My initial reaction to Rogue One – MAJOR SPOILERS!!!


My initial reaction to Rogue One – MAJOR SPOILERS!!!

Just in case you missed the all-caps warning in the title, please take note:

This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

…so if you want to avoid them, stop reading and get the hell out of here!

Okay, you’ve been warned…









Still here? Okay, well first off you may be wondering why I’m posting about Star Wars in my Denver Nuggets blog. Well, the answer to that is simply that I wanted to post them someplace and this is about the only place I’ve got to do it which (unlike, say, Facebook) allows me to include spoilers and give fair warning about it. That’s it.

Okay, so on to Rogue One… Where to begin?

I guess with the obvious, which is the bang-up job they did with Tarkin and Leia. As I myself was trying my best to avoid spoilers, and I just got done watching my first (but certainly not my only) viewing of the movie, I still don’t know the details of how they did it. Obviously, it was some combination of computer graphics, audio editing, live acting on the set, studio voice work, and probably other things. But all that is secondary to the fact that both characters were entirely convincing, and I think on future viewings after the initial surprise factor has worn off, will mesh seamlessly with their Episode IV original counterparts.

Sticking with visuals, that same seamless flow between this story and the next is really made possible by the exquisitely detailed work done on this picture to get the look of practically every visual element in absolutely perfect accordance with the original Star Wars. From the costume and ship design, to the look and feel of Yavin Base and the Death Star and Star Destroyer interiors, to the kinetic action of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter battles, to the Rebel pilot and Stormtrooper banter, they really nailed it, and clearly a ton of work went into making sure that they got just about everything along those lines just right. Throughout most of the movie, it did, for the most part, feel like that beloved Star Wars galaxy far, far away that the prequel trilogy largely failed to recapture.

For the most part, but not entirely. And the most outstanding reason for that was the glaring absence of a John Williams score. Now that is certainly not to knock the work done by Michael Giacchino, who obviously had Rancor-sized shoes to fill, and did as commendable a job as could be expected. Still, it just wasn’t the same atmospherically. Which isn’t his fault, as it is to be expected – and respected – that he wasn’t just knocking off Williams but instead worked to create his own original compositions. And the movie was intended to be at least in part a departure from The Saga in both storyline and tone, which is consistent with having a different musical environment as well. But in so many ways, John Williams’ music defines the texture and feel and emotional quality of what Star Wars is, and so the difference was palpable at times.

But man, it is hard to make too big a deal out of that when we were getting full-on balls-to-the-wall Star Wars action with blasters, Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, X-Wings (and I have to say the U-Wing is perhaps my favorite ship design of any of the post-OT movies), cool aliens and droids, new planets and worlds that looked lived in and worn… For nearly the whole movie, I felt like I was very much at home in the familiar Star Wars universe, just with a few tweaks here and there.

The story itself was solid and tight. I did have the benefit of reading Catalyst, the Rogue One pre-story novel, prior to seeing the movie, which definitely helped flesh out the details of the Erso family history and a subtext of motivations and psychological profiles of Galen Erso, Orson Krennic and Governor Tarkin. But even without that the movie did a good job of presenting them all in a way that made reading the book unnecessary, and the plot didn’t get bogged down with, say, trade negotiations or political disputes. The pace moved along quickly and the dots connected logically and neatly. I imagine some might consider it too neatly, but it worked for me.

My biggest criticism with Rogue One is that the dialogue got a bit rough at times. Chirrut Imwe’s incessant Force incantations were laid on entirely too thick; the theme of HOPE was sappily reiterated to an almost eye-rolling degree; and Vader’s “Don’t choke on your own aspirations” line was way too corny and on the nose, undercutting the more potently dramatic effect that scene might otherwise have had. It wasn’t all bad, and sometimes the callbacks worked, as with the aforementioned classic banter (it was nice to hear the T-15 get a hat tip), and in parts of the movie the light, sarcastic back-and-forths were effective in capturing a Star Wars-ian feeling. But in a movie in which much was done very well, the dialogue does stand out as one area where it fell short.

The acting itself was fine. As with most Star Wars movies, it tilted toward the earnest side and nobody will be winning any Oscars, but the lead actors (especially Diego Luna) held up their end of the bargain well enough, although I don’t feel, at least on a first viewing, that any of them really hit it out of the park like Daisy Ridley did with Rey in The Force Awakens.

Finally I should mention all the references and call backs, of which I’m sure I missed many. Having Red 5 get shot down (thus, presumably opening up that slot for Luke) was a well thought-out detail. Dr. Evazan was the perfect side character for a call back, as he (including his voice) is so recognizable, and is the kind of character that does get around the galaxy (as we know since he has the death sentence on twelve systems). The brief display of Artoo and Threepio was mercifully understated. And the sole appearance of the lightsaber in what is arguably the most kick-ass outing of Darth Vader ever put on screen was just delightful. Like I said, I’m sure there are a ton more I didn’t catch, but they were mostly done tastefully and smartly, even space Jimmy Smits and Mon Mothma talking Obi-Wan and Leia without mentioning their names.

Additionally, very little about this movie dramatically altered our understanding of Original Trilogy events, which is a good thing. The only major exception (unless I missed others) is the insertion of the plot point that Galen Erso intentionally and secretly designed the Death Star’s ultimately fatal flaw into its architecture for the Rebels to exploit later. I’m still on the fence about this one. On the one hand, it feels like it takes something away from the original movie’s presentation of the Death Star defect, especially in light of Tarkin’s hubristic refusal to recognize it, as a symbol of the cracks of weakness which will always appear in the seemingly impenetrable armor of authoritarian systems, of their very unsustainability. But then again, even if the flaw was added subversively rather than it being an Imperial mistake, in either case the inability or unwillingness of the Empire to identify it or acknowledge its potentially destructive power is a critical oversight that leads to their own undoing, which would leave the fundamental dynamics less altered than they might appear.

But overall, I am satisfied with Rogue One – for what it is – and I don’t think that will change too much on subsequent viewings. I mainly had a blast watching it, and if there were a few slightly off-putting moments here or there, they were vastly out-shadowed by the pure, unbridled joy of what seemed like the imagination of a kid playing with his Star Wars toys projected onto the big IMAX screen in 3D (which, by the way, is definitely how the movie should be seen).

Quite honestly, I had lowered my expectations for Rogue One based partly on the trailers and partly on rumors (and confirmed stories) of production troubles, and as such, I was, again for the most part, happily surprised. Was it perfect? No, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and for the 85-90% of it that they got right, I can forgive the few schlocky moments – none of which were even remotely as cringe-worthy as “Yippee!” or “Wizard!” or “I hate sand” or every single frame which Jar-Jar Binks was in.

My current rankings, which are always subject to change:

Star Wars


Return of the Jedi

The Force Awakens

Rogue One

Revenge of the Sith

Attack of the Clones

The Phantom Menace

Game Notes: #Heat at #Nuggets 11/30/2016

Game Notes: #Heat at #Nuggets 11/30/2016 – Denver is Diagnosable


I missed this game live, and now it’s about six hours after it ended. But I have successfully avoided finding out the score, so what follows are my notes on the game as I simulate a live viewing of it after the fact. Here we go…

1st Quarter

10:37 Gallo back from injury. Was at the perimeter, about to go iso, wisely runs a P&R with Jameer instead, and Nelson drains the 3. Great to have Gallo back, but biggest concern is that it’ll mean the ball starts sticking. Good to see it didn’t there, something to watch going forward.

10:14 Dragic has Gallo switched to him at the perimeter, nice D by Danilo.

9:26 GREAT chase-down block by Faried leads to Denver ball and Mudiay sinks the open mid-range jumper.

8:58 Whiteside’s foot speed >>> Nurk’s footspeed. Puts nice post move on him for the layup & 1 (missed).

8:11 Mudiay drives past his man, SLAMS down the two-handed dunk. More finishes like that, please, Emmanuel.

6:53 Nurk not having the greatest game so far. Gets the ball taken away by McBob extending his dribble out pretty far on a post-up.

6:04 Dragic pump fake has Nurkic looking like a statue. Malone really ought to sub in Jokic by now.

5:41 Hate to keep harping on Nurkic, but he TOTALLY fell asleep at the wheel and didn’t even try to get over and protect the rim when Dragic Iso’d on Mudiay, drove past him, and then had nothing but blue sky all the way to the hoop.

5:20 Nurkic lazy pass, turns it over. Seriously don’t know why Malone’s leaving him in there at this point. He clearly didn’t get enough sleep last night or something. Head totally not in the game.

5:14 Faried definitely should’ve been called for goaltending there. But that was some crazy-ass athleticism on that play.

2:54 Whiteside blocks Jokic, but the Joker gets it back and puts in his 2nd attempt. In fairness to Nurk, I should note that on Jokic’s first defensive possession against Whiteside, Hassan scored right over him pretty easily. So he’s giving both Denver Cs trouble.

1:30 Jokic with the really nice low post move for 2. Chandler kind of struggling out of the gates, has missed a couple shots. I don’t think Jameer has rested the entire 1st quarter. I know Malone is leaning heavy on him now, but at his age & injury history, I don’t think these kind of minutes are sustainable for him.

0:23 Murray ratchets up the aggression, drives in for the layup with contact and 1. Missed a 3 on the previous possession, wise of him to take it to the rim to get himself going.

0:00 Terrible end to the quarter, Jokic gets the ball stripped and stolen, Tyler Johnson takes it down the other way for a buzzer-beating dunk. What might have been a 32-26 lead is instead 30-28.

2nd Quarter

10:52 After a nice offensive possession where Chandler did some work to dribble into the lane and get himself a better shot for the 2, he gets TOTALLY robbed on the BS foul call on a clean block.

10:32 Then he gets into the paint for a runner again.

7:59 With perhaps the sole exception of Wilson Chandler, this 2nd Q has not gone well for Denver. Defensive lapses, turnovers leading to fast break points, discombobulated offense. 10-2 run Miami. Nuggets gotta regroup.

6:30 Another turnover (Mudiay), another fast break score for the Heat. This is getting ridiculous. Plus the Nuggets, like only they can, are turning Luke Babbitt into Kyle Korver. And Nuggets offense has completely flatlined. Miami’s run now 15-2.

5:42 Mudiay finally puts the brakes on the Heat run, taking it the length of the floor for an and-1 layup, but misses the FT.

3:50 Worst quarter by the Nuggets in … a while, including that 3rd quarter against the Suns, which was bad, but in some ways just failure to execute rather than this total collapse into ineptitude. Just sloppy as shit, no clue what they’re trying to do offensively, completely on their heels at the other end. They don’t turn this around fast, Miami could well put this one away early.

0:33 Nuggets showing signs of life, and doing the opposite of what they usually do by finishing the quarter strong. But after a great 3 in the flow of the offense, Jameer forces up another one, doing the thing where he starts trying to do too much after doing some good stuff. He really wants to be the hero, but he’s gotta restrain that crap, especially as the vet leader.

0:00 Nuggets down 5 at the half, but after how badly they shit the bed in that 2nd quarter, they’re lucky not to be down 10+. Hopefully they come out with more focus in the second half.

3rd Quarter

11:05 After a pretty bad first half in which he didn’t score a field goal, Nurkic gets his first one by battling down low after pulling down the offensive rebound of a Gallo miss. Let’s see him take it to Whiteside more – if he can.

7:48 Energy is everything for this team. A wild sequence with a big save from Faried that culminated in a Gallo dunk. When they play high energy, they thrive on it, when they play low key, everything withers on the vine.

6:20 Gallo misses 2 FTs, Heat secure the rebound. When overall they’re playing this badly, they can’t afford to be giving up easy points like that.

5:59 Couldn’t tell what Nurk got T’d up for (I’m sure that’s already well known by now), but whatever it was, he’s getting frustrated and pouting. Might not see him much more this game. Once he goes into Bad Jusuf mode, hard for him to shake it.

5:27 Gallo made a shot. Someone finally made a damn shot. I hate to advocate for this, because I normally am against it as standard operating procedure, but the Nuggets might need a little hero mode action from Gallo in this game since the team overall is playing like butt.

4:59 Mudiay drives down pretty much reeling out of control but manages to get it to Jokic in the nick of time for the layup. Now on: Mudiay-Jameer-Gallo-Wilson-Jokic. If any lineup can get the job done of getting the Nuggets’ lead back, this should be the one to do it.

4:26 Nuggets cut deficit to 3 on Jameer layup, Spo calls timeout, not liking the looks of Denver clawing their way back into this one.

2:34 Great sequence for Jokic. Stands his ground against Whiteside to contest his shot for the miss, then sinks a jumper from the paint on the other side. More like that, please. Tie game.

2:18 Gallo sinks FT on Whiteside tech, Jokic sinks both FTs on the regular Whiteside foul (pushed him out of bounds), Nuggets go up 74-71 to reclaim lead for the first time since, I believe, early in the 2nd quarter. Hassan to bench, let’s see if Denver can use this to build some momentum and extend that lead.

2:12 Defensive 3-second violation on Nuggets this time. If I’m not mistaken, Miami has already had two themselves. Then Ellington misses the FT. Then Reed w/ the loose ball foul and Gallo hits both FTs to bump the lead up to 5.

1:34 Dragic was totally NOT set but the refs call Murray for the charge after his great steal and drive. Bullshit call that should have put Jamal on the line. Dragic misses the 3 at the other end. Ball don’t lie.

1:04 Jameer to Chandler for the bigtime dunk. Could the Nuggets be any more Jekyll and Hyde? This team is clinically diagnosable.

0:00 And of course immediately after the above comment the Nuggets fail to make two defensive stops and Miami cuts the lead back down to 3, but Chandler bails them out with a buzzer-beating offensive rebound and putback. Up 5 going into the…

4th Quarter

11:22 This to me is the Nuggets’ best offensive play of the game so far, and it exemplifies when their teamwork is at its best. Mudiay has the ball at the top of the arc with Jokic down at the low post. Murray runs baseline and curls around the Jokic screen up to the elbow, where he receives the pass from Mudiay. Jokic then comes up to the elbow where he gets the ball room Murray, who clears out. Jokic and Mudiay then run a pick and roll, with Mudiay moving up to the elbow, and Jokic cutting into the lane where he gets it back from Mudiay, who splits the defenders with a bounce pass, and float up the runner for 2. Just a perfectly executed set play.

10:09 Yet another Nuggets turnover, yet another Heat score off the fast break. Miami cuts the lead back down to one, Malone calls time out.

7:32 More turnovers, more crappy defense, once again losing sight off how they want to run their offense, and all of a sudden the Heat are back up 5.

7:04 Once again, Heat just playing with more energy, Nuggets just look lethargic and listless. If they don’t match or exceed that intensity and hustle, they’re cooked in this one for sure.

5:30 Missed 3 after missed 3 for Denver. Meanwhile, the Nuggets making Wayne Ellington look like an All-Star and now Miami’s lead is 8.

4:57 Stop. The. Presses. The Nuggets actually made a shot. Gallo for 3.

4:23 But of course the Nuggets can buy a stop to save their lives. Whiteside scores easily over Faried.

3:44 Whiteside scores easily over Faried.

3:13 The Heat drank coffee before this game. The Nuggets smoked weed.

2:09 Murray with the corner 3. Help us Jamal, you’re our only hope.

1:57 Whiteside dunk. Miami is basically the big brother bullying the little brother at this point, grabbing the Nuggets arm and whacking them repeatedly, “Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself?”

1:44 Of course Jameer misses his first FT. In this game, that’s just how the Nuggets roll.

1:21 Murray for 3. Maybe is really is our only hope…?

0:42 Then Murray drives straight in to the guy who blocks all the shots. Much to learn he has.

0:00 Nuggets blow another winnable game. But what else is new? One thing’s for certain: If they play as unfocused and lackadaisically as they did tonight against the Rockets, they’re gonna get trounced.

New Twitter handle: @NuggetsDenJoel

This is just an F.Y.I. in case any of you were wondering why my longstanding Twitter handle “@denbutsu” suddenly changed to “@NuggetsDenJoel” – and the simple explanation is just that I changed it.

Why? Mainly because I wanted it to include my actual name (though nearly every permutation of it was already taken). “Denbutsu” was kind of a relic, a remnant from when I first started posting on Nuggets and Broncos message boards over a decade ago. It was a combination of “Denver” and the “daibutsu,” which is a statue of the Great Buddha in Kamakura, not far from where I live. Its only significance was purely geographical: a bit from Colorado, where I’m from, and a bit from Japan, where I live.

But by now it has long outlived its original inception, and the time for me to bring my Twitter username into alignment with my real name is long overdue. And so, it is done. If you’re following me already (which, if you’re here reading this, you almost certainly are), then nothing should change other than the appearance of my handle, but my apologies if this caused you any confusion. For what it’s worth, I did reclaim “@denbutsu” just so nobody else could nab it, but it is now just a placeholder that redirects traffic back to “@NuggetsDenJoel,” which will hereafter remain unchanged.


My two bits of highly unqualified advice for aspiring sports writers


Let me start by saying I am not a professional writer of any kind, let alone a professional sports journalist, so I am truly unqualified to be giving any advice on this matter whatsoever. So tons of grains of salt and all that.

That said, I have worked with and observed enough talented young writers make the transition from “just a blogger” to paid, working-professional writer to have at least gotten a peripheral sense of the dynamics of how the process tends to work, at least in some cases.

If you’re reading this, then you probably know I was quite active writing for Roundball Mining Company several years back, and then “retired” for a couple years, only to recently resurface at BSN Denver’s Nuggets pages (you can read my latest piece over there here, if you’re into that sort of thing). But that’s about it. So my personal sports writing experience is fairly limited, and in practical terms, beyond personal joy and satisfaction of creating stuff I like about the team I like, the best thing it has brought for me is sharpening my writing chops prior to entering grad school – and that honestly did really help, even though topically it was entirely unrelated. But I digress.

I really only have two points to make here (you can find more thorough, and certainly better advice elsewhere anyhow), so I’ll be brief, and without further ado…

Two bits of advice for aspiring sports writers

  • 1. Vacuums fill quickly, so be relentless and avoid taking too much time off

When I first started Nuggets writing, Roundball Mining Company and the Denver Stiffs (then still were (as far as I am aware) pretty much the only blog games in town, and still somewhat relegated status-wise to the cute kids at the children’s table in comparison to the well-established, towering behemoth, longstanding newspaper credibility of the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News. And podcasts didn’t even really exist yet. In the intervening time, we have seen the unfortunate folding of the Rocky Mountain News, Denver’s biggest victim in the larger decline of the news print industry, reveal a silver lining in creating journalistic space for motivated, entrepreneurial writers to carve out their own niche in the sportswriting world. Around the same time, the swinging open of this door was largely accelerated by Hardwood Paroxysm and ESPN’s TrueHoop blog network, both of which helped to raise the profile and legitimacy of “mere” sports blogging to professional-caliber (if not always actually professional) sports journalism.

So as an aspiring writer, the good news for you is that you, like anyone and everyone, can try your hand at it, and maybe have a legit shot at making something of it. But that’s also the bad news, as there are thousands of other aspiring writers with exactly the same hopes and goals as you. And this is where the importance of being relentless comes in. Again, if you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the many ebbs and flows in Nuggets coverage over the last ten years, with the occasional fall (most notably Rocky Mountain News) and rise (most famously Denver Stiffs) of various news organizations, organization-affiliated blogs, individually-created blogs and youtube channels (hello), and the like. The key point here is that the one consistent overarching reality throughout this whole process is that whenever one entity starts to wane, there are immediately two or three more ready to jump in and fill the vacuum that creates. So staying in the game, staying relevant, building a continual body of work and a reputation as a hard-working, diligent writer, is of the utmost importance.

I fell off the map by my own design, but then I wasn’t trying to go pro with my writing. If I had been, I’d have lost many opportunities during my writing hiatus for possibly moving on to more prominent organizations, making my way into podcasting or other more modern forms of journalism, and building relationships and connections with people which might have led me in unexpected directions. So if you’re serious about this, take the sage advice always given by Mama Hahn on her Green Hat Boat Tour, and “Don’t be lazy!”

  • 2. Work locally

This one can be neatly summed up by one simple truth: When I first started writing about the Nuggets, “lowly” bloggers didn’t get press passes at the Pepsi Center, but now the range of individuals and organizations being granted access has diversified. The fractionalization of the news industry mentioned above has resulted in professional sports organizations opening their doors to journalistic coverage from sources they would not previously have had to consider. This means that access itself is more accessible – but only if you’re there.

As a dude living in Japan and writing about the Nuggets, this never would have been possible for me. And therefore, if I had been truly serious about becoming a professional writer, it would have been much more of a viable path to paid work had I, for example, started rigorously doing English-language coverage of the Yokohama Bay Stars baseball team, their farm team Shonan Sea Rex, the local Kanto Gakuin University rugby team, or something along those lines, despite not being a fan of either rugby or baseball. Because reporters do interviews. Reporters report from on the ground. Which isn’t to say that you can’t do analysis from afar, and that may be a path to work for some, but it’s a hell of a lot easier to get your foot in the door if you’re actually at the door.

So say you’re a huge Nuggets fans who wants to write about the Nuggets, but you just happen to live in Cheyenne, Wyoming or Omaha, Nebraska. Well by all means, you should write about the Nuggets to your heart’s content. But you should also start covering the local high school and college sports programs where you can actually go to the games, meet the players and coaches and interview them, maybe raise your profile enough as a diligent local sports reporter to ultimately land a job somewhere. But unless you have some special kind of experience or genius, you’re probably not going to get paid for writing about the Nuggets, at least not until further on down the line when you’re better established. Statisticians with exceptional number-crunching abilities can (and do) get hired from afar due to their mad analytics skills. But if you’re looking to get into more traditional sports writing and coverage, it’s probably better to write about what you can gain access to, even if that’s not your favorite team or sport.

And that’s all I have to say about that.




Game Notes: #Raptors at #Nuggets 11/18/2016


Game Notes: #Raptors at #Nuggets 11/18/2016

1st Quarter

7:32 Raptors making the Nuggets pay for doubling DeRozan, doing a solid job of finding and hitting open 3s. Nuggets at the other end getting to the rim with ease, good cutting by Nurkic & Gallo.

6:20 Jameer with a way out of control pass turns it over and Toronto converts it on the fast break. Mudiay on a previous break did much the same. A huge part off the Nuggets’ turnover problem is how many of them are just careless unforced errors. Setting aside for the moment the question of how big a share off the blame for this actually lies on him (at the very least he is not entirely free of culpability), Malone’s post-game comments about the team being undisciplined were spot on, and here early in the 1st we see (at least) two cringe-worthy examples of it.

4:07 Mudiay really is at his best on the fast break. Takes it coast to coast splitting four defenders for a nice layup. Great illustration of how important getting defensive stops is for this team in generating offense.

2:15 Jokic comes in and immediately turns it over. Not a great way to start off for a dude trying to get back on track.

1:51 Mudiay, rather than driving into traffic, pulls back and feeds Jokic with a nice bounce pass inside. Better decision making like this is exactly what he needs to do more of to bring his turnovers down.

1:21 Once again, defense creating offense, as the Nuggets get a stop on a really good defensive possession, and then Chandler takes it down the court for a dunk. Still amazed at how much better he looks now than – well, ever, really.

0:54 Chandler draws a foul driving the lane. His ability to shift gears and switch up his speed is either entirely new or I have a bad memory, but I sure don’t remember him busting out moves like that in previous seasons.

2nd Quarter

8:53 Malik definitely Denver’s best bench cheerleader now, doing the happy dance after Chandler nails his second consecutive 3-pointer.

7:56 Jokic making his presence felt a bit more now, nice aggressive drive in the lane for 2.

6:28 Probably not too much should be read into this, but after Malone sends Nurkic back in for Jokic, Nikola’s body language on the bench ain’t great. Looks kind of exasperated.

5:40 Possibly Faried’s best defensive play of the season? Goes up straight, strips the ball, saves it from going out,

5:07 But then he leaves DeRozan wide open for an easy jumper on a subsequent possession.

4:10 Up and down and then up again sequence for Mudiay, with two great drives sandwiching one very ill-advised missed 3.

3:15 Chandler sinks a beaut of a 3. Every time you think he’s going to return to his old normal, he continues to outdo himself and impress.

1:33 In one of the most suspenseful plays of the season, Faried dribbles the ball up the full length of the court, almost in slow motion with the crowd on the edge of their seat, and manages to finish at the rim with a nice soft layup. Did not see that one working out, but good on him for maintaining control there.

0:00 Pretty incredible quarter by the Nuggets. It’d be so great if they could just finish games at halftime sometimes.

3rd Quarter

11:02 “He’s got a mouse in the house!” Great block by Faried results in Toronto resetting for a missed 3, Mudiay with a spot-on half court pass to a leaked-out Nurkic in the paint for a layup in traffic. Shoulda been an and-1.

10:09 Mudiay misses two FTs in a row, Marlowe says it’s the first time he’s done that this season. If we are looking for bright spots in Mudiay’s game this season, the fact his free throw percentage has taken a great leap upward from .670 to .828 is one definitive improvement, one that hopefully will be followed by improved shooting from the field as well.

9:58 Jameer covering DeRozan, who has no problem sinking a jumper right over him from the top of the key and drawing the foul. Raptors wise to exploit that mismatch every time they can get it, and Denver switches on everything to the point that they’re likely to get it again and again by setting multiple screens.

9:30 Toronto D does a great job of breaking up Denver’s play, Mudiay misses a 3 just before the buzzer. Nuggets are 24th in the league in eFG% (.314) w/ 0-4 sec. left on shot clock, highlighting importance of fast breaks, early execution.

9:02 Mudiay gets the ball near the low post, kicks it out to Jameer for the open 3 – right decision, as he didn’t have a lane to the basket (the kind of situation where he’s highly turnover prone), even though Nelson missed.

7:51 DeRozan in the paint over Jameer again. He’ll make those all night long, party karamu fiesta forever.

5:40 Nurkic with a strong low post move to draw Val’s 4th foul. While he’s shooting FTs, Murray comes in for Nelson, so it’ll be Mudiay-Murray-Gallo-Chandler-Nurk. This is a lineup I’m optimistic in seeing some positive results from. 68-64 Denver at this point.

5:40 Lowry does the “let the ball roll up the court and pick it up at halfcourt” thing. I really despise that for no better reason than it’s entirely unnecessary unless *maybe* you’re in serious crunch time. Midway through the quarter, you’re just trying to look cool.

5:12 Welp, Nurk to the bench, still a 4-point difference, didn’t see if that lineup could do anything. But now w/ Jokic in, this is exactly the kind of lineup which should be most conducive to success for Mudiay.

4:00 5 quick points by Lowry put the Raps up by 1, but with a sweet little inside bounce pass from Jokic to Gallo the Nuggets take the lead back.

3:24 Murray misses a baseline jumper, but he did a great job of shaking off his defender and getting the open shot. As he gets more experienced and more consistent, I think he’s likely to surpass Gallo as the Nugget who is best at creating his own shot.

3:01 Altitude cuts in late to the play because they’re showing DeRozan highlights – they do this so damn often it’s infuriating. So we don’t get to see how the play unfolded, we only see Murray on the break receive the ball just over the halfcourt line and drive it in for the layup.

2:00 Chandler makes the unselfish play by dishing out to an open Murray for 3 rather than try for a contested layup. Not necessarily a bad decision, but Jamal misses it, and with Denver’s transition defense off balance, Toronto gets the and-1 at the other end.

0:51 Mudiay drives in for the reverse spin on the layup, probably one of the best finishes he’s had this season in terms of degree of difficulty.

0:00 Nuggets finish the 3rd quarter strong, up by 5 going into the 4th. Unfortunately, I know how this ends, but even if I didn’t, it’s all too predictable at this point.

4th Quarter

11:40 Nuggets open 4th with a Jokic turnover and Juancho foul. And so the inevitable begins…

10:14 Good: Jokic gets two consecutive post possessions. Bad: Couldn’t convert either, miss on the first, offensive foul on the second. But the approach is sound, he needs more touches.

9:06 After Val rolls over Faried on a post-up, Malone has had enough of small ball and sends Nurk back in. Good.

5:35 On a very stagnant possession with no ball movement, Mudiay with a bigtime drive and strong finish at the rim.

4:14 Mudiay really seems to be getting his act together. The overall composure of his game just seems more fundamentally sound, with a definitive improvement in decision making. Nice mid-range jumper in the lane after Jokic saves the possession.

3:11 And of course just after I write that^ Mudiay with a terrible bad pass turnover after getting lost in the weeds down low.

1:49 As glad as I am to see Malone giving Jokic a shot down the stretch, him switching onto DeRozan being a total defensive nightmare is a foregone conclusion.

0:53 Weak ass foul call on Mudiay for ticky tack contact on Val, after just a couple possessions earlier Patterson shoved Jokic and got him called for a foul. Not gonna blame this loss on the refs, but they sure as shit ain’t helping.

0:53 This isn’t a game note, just a test to see if anyone’s actually reading this. If you are, tweet at me. 😉

0:30 After a fairly badly bungled play off the inbound, Wilson manages to kick it out to Jameer for the 3, after the Nuggets have been struggling from the arc the entire game.

0:15 Faried switches onto DeRozan, who easily scores.

0:00 Say what you will about anything else that happened in this game, but Chandler makes that second free throw and this one’s in the books for the Nuggets. Damn.


5:00 Jokic starting OT. Interesting.

4:22 Probably the best Mudiay-Jokic play of the season. Mudiay threads a bounce pass down the lane perfectly to a cutting Jokic. More like this, please.

3:42 In principle I’m all for Jokic taking the open 3 when it comes to him. But probably overtime is not the best time for that. Need to go for the higher percentage looks now.

3:18 Good Mudiay reverts to bad Mudiay, turns it over in the lane.

2:01 Gallo, know thyself. If you’re too tired to launch that 3, gotta do a head fake and drive it in.

1:05 Jameer ends up on DeRozan again with a minute left in the game. He easily scores, of course. That’s so Nuggets.

0:00 Sigh. We all know how it ends. I won’t torture you with it. Alas, just can’t get over that hump.


Suns at Nuggets 11/16/2016 Game Notes


Suns at Nuggets 11/16/2016 Game Notes

1st Quarter

10:20 – Nurkic just lost his second rebound, fortunate to get bailed out on the foul call this time, but that was the second time he let one go, in addition to a missed layup he went up too soft on (which luckily Faried cleaned up), and it’s one of life’s great mysteries how such a big, strong dude can have such weak hands and weak finishes at the rim sometimes. Say what you will about Kenneth, but if he pulls down a board, nobody is taking that ball away from him, let alone just tapping it out of his hands.

10:20 – To say something nice about Nurkic, too, they just showed the replay of his hook shot style oop to Faried, which was a thing of beauty.

9:53 – Great steal by Faried leads to a Mudiay fast break layup. Faried may not be the highest IQ defender out there, but he deserves some real credit this season for putting in effort on that end more than he has in the past.

8:55 – First Faried, now Gallo whacked in the face and needing work. Who’s next?

8:55 – Marquese Chriss looks like he’s about 14 or 15.

7:49 – Another steal by Faried when he doubles PJ Tucker. Well played.

6:33 – Nurk gets switched onto Brandon Knight who pretty much freezes him at the perimeter and nails the jumper.

6:08 – Gallo with the corner 3, which is great to see. So far this season, 28% of his 3-point attempts (16/57) have been from the corner, a big increase from 12.7% (30/236) last season. This is a trend that really should continue, I’d love to see Gallo taking more corner 3s, and with Mudiay’s ability to penetrate and make cross-court passes, running hammer plays to get Gallo open looks from the corner makes all the sense in the world. In this case, the broadcast cut in late, just in time to see Gallo shoot, so I didn’t see how the play unfolded, but it was run off the inbound after a Phoenix out of bounds.

3:12 – Wilson with some great body control as he drives in off the Jokic screen and draws contact for the and-1. How much better he just looks physically compared to 2014-15 is pretty remarkable, and he’s such a better player for it.

2:44 – Nurkic with a nice little celebration off the bench after Jameer nails a 3. Good to see his head space there.


2nd Quarter

11:20 – Murray knocks in a 3 at the shot clock buzzer. Have a feeling we’ll be seeing many more of those.

11:02 – Nice feed from Chandler at the arc to Jokic inside on the fast break. Great example of making the most of bigs who can run the floor.

8:14 – Once again, Wilson Chandler with some really nice control on the drive, changed gears a couple times to get the defense off balance, finished with a fadeaway a couple feet out and drew the foul.

7:41 – Okay, Mudiay technically had no turnovers in this game, but that kind of gets an asterisk here Nurkic miraculously recovered the ball after bobbling it around for a few seconds on a pretty bad pass.

7:18 – Murray’s block looked clean to me. Booker misses his first free throw. Ball don’t lie.

7:00 – Love Gallo’s toughness. After putting a spin move on Booker from the post, runs right into Tyson Chandler but pretty much forces the shot right through him for the and-1.

6:36 – Wilson nails the 3. He can just do a little of everything in this game… or pretty much, this season.

6:18 – Nurk with a GREAT defensive possession inside, including a big block and recovery of the rebound without stepping out of bounds.

5:04 – Altitude stats music sounds like a cheap rip-off of Josie by Steely Dan.

4:07 – Great sequence here by Jameer, who’s having a really good game. Hits the mid-range jumper off the Faried screen, then recovers defensively quickly enough to draw the offensive foul on Bledsoe.

1:10 – Chandler for 3. Marlowe said he thought it might be the best half of Wilson’s career, and I think he may just be right.


3rd Quarter

9:28 – Booker nails a wide open 3. The Suns haven’t made all of them, but they’ve been doing a great job of using screens and ball movement (and conversely, Denver has been doing a shoddy job on rotations and fighting through screens) to create open looks at the arc on pretty much every possession.

8:28 – Is it just me, or has Malone aged like four years in one year? It’s almost as if coaching the Nuggets is as stressful as being president.

8:15 – Mudiay drives in, gets the ball stripped Suns get out on the fast break and Gallo strips the ball on the other end. I’m officially calling bullshit on Mudiay having no turnovers in this game. That was clearly a turnover.

6:47 – When Jokic is on the perimeter, the Nuggets really need to implement a different defensive scheme than switching on every screen. The Suns are really exploiting this, knowing the guard will get Jokic switched onto him, which pretty much gives him a clear path to the basket.

3:50 – Jokic, after getting the ball at the elbow, screens and gives it off to Murray, who in turn feeds it back to him right at the rim for an easy dunk with a crafty little bounce pass. Seems like there could be some potential for some good chemistry between those two.

1:19 – Continuation calls (or in this case lack thereof) are so damn inconsistent, and pretty much just up to the whim of the refs.

1:19 – Alonzo Gee makes his Nuggets re-entrance.


4th Quarter

10:40 – Great dish out from Wilson to Juancho for a big 3 to stop the bleeding after a little Phoenix run. If Hernangomez develops to the point where the Nuggets can count on him to do that reliably, it’ll be so huge.

9:33 – Great drive by Jameer across through the lane to wrap his shot around the far side of the hoop. His scoring versatility is going to be so valuable to this Nuggets team going forward.

8:16 – Mudiay dribbles it along the baseline and gets bogged down around the low post, great cut by Jameer to bail him out with the easy layup.

6:58 – The Mudiay-Jameer-Gallo-Chandler-Faried (and no center) lineup is sputtering out on both ends of the court.

5:20 – Wild sequence as Faried gets the steal, dives for the ball, somehow gets it to Chandler who arcs a long pass to Mudiay, who manages to fling up the layup as he gets fouled. And-1, sinks the free throw. Big play, after the Suns cut the lead to 7, Denver extends it back to 10.

4:59 – Jared Dudley is such an incessant whiner. I think he just cracked my top 5 least favorite players list.

4:39 – Faried sinks both free throws after a dumb Len foul. After this game, Faried is 33/46 (.717) on free throws, up from .647 through first 5 seasons. Let’s hope he’s made some genuine improvement and this isn’t just a fluke that will see him soon regress.

1:20 – Nifty little backhand pass from Gallo to Faried. They’re just having fun now.

0:24 – Murray unconsciously hits a turnaround stepback 3 with time running out. Someday, he’ll probably be the guy on the Nuggets who they get the ball to for the last shot of the game.

0:17 – Booker just got ejected. Hastings complaining about him having an arrogance on the court he doesn’t need, but I’d actually call it confidence and I kind of wish more Nuggets players (cough, cough, Mudiay) carried themselves with the same self-assuredness.

00:00 – A great and much-needed home win for the Nuggets against a team that the conventional wisdom had doing better than them this season. A lot of this may be attributable to inexperience, but it’s still amazing to me how Jekyll and Hyde this team can be. But when things click, and they have more than one player in the groove like tonight, they can be pretty damn good.


#Nuggets at #Celtics 11/6/2016 – Game Notes

#Nuggets at #Celtics 11/6/2016 – Game Notes

1st Quarter

11:13 Nice ball movement: Gallo from the perimeter to Jokic at the top of the key to Nurkic down low. What the Jurkic lineup is capable of at its best.

10:34 Jokic posts up in the low post and makes a nice move to the rim for an easy layup. The Jurkic lineup will be more effective if Jokic gets more touches like this instead of almost exclusively going to Nurkic. Better balance.

9:57 Mudiay drives in strong and draws the blocking foul on Zeller, whose heel was inside the circle. Always good to see Emmanuel playing aggressively.

9:12 Mudiay continues his aggressive play with an offensive board & putback.

9:05 I’d say that Harris has been guarding Thomas on every possession so far, but really it’s only ostensibly, as the Nuggets usually switch everything so quickly. But this time Harris tries to fight through the screen, but after swinging it around Thomas gets it back at the perimeter and blows by Garris for an easy floater in the lane.

6:41 Thomas tries to drive in the lane but Harris funnels him right into the help and Nurkic swats it away and dishes it to Harris on the break for the dunk. Great defensive possession turned into offense, great example of how important it is to Denver to have Gary back.

3:50 Gallo with the head fake at the arc, steps in to nail the long 2. Playing better within the flow of the offense in this game so far, letting it come to him and not forcing it.

3:27 After Jerebko switches to him, Mudiay takes it in for a sideways-floating left handed shot, which misses but he draws the foul. Two things he didn’t do: Try to dribble it in waist high or unnecessarily fade away. Hopefully this can be taken as a good sign. If he can unlearn some of these bad habits it’ll go a long way toward improving his efficiency.

3:00 Mudiay sinks the long 2. He doesn’t need to become a great shooter to ultimately deliver what the Nuggets will need from him, but hitting open shots like that with greater consistency is a must.

2:35 Mudiay or 3! Mass hysteria! Dogs and cats living together!

2:15 Mudiay for his second consecutive 3? What have you done with the real Emmanuel Mudiay, imposter?

1:53 Celtics announcer: “Someone pick up Mudiay, please!” Said for the first time this season by anybody, anywhere. And then Mudiay nails another three? What in the world is happening?

1:45 Beasley’s celebration off the bench is the best.

End of quarter, holy crap. If Mudiay can build on this success and use it to turn that corner he’s needed to so badly, this 1st quarter of his will probably be something that people talk about for years to come when evaluating his career.


2nd Quarter

Should I even bother continuing? Nothing’s gonna beat that 1st.

10:55 Chandler with a really impressive drive from the corner along the baseline for the layup and 1. Also worked his way in for a bunny after posting up on his previous offensive possession. If he can continue playing like he has so far this season, it’s so huge for the Nuggets.

10:16 Gerald Green forces the jump ball with Jokic. I guess he’s going for the jester look with that hairstyle.

8:58 Murray shaking and baking at the top off the key, fades away as he makes the jump shot. About time he finally got his offense going, great to see.

8:26 Chandler finds Jokic at the elbow, who in turn feeds a beaut of a pass inside to Faried, who gets fouled. Good things happen when the offense goes through Jokic at the elbow. Malone really needs to run more for him there.

6:52 Another great drive by Chandler. Man, he hasn’t looked this good in a long time.

6:27 And then his next trip down Chandler nails the 3 after some pretty decent ball movement.

6:01 And now Chandler battling down low draws the foul. Working hard.

5:02 Nurkic out, Jokic in. Malone steering away from the Jurkic, at least for now. Also sends Harris in for Chandler, so it’s Jameer-Mudiay-Harris-Gallo-Nurk. This to me is the type of lineup which should be ideally suited for Mudiay: One center, three guys who can space the floor, and one of them can be the primary ball handler as well.

4:32 Crowd goes wild as Zeller’s long 2 cuts the lead to 21.

2:00 Harris gets in the passing lane for the steal, fast break layup and 1. Was a bit worried for a sec, looked like he landed weird, but seems to be fine.

0:36 Chaotic sequence at both ends finishes with an emphatic Gallo dunk that puts the Nuggets up 75-50. Man this team can be Jekyll & Hyde to the extreme.

End of half. 77 points. Wow.


3rd Quarter

9:08 Nuggets have come out sloppy and still haven’t scored with nearly 3 minutes elapsed. Meanwhile, Harris literally doesn’t even touch Thomas, who barrels in out of control and flops and the refs buy it and stick Gary w/ his 5th foul.

8:36 Chandler finally gets Denver’s first bucket of the 2nd half.

1:12 Murray nails the 3 from the corner, bringing the Nuggets up to 101 points before the end of the 3rd.

End of quarter, Thomas scores 2 on the Faried goaltend closing the Nuggets lead to 20.


4th Quarter

10:28 Nuggets regain possession after a very good defensive possession by Faried and the team as a whole. Kenneth will never have a natural knack for defense, and it’ll always be a weakness opponents will exploit, but credit where it is due, he seems to at least be making a sincere effort this season, which is commendable, especially given that it’d have been real easy for his attitude to turn south after being brought off the bench.

9:58 Faried with another good play, this time on offense, as he curled into the paint and normally might have thrown up a contested jump hook, he instead dished it out to Harris, who missed the 3, but the right play was made, and Faried ended up with it again and got to the line.

4:37 Nuggets force the 24 second violation. Would be easy to phone it in defensively at this point, with the score 116-93, but they’re still grinding it out, which is great to see.

3:57 Case in point, Faried dives for the loose ball and calls the heads up time out. Keeping it scrappy.

3:18 I haven’t talked about Gallo much but he’s played really well in this game, as I said above, mostly playing in the flow and not trying to force things too much. That said, with this big a lead at this point in the game, not sure why Malone has any starters out there still.

2:10 Murry drills a 3, which at this point in the game may not mean much (puts Denver up 24 with about 2 minutes left), but given the start to his season, it’s gotta feel really great and be a huge confidence booster that his shots are falling with regularity in this game. Monkey off his back.

0:30 Crowd goes nuts as a Rozier 3 cuts the lead to 17 with half a minute left. Would be easy to make fun of this, but as a Nuggets fan to see how supportive their home crowd is even when getting blown out causes me to feel some envy.

End of game, and of course then the crowd boos as the clock winds down.



Welp, it’s 2:21 a.m. here in Japan on November 8, 2016, which means we have finally officially reached the calendar date for Election Day, at least in some parts of the world. So, my American compatriots, if you have not done so already, get your ass out there and vote. No matter what happens, this one’s historic.


And just as a final parting thought, though I hate to toot my own horn, I do have to say I feel a bit vindicated by Mudiay’s stellar performance, as I went on a little pre-game Twitter rant arguing for keeping him in the starting lineup and being patient with his development: