• Avs: Broncos, Avs share crossroads in playoffs

    Fri, April 18, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Remember when Peyton Manning was ordered to take a knee?

    Sorry to remind you. Broncos coach John Fox said his team was shell-shocked by the Mile High Mistake — Joe Flacco’s touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones — and needed time recovery before overtime.

    Did the same thing happen to the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 of its playoff series with the Avalanche?

    Patrick Roy thinks so. His Avs scored a game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds left in regulation. Then the Avs stunned the Wild with a quick game-winner in overtime.

    In explaining the wild turn of events at Pepsi Center late Thursday night, Roy (today, after the Avs’ practice) sounded a lot like Fox (last year, after the Ravens stunned the Broncos).

    “It has to affect a team when you’re getting tied with 13 seconds left in the game and losing a game in overtime,” Roy said. “This is a game you felt that you had. This is a game you felt you had under control. That has to hurt a bit.”

    Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    Do I wish Fox had allowed Manning to attempt a game-winning scoring drive against the Ravens? Yeah, I still do.

    But there’s a lot of truth to Fox’s reasoning, if you believe Patrick Roy.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Broncos: Peyton Manning says Broncos must mold new identity

    Wed, April 16, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Broncos.PFM.Boy

    What’s the next step for Peyton Manning and the Broncos?

    In many ways, starting over.

    “You have to kind of reestablish your identity as the 2014 team,” Manning said this morning in his first conversation with media since Super Bowl XLVIII in early February. “2013 was a good season in a lot of ways, there’s no question. It did not end the way we wanted it to, but we have to build off that and try to take it a step further, try to finish. There’s no question, we kind of have to start over and reestablish the chemistry on this team with all the new players. That’s important, and that really starts on Monday.”

    After reflecting on a banner season that was stopped one step short of the ultimate goal, the Broncos must lick their wounds and wipe the blood from their jerseys.

    The Broncos open their offseason program Monday at Dove Valley. Manning, who served as the keynote speaker for a Boy Scouts breakfast at Pepsi Center today, suggested a proper introduction to their new teammates is in order. The quarterback also tipped his cap to the Broncos who are no longer Broncos. 

    “Well, first off, we lost some great players and some great friends. It’s been a real pleasure to play the last two years with Champ and Knowshon, Eric (Decker), Wesley Woodyard, Chris Kuper retiring, Zane Beadles has been great,” Manning said. “I might be leaving a name or two out, but that’s the worst part about football, when you form some friendships with these guys and really put a lot of hard work in, and just the business side comes into play.

    “But we added some great players, I’m excited about working with them starting on monday. I’ve communicated with them all, had a chance to throw with (Emmanuel) Sanders down there in North Carolina and am excited about playing with him.”

    The Broncos won’t look the same as they did in 2013. But the NFL MVP returns for another run and brought one of his zingers with him.

    “I know Eli told me he’s excited DeMarcus Ware was leaving his division,” Peyton said. “He could no longer hit him and I’m glad he’s on my team.”

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Buffs: NBA or nah? Spencer Dinwiddie will….

    Tue, April 15, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    … have breakfast tomorrow. And continue rehabbing from a knee injury that ended his season and, ultimately, the Colorado basketball team’s chance at advancing in the NCAA tournament.

    Other than that, the Buffs aren’t quite sure. Dinwiddie’s future remains the biggest question of their offseason. Will the standout guard ditch his final year at CU and leap to the NBA?

    “I don’t know yet,” CU coach Tad Boyle told me today. “I really don’t.”

    It was a testament to Boyle and the stability of the program that Colorado earned an NCAA tournament berth after losing Dinwiddie on Jan. 12. Losing your best player, midseason, is one ingredient for a late-season spiral. The spiral never transpired and the Buffs danced for the third-straight year.

    But losing Dinwiddie to the NBA would be a monumental tease. Instead of fielding what could be the most balanced roster in program history, the Buffs wouldn’t be as good as they should be. 

    This marks the second straight offseason — and third in four years — Boyle faces the possibility of losing a gifted contributor to the NBA draft. Alec Burks entered the 2011 draft after his sophomore year. Last year, Andre Roberson declared after his junior season. Both became first-round picks with guaranteed contracts. When that happens, it’s a good thing for a program in the long-term.

    But the Dinwiddie Dilemma is different. Burks and Roberson were healthy as they entered the predraft process. Dinwiddie missed the final 18 games of his junior season after tearing an ACL. So he hasn’t been able to receive the kind of valuable feedback, from the NBA side, as he would if he were healthy.

    “It’s hard. He’s going to have to rely on third-party information,” as Boyle said, and the lack of reliable information makes a difficult decision even more difficult. 

    The deadline to declare is April 27. Here’s the scary part for Boyle, or any coaching staff with an injured player contemplating an early exit: “You don’t know who’s giving them the information.”

    “Unfortunately, with Spencer’s injury, the process becomes really clouded. There’s been a lot of wishy-washy type of information,” Boyle said.

    Would CU prefer if Dinwiddie returns? Well, yeah. But the wrong decision, particularly for a prospect coming off a knee injury, can doom a player’s career before it really gets rolling.

    “I want what’s best for him. What’s best for him is to get a guaranteed contract from an NBA team. I always want what’s best for Spencer or Andre or Alec or any of our guys,” Boyle said. “Are we a better team with him coming back? Absolutely.

    “But that’s not what this is about. That might not be what the fans want to hear, or what Buff Nation wants to hear. But as the coach, a young man we recruited and sold a vision to and sold a dream to, he’s on the cusp of realizing his dream. We don’t want to hold him back. We just want him to make the best possible decision.”

    What will Dinwiddie do? The Buffs don’t know yet. His knee injury makes this a dicey decision. 

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Fishing: Revisiting the Arkansas River

    Sun, April 13, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Ark.River.Mountains     Maya.Fish.Ark

    After writing this column on the evolution of the Arkansas River, I was eager to see its progress in 2014.

    This river is changing, in a very good way, and the most popular fishery in Colorado is more attractive than ever. (I shy from hyperbole in fish stories — no, really — but in this case it’s accurate.) The drought helped. The introduction of salmonflies helped. And (much-appreciated) water-management decisions are helping.  As a result, the fish are bigger. That’s no fish story.

    I snuck down to the Lower Basin, a few miles downstream of Salida, for a couple days last week. My loyal fishing guide was there (above right). As you can see, she’s the only guide who doesn’t advocate catch-and-release.

    One day the fishing was extraordinary. The next it was remarkably slow. When it was good, fish were keying on brown streamers (the biggest, ugliest in your box) and the usual suspects (#18-20 Rainbow Warriors, #16-20 Olive Pheasant Tails, various Caddis larvae patterns). There was no dry-fly action to speak of, although that could be due to the wind. 

    Mostly, I’m writing this blog because the snow is blowing sideways outside my house, and the idea of another sunroof afternoon on the Arkansas lifts the spirits. But if you are researching the next destination to get on the river before runoff hits, there are worse options than the Ark. There might not be better.

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Nuggets: Randy Foye, medical (and shooting) marvel

    Wed, April 9, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Nuggets guard Randy Foye just had 22 points in the third quarter.

    That’s cool.

    This is cooler: You might remember Foye has a health condition called Situs Inversus. His heart is on the right side of his body, instead of the left. He’s told me it rarely affects him.

    The Rockets agree.

    In today’s column, Nuggets coach Brian Shaw said he’s “never seen anything like” their run of injuries this season.

    So doesn’t it figure that Foye — whose organs are all out of whack — is the one guy who has managed to stay healthy?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Avs: Swooping and creeping on the top seed

    Tue, April 8, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Hear that, St. Louis?

    The Avs are coming for the top seed. 

    With Colorado’s dazzling 4-1 win at Edmonton tonight, the Avs are two points behind the Western Conference-leading Blues. The Avs have three games left on their schedule. So do the Blues.

    The Blues play at Minnesota, at Dallas, vs. Detroit. A quick math check shows the Blues are 6-1-2 against those three teams. The Avs probably must run the table at Vancouver, San Jose and Anaheim and hope the Blues slip on the ice.

    “When we play the way we played like tonight, there’s not many teams that are going to beat us,” star-of-the-game Jean-Sebastien Giguere said on the Altitude broadcast.

    With seven wins in their past eight games, the Avs right now are the hottest team in the NHL. Will their rhythm and flow continue into the first round of the playoffs? Who knows. 

    Here’s the bigger question: If the top seed is on the line when the Blues close the regular season against Detroit, can Avalanche fans root for the Red Wings?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • NCAA: Boy, those NCAA sanctions really hurt UConn

    Mon, April 7, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The University of Connecticut basketball program committed major recruiting violations and was placed on NCAA probation. But that isn’t the reason UConn couldn’t compete in the NCAA tournament in 2013.

    UConn was banned from the postseason in 2013 because its APR scores were so awful.

    In a nutshell, the UConn program not only cheated, but it failed miserably on the academic front.  That’s quite the doubleheader, Huskies.

    (You can read about both failures here, here or here. Or here’s an excellent column from Gary Parrish. Or the initial piece of investigation reporting from Yahoo! Sports. Take your pick. They’re all true.

    (Oh, and that doesn’t mention the NCAA investigation into standout guard Ryan Boatright, who was forced to sit out a bunch of games before he was cleared. Can’t forget that one.)

    Back to the recruiting violations. The NCAA placed UConn on probation from Feb. 22, 2011, through Feb. 21, 2014. So the probation was scheduled to end about two weeks ago.

    Tonight, UConn plays Kentucky in the national championship game.

    Boy, those NCAA sanctions and academic penalties really hurt UConn. How will the Huskies ever recover?

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • NBA: The one-and-done debate, etc.

    Fri, April 4, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The one-and-done debate ignites strong opinions.

    Here’s mine.

    Here’s David Ramsey’s.

    One reason I enjoy writing columns for The Gazette is working alongside Mr. Ramsey. We rarely agree, and I dig that, because we look at sports from different angles. We might be covering the same Broncos game, but we almost always see it differently. With two columnists, that seems to be a good thing.

    So I appreciate what Mr. Ramsey wrote today, and it made me think. It didn’t make me rethink my opinion on one-and-done prospects and the NBA, however.

    There’s no easy solution to this debate. That point was driven home when I spent an afternoon with Lester Conner, a longtime NBA man who is now on Brian Shaw’s staff with the Nuggets. Lester knows more about the pros and cons of one-and-dones than anyone in the media; he’s one of the NBA assistant coaches in charge of working out the younger players. Nuggets forward Quincy Miller is an example.

    “You’re stuck between a rock and a hard place,” Conner said. “You’re caught between a guy trying to make a living and take care of his family. But a lot of times those guys are going down to the D-League, to learn how to play.”

    The youth and inexperience of these teenagers forces the Nuggets, for example, to start with the basics. It was eye-opening to see Conner’s pre-practice workout plan. These are the basics of the basics, the fundamentals of the game: Dribbling, passing, shooting.

    “(The late, great) Dick Harter, who I worked under, told me something that has always stuck with me,” Conner said. “He said, ‘Never assume that they know, just because they’re at the highest level.’ We take that approach; they may not know.”

    In the one-and-done debate, there’s one argument I won’t buy: the notion college programs aren’t doing their job if a player leaps to the NBA before he earns a degree. That’s cute to think about. It might even give us a warm-and-fuzzy feeling. 

    But let’s get real. When programs are rehiring Kelvin Sampson and Bruce Pearl, the Camelot view of college sports as a learning ground — and not big business — flies out the window.

    The vast majority of college players, at least at the high-major level, choose a university based on its basketball coach, first, and its basketball program, second. Academics might be third, maybe, if it doesn’t get edged out by the quality of the coeds, party scene, proximity to home, or an AAU coach’s preference.  

    But the players are there to hoop. That’s just the truth. 

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette

  • Rockies: The Rooftop (photos)

    Wed, April 2, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    The Rockies know how to throw a party.

    (The whole winning-games thing? Still working on it.)

    The latest addition to Cancun Fiel… or, Coors Field, is The Rooftop. It’s a 38,000-square foot party deck above right field, so high Michael Cuddyer looks more like a baetis than a batting champ.

    Here’s the beauty of The Rooftop: After a few innings in the party deck, you won’t care what Cuddy looks like, or who’s pitching, or that nagging column you need to finish, or the score of the game. The party deck adds two more bars, including one with 52 beer taps, according to tour guide/team owner Dick Monfort.

    “For a while we were known for our Rocky Mountain oysters,” Monfort reminded, and now there’s more food/drink options than Larimer Square. Not to mention Vegas-style cabanas (see below).

    (These photos were snapped from my phone today. Clearly, I’m no Mark Reis.) 

    So say what we will about the Rockies’ win-loss record.

    But they sure know how to party.

    Rox.Distance     Rox.Monfort

    Rox.Rio     Rox.Water

    Rox.Scoreboard     Rox.Couches

    Rox.View     Rox.Bar

     

  • Nuggets: Training camp in March

    Mon, March 31, 2014 by Paul Klee with no comments

    Nuggs.Timo

    The Nuggets are finishing a seventh-month training camp.

    Need proof? On Monday, faced with a three-point deficit and 7 seconds on the clock, the Nuggets allowed Timofey Mozgov to be one of the options for a potential game-tying three-point attempt. It missed.

    Mozzy? For three?

    Yes, because these Nuggets were in tryout mode from the day they hit the court together in September. They wanted to learn which players would fit into Brian Shaw’s system. They wanted to learn which players had a willingness to defend. They wanted to learn which players could do what.

    (This goes with what I wrote back in February, when I felt the Nuggets had transitioned from competing this season to playing for the future.)

    In this case, they apparently wanted to learn if Mozgov was a viable option on a three-point shot with the game on the line. This isn’t to say I agree with their approach to this season. This is simply to explain how that happens.

    One day before, coincidentally, I watched Mozzy make a half-dozen three-pointers in practice at Pepsi Center (above, being interviewed by esteemed journalist/author Terry Frei). All came from the left corner. None came from the right wing. Maybe that’s just not his spot. 

    Maybe Monday, in their 74th game of the regular season, the Nuggets were simply extending their training camp by another day.

    Let’s hope that was the idea, at least. 

    Twitter: @Klee_Gazette