s Gazette? I better find a story.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: Ben Garland and military ties in the NFL

    Thu, May 22, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    While doing some research for this column on Ben Garland, I stumbled across some tidbits you might find interesting. I did, at least. I asked the NFL office for a list of current players and coaches with ties to the military.

    The league came back with a list of 91 players and coaches from the 2013 season with military ties. Here are a few connected to the Broncos or that otherwise might pique your interest:

    -DeMarcus Ware (Broncos defensive end): Wife, Taniqua, served in the Air Force

    -Eddie Royal (former Broncos wide receiver): Sister, Christina, served in Iraq as a member of the Air Force

    -John Fox (head coach, Broncos): Father was a member of original Navy SEAL teams in 1960s 

    -Andy Reid (head coach, Chiefs): Father served in the Navy during World War II

    -DeSean Jackson (Redskins wide receiver): Cousin earned two Purple Hearts for service in Vietnam

    -Robert Griffin III (Redskins quarterback): Parents were Army sergeants

    -Drew Brees (Saints quarterback): Grandfather served in World War II

    -Chris Beake (Broncos defense quality control): Served in Air Force as civil engineer officer

    -Mario Williams (Bills defensive end): Brother-in-law served in Army and killed in Iraq

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Rockies: Giants accuse Tulo of stealing signs

    Wed, May 21, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Rox.Tulo

    Apparently, an athlete can reach a point of excellence when rivals start questioning his ethics.

    Tulo has reached that point.

    Denver Post beat writer Patrick Saunders had this story today. It’s definitely worth a read.

    In it, the Giants’ color analyst accuses Troy Tulowitzki of stealing signs. It’s the only way, according to the color guy, that Tulo could be raking the way he’s raking.

    Rockies manager Walt Weiss was aware of the comments from the Giants’ color analyst. Weiss shot a warning to the Giants when it comes to Tulo allegedly stealing signs.

    “Keep an eye on Dinger. He’s involved,” Weiss said this afternoon, adding that the Rockies are using a light bulb in the scoreboard to tip off their star shortstop.

    “I love when opposing teams start making accusations,” Weiss said.

    Tulo (above, at Coors Field today) didn’t want to talk about the allegations. But he wasn’t smiling, either. 

    By the way, the guy’s name is Mike Krukow. We can assume he’s not real big on my idea of adding a bat signal to Coors Field when Tulo’s up to bat. Aside from his part-time job as a dolt, Mike was a pitcher for the Giants.

    Really, the whole thing should be quite flattering to Tulo. 

    Detractors never talk about the guy at the end of the bench. Right, Mike?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Nuggets: Quick reaction from the NBA draft lottery

    Tue, May 20, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Rox.Field

    A few minutes ago, while watching the NBA draft lottery with another eternal Nuggets optimist, Mark Kiszla, from here at Coors Field, these thoughts came to mind.

    With Cleveland, Milwaukee and Philadelphia as the final choices for the top three picks, I wondered if Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were phoning their agents for a mulligan.

    On second though, education is really important to us. Can we have one more year?

    When Cleveland jumped ahead to snag the No. 1 overall pick, I wondered if God was making up for decades of crappy teams and crappier weather in Ohio.

    Johnny Football AND Jabari Parker in the same month? Sure. Here ya go. But you keep Anthony Bennett.

    When the Nuggets were stuck with the No. 11 pick, I hoped — no, prayed — nobody in the organization thought to themselves:

    Welp, maybe next year.

    There shouldn’t be a lottery watch in Colorado next season. This should be a one-time thing. When healthy, theirs should be a playoff roster, even in the Western Conference, and they can still get a solid reserve at No. 11.

    After careful consideration — OK, the 10 minutes that followed the lottery unveiling — here are three prospects to watch before the June 26 draft:

    Zach LaVine, Guard, UCLA. (Right now, he’s still my guy at No. 11. And yes, the Nuggets are intrigued.)

    Gary Harris, Guard, Michigan State.

    Nik Stauskas, Small forward, Michigan.

    There will be others who pass through Pepsi Center for their predraft workouts. And that list will/might change. But for now — after the ping-poll balls bounced Cleveland’s way for the second straight year — one thing is clear.

    In the paraphrased words of Walter Sobchak: Nothing is rigged, Dude. Noooothing is rigged.

    How do we know? Cleveland wins. Again.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Nuggets: Are you feeling lottery lucky?

    Tue, May 20, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    What is the surest way for the Nuggets to return to the NBA playoffs? 

    Win the lottery.

    Easy enough, right? Tuesday is an enormous night for the Nuggets. Given the talent at the very top of this draft, one lucky bounce of a ping-pong ball could turn the Nuggets from lottery team to Western Conference contender.

    That’s how highly I think of Jabari Parker. The rest of the draft outside of Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Dante Exum? Ehhh. Like 99 percent of college freshmen, it was overhyped from the beginning.

    Here’s the kicker: the odds of the Nuggets leaping from the No. 11 pick to the No. 1 pick are roughly as good as Nate Robinson playing a full game without launching an off-balance fadeaway. Denver has a 0.8 percent chance of landing the top pick when the lottery order is unveiled at 6 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.

    Hey, stranger things have happened. Nikoloz Tskitishvili happened. Raef LaFrentz happened. Tony Battie happened. On the other hand, Melo happened (right after Darko happened).

    So it depends on your view of the Nuggets’ draft history whether you think they are overdue for some good luck in the draft or if they used up their luck when the Pistons passed on Carmelo Anthony to select Milicic.

    Me? I’m an eternal Nuggets optimist.

    The Nuggets are not in terrible shape. They need to figure out if Brian Shaw is the right guy for this roster — not the other way around — but it’s foolish to say the 2012-13 Pacers were better than the 2012-13 Nuggets, for example.

    Parker, the former Chicago Simeon star, should be the No. 1 pick on every team’s draft board. Unless something changed at the combine, he is No. 1 on the Nuggets’.

    The odds of Parker landing in Denver are not very good. But the NBA lottery is no time for probability percentages or common sense. It’s time for wishful thinking.

    Now where’s that lucky horseshoe?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette 

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning’s message to graduates

    Mon, May 19, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    We’ve got a column coming in Tuesday’s Gazette on Ben Garland, the former Air Force lineman who’s trying to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster again. His mission this week is more big-picture oriented, though. 

    Which takes us to Peyton Manning, the man Garland would be assigned to protect. The Broncos quarterback continued his early presidential campaign — I mean, offseason — with a stump speech at the University of Virginia’s valediction ceremony over the weekend. In a 20-minute address, Manning tossed footballs to two graduates (and the mother of a graduate, it appears) and talked about, yes, the big picture.

    Peyton’s pitch can be summed up in a couple words: Play nice.

    “More than half the world’s population is under 30 years old,” he said. “The sheer number of you creates a gigantic opportunity to change the workplace as we know it. Shake it up. Be the ones that throw open the shutters and let a little fresh air in. While you’re at it, make the workplace a more civil place to be.”

    Manning continued his message with this:

    “Make kindness a priority, not a blurred line. There are some people who will criticize your generation’s altruism as childlike fantasy. Yet you’re the generation that can put ethics and values back en vogue again. You’re the generation that can challenge leaders in business, government and other professions to make decisions based not solely on the bottom line, but also on what’s good for your community and others around the globe.”

    Is it a little cheesy? Sure. Is it true? That, too.

    You can see Manning’s entire speech here.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: AFC’s Super Bowl favorites… again?

    Tue, May 13, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    That’s what Las Vegas says.

    And there are two entities I don’t argue with — my dog, when she needs to go outside, and Las Vegas. And so it’s always worth a gander when the oddsmakers at Bovada.net debut their post-draft NFL futures.

    Here are the AFC favorites to reach Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Ariz.:

    1. Broncos (11/4)
    2. Patriots (13/4)
    3. Colts (10/1)
    4. Steelers (12/1)
    5. Chiefs/Chargers (14/1)

    The Seahawks (6/1) remain the favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs. Can’t argue with that, either. Seattle should be the Super Bowl favorite, particularly after adding former Buff Paul Richardson, yet another dangerous weapon, to their loaded roster. But the Broncos (7/1) are a good bet to supplant the ‘Hawks for NFL supremacy.

    Entering last season, here was my prediction for the Week 16 power rankings: 1. Seahawks 2. Packers 3. Falcons 4. Broncos 5. 49ers.

    With three months still to think on it, my current power rankings would look like this: 1. Seahawks 2. Broncos 3. 49ers 4. Packers t5. Patriots/Saints/Bears. Like I wrote last week, the AFC remains the Broncos, Pats and everyone else.

    This time, at least, Las Vegas agrees.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette