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Hickson suspended five games

Sep 17, 2014 -- 4:56pm
J.J. Hickson (Getty Images)

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

The NBA has announced J.J. Hickson will be suspended the first five games of the regular season for violating the association’s Anti-Drug policy. The unpaid suspension will force him to miss games against the Pistons, Thunder, Kings (twice) and the Cavaliers. The NBA only reveals specifics of performance-enhancing violations, meaning Hickson likely failed his test due to the presence of a recreational substance.

Hickson is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in March, the team has been optimistic he’ll be ready for the start of the regular season. He would currently project as Kenneth Faried’s backup at power forward, although he can play center as well. In his absence, Darrell Arthur could see increased time while small forward Wilson Chandler has some experience at the four position as well. Denver also has plenty of depth at center with JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov and Jusuf Nurkic.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Billups announces retirement

Sep 09, 2014 -- 10:04pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider


The face of Denver basketball, Chauncey Billups, is hanging up his sneakers. After playing 17 seasons in the NBA, he told Yahoo! Sports “it’s just time.” Billups played last year with the Pistons who declined his option for this upcoming season, he says he had opportunities to continue playing but declined.

Nicknamed “The King of Park Hill,” Billups attended George Washington, then played two seasons in Boulder at CU. He was the third pick in the 1997 NBA Draft by the Celtics before making nine stops with seven different teams during his career. While he may have racked up a lot of frequent flier miles, Billups was far from a journeyman.

After playing with the Celtics, Raptors, his hometown Nuggets and the Timberwolves- Billups found the right fit with the Pistons. He led them to the NBA Championship in 2004, culminating in an NBA Finals MVP award. Billups would go on to make five All-Star teams and his propensity to make clutch shots would earn him another nickname, “Mr. Big Shot.”

In 2008, he was traded back to the Nuggets and became the leader of the best team in franchise history, helping transform Denver into a Western Conference finalist. He’d later go to New York as a part of the Carmelo Anthony trade before finding his way to the Clippers and finishing up last year in Detroit, where he enjoyed his greatest NBA success.

Billups now looks forward to retiring here in Denver with his family. He’s expressed interest in working for an NBA front office or in media, but doesn’t appear to be in any rush.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Faried makes final roster for World Cup

Aug 23, 2014 -- 9:47am

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

Kenneth Faried (Getty Images)

Following USA Basketball's 112-86 victory over Puerto Rico in an exhibition Friday, they announced the final 12 players who will represent the country during the FIBA World Cup. Kenneth Faried is one of them. 

Originally thought of by some as a camp body, Faried's presence became more essential following Paul George's gruesome injury and the withdrawal from competition by Kevin Love and Kevin Durant. It didn’t take long for the Nuggets' young forward to eventually find himself starting at power forward for Team USA.

The final four players cut Friday were headlined by Damian Lillard (Blazers), however the other three cuts were arguably more intriguing. Efficient outside shooters are typically high value players in international play; which is why the omission of Chandler Parsons (Mavericks), Kyle Korver (Hawks) and Gordon Hayward (Jazz) is surprising. There may be a method to the madness.

It's believed the host nation, Spain, posts the biggest threat to the United States due to their size. Pau Gasol (Bulls), Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) and Serge Ibaka (Thunder) form a formidable front line for the Spainards. Coach K can now counter with a bigger group than originally expected including Mason Plumlee (Nets) who was a late addition after being promoted from the Select Team.

Back to the Manimal, it's a great opportunity for the Nuggets' youngster to improve on a large stage while learning from some of the game's best players. He's also hoping for a new contract soon, so the exposure isn’t a bad thing either.

Here's a projected depth chart heading into the August 30th opener against Finland. Expect players to play several different positions as is the norm in FIBA games:

Center: Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond
Power Forward: Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee
Small Forward: James Harden, Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan
Shooting Guard: Steph Curry, Klay Thompson
Point Guard: Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Nuggets to sign Jerrelle Benimon

Aug 14, 2014 -- 5:25pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

Jerrelle Benimon

ESPN Denver can confirm, accoring to league sources, the Nuggets will sign undrafted forward Jerrelle Benimon out of Towson. The deal contains a very small guarantee as the team wants to see how he stacks up against NBA talent.

Nuggets scouts were impressed with Benimon during the summer and he was brought in for a workout which led to a place on Denver's summer league team. In those three games he averaged a double-double with 10.7 points and 11.3 rebounds per contest. 

The move brings Denver's roster to 16, it will need to be trimmed to 15 by the start of the regular season.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Nuggets schedule released

Aug 13, 2014 -- 5:16pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider


LeBron James

The NBA’s 2014-2015 schedule was released Wednesday with the Nuggets opening the season at home against the Pistons on October 29th. Denver fans won’t have to wait long to see LeBron James and the Cavaliers who visit Pepsi Center on November 7th, the Nuggets’ fifth game of the season. Other notable home games include top pick Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves visiting Denver on December 26th and January 17th; Kobe Bryant and the Lakers coming to town December 30th and April 8th; and Carmelo Anthony returning to Pepsi Center on March 9th with his Knicks.

Denver’s longest road trip on the season is five games as they visit the Hornets, Grizzlies, Rockets, Heat and Magic in May. They also have a five-game homestand from late February to early March when the Nets, Suns, Jazz, Hornets and Bucks come to town. The Nuggets biggest schedule concern should be 21 back-to-back games, up from 14 a year ago. That trend extends across the league due in part to an extended All-Star break which now stretches one week.

Denver will be featured on national television 12 times: on ESPN for the aforementioned Cavaliers game on November 7th; on NBA TV when they visit Indiana November 14th and when they visit LeBron, Kevin Love and company on November 17th. The Nuggets are back on NBATV for trips to Washington on December 5th and Toronto on December 8th. Denver welcomes the Heat on December 10th which will be broadcast on ESPN, as will a matchup with the Rockets on December 17th. After the New Year, the Nuggets are on NBATV to host the Wizards January 25th. Denver makes their only appearance on TNT February 10th in Los Angeles against the Lakers. NBATV will also broadcast Denver’s visit to Oklahoma City on February 22nd and Portland March 28th. The Nuggets final game of the regular season is in Golden State April 15th and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Here is the complete schedule from Nuggets.com

Tags: Nuggets

Nuggets roster now at 15 with Nurkic and Harris signed

Jul 31, 2014 -- 4:38pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris (Jennifer Pottheiser, Getty Images)

On Thursday, the Nuggets officially signed both of their first round draft picks. The 16th pick Jusuf Nurkic, will receive a four-year deal worth $7 million per the Denver Post. The third and fourth years of that contract are team options. Also according to the Post, the 19th pick Gary Harris signed a four-year deal as well. His contract is worth $6.1 million with the final two years also being team options.

These signings bring the roster to 15, the maximum amount allowed by the NBA. Here’s a look at your 2014-2015 Denver Nuggets:

Ty Lawson - The most important piece to the roster needs to stay healthy and continue to grow as a leader. As Brian Shaw says, the Nuggets go as he goes.

Arron Afflalo - Shaw will love this tough-nosed competitor who brings strong defense and outside shooting to the backcourt.

Nate Robinson - Denver missed his ability to catch fire offensively, he was a major factor in the team’s two winning streaks before his injury. Shaw calls him a freak of nature.

Randy Foye - A year ago, Foye was a trooper for the Nuggets playing way too many minutes and out of position at point guard. Now, he’s a nice three-point threat off the bench.

Gary Harris - If he can consistently hit shots from the outside during camp, his defense and toughness might make Foye expendable. More likely, he redshirts his rookie season.

Erick Green - His year abroad and summer league experience impressed the front office enough to sign him to a multi-year deal as insurance for Lawson and Robinson.

Kenneth Faried - Currently practicing with Team USA, the Nuggets were public about their desire to lock him up with a long-term deal. That said, no deal has been announced and his name also came up in trade rumors for Kevin Love.

Danilo Gallinari - The Nuggets sound confident he’ll be 100 percent this year. Denver needs him to be, but there could also be rust.

Wilson Chandler - After another season battling injuries, can he stay on the court and become more consistent in his play?

J.J. Hickson - Have to wonder if he’ll be ready to go by the start of the season considering his ACL tear was sustained in March.

Darrell Arthur - Also returning from injuries, Arthur is a favorite of Shaw because of his defense and shooting touch which stretched to three-point range last year.

Quincy Miller - He showed improved range during summer league, but he’ll need to show massive improvement to find time behind Gallinari and Chandler.

Timofey Mozgov - Finished last season as one of the most improved players in the NBA, goes into camp as odds-on favorite to win starting job.

JaVale McGee - One of the great talents in the entire league comes with lots of questions. Is he healthy? Is he focused? Can he finally realize his potential?

Jusuf Nurkic - Barring a rash of injuries as we saw last year, the 19 year old is expected to spend his rookie season learning the NBA game and assimilating to the United States.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Report: Nuggets to sign Green

Jul 24, 2014 -- 6:46pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

Erick Green (Getty Images)

Last season the Nuggets filled their roster with 15 players, the maximum allowed on by the NBA. That proved costly when the team was decimated by injuries and were unable to add anyone to fill out the squad. Unless another move is made prior to this season, it appears Denver is willing to take that risk again.

The Nuggets are expected to announce the signing their 2013 second round pick Erick Green soon, Yahoo! Sports reports it will be a three-year deal. While it’s unknown if that contract contains any guarantees, it does bring the team’s current roster to 14 players. First round pick Jusuf Nurkic should sign shortly now that his buyout has been agreed upon, and that brings the Nuggets’ total to 15.

Quincy Miller’s contract only becomes guaranteed if he’s on the roster opening night but with the experience he gained last year, and considering Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler are coming off injuries, it would be surprising if Miller were waived. Aaron Brooks and Jan Vesley, who were picked up by the Nuggets at the trade deadline last season, won’t be back next season. Brooks has signed with the Bulls while Vesley will play in Turkey.

As for Green, he played in Italy last year after being drafted by the Nuggets. The 6’3 point guard earned this opportunity due in large part to his performance during the summer league. He averaged 16.6 points per game while demonstrating strong decision making and limiting turnovers. He’ll likely serve as the team’s third point guard behind Ty Lawson and Nate Robinson, although Randy Foye spent some time at the position last year. In addition, assistant coaches experimented during the summer with first round pick Gary Harris at the point as well. Green does bring the ability to put the ball in the basket, he led the nation in scoring as a senior at Virginia Tech.

Here’s a look at the projected Nuggets depth chart heading into training camp should the team stay put:

Center- JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, Jusuf Nurkic
Power Forward - Kenneth Faried, J.J. Hickson, Darrell Arthur
Small Forward - Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, Quincy Miller
Shooting Guard - Arron Afflalo, Randy Foye, Gary Harris
Point Guard - Ty Lawson, Nate Robinson, Erick Green

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

NBA Offseason Power Rankings

Jul 17, 2014 -- 2:00pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

1) Spurs

The entire championship team is returning, clearly the best team in basketball.


2) Bulls

The bet here is Derrick Rose comes back with a vengeance while Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott are all nice additions.


3) Thunder

Anthony Morrow adds an outside shooting element, Jeremy Lamb will need to progress with Thabo Sefolosha gone.


4) Clippers

Assuming the Donald Sterling distraction is behind them, they should be better in year two under Doc Rivers.


5) Cavaliers

We know LeBron James will make the team a contender; Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins could determine how serious.


6) Trail Blazers

Chris Kaman and Steve Blake add depth, but as is always the case- can LaMarcus Aldridge stay healthy?


7) Rockets

They’ll miss Chandler Parsons’ outside shooting but Trevor Ariza adds some much-needed defensive intensity.


8) Heat

Don’t laugh, they’re intriguing. Check out Chris Bosh’s numbers when James didn’t play. Luol Deng, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Shabazz Napier are nice additions. 


9) Warriors

Kevin Love would be a nice fit but if the move isn’t made, they’re still a tough crew. How does Steve Kerr adapt to his first year on the bench?


10) Wizards

Up-and-coming young team gets a nice veteran boost from Paul Piece but loses some athleticism in Ariza. Kris Humphries is a decent little pickup as well.


11) Mavericks

Lots of changes around Dirk Nowitzki with Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and Vince Carter gone. They’re replaced by Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler and Chandler Parsons. 


12) Grizzlies

Carter should be a great addition for a team that could use some more scoring punch coming off the bench.


13) Pacers

Lance Stephenson is gone, is that good or bad? Larry Bird needs to do something after last season's decline in the second half and struggle through the playoffs.


14) Raptors

Another young team on the rise, last year’s experience should help them in the postseason this year. Keeping Kyle Lowry around was paramount.


15) Suns

How many point guards does a team need? Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and now Isiah Thomas and Tyler Ennis? Keep an eye on rookie T.J. Warren who should make a quick impact.


16) Nuggets

Could be the most improved team in the west with acquisition of Arron Afflalo and a healthy Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Wilson Chandler and Ty Lawson.


17) Hornets

Noah Vonleh replaces McRoberts, while Lance Stephenson provides a jolt of toughness. Most important will be getting Al Jefferson healthy.


18) Hawks

Adreian Payne is a sleeper for Rookie of the Year while this young team should benefit from their playoff experience against Indiana.


19) Knicks

Can Derek Fisher get production from youngsters like Cleananthony Early and Shane Larkin or will be it the same old story with Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith running the show?


20) Nets

They’re a year older with Pierce now gone and another coaching change. That said, Lionel Hollins should bring a needed, strong presence.


21) Timberwolves

Right now, it looks as though they’ll deal with the distraction of Love-trade rumors until the deadline in February.


22) Lakers

The coach-less Lakers hopes rest on how much Kobe Bryant left in the tank after his string of injuries, and the status of Julius Randle’s foot.


23) Pelicans

Anthony Davis is an emerging star but he needs help and his team needs depth. If Ryan Anderson’s neck his healthy, and he’s not traded, that should help significantly.


24) Pistons

They’ve made additions including Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin, but it doesn’t appear they’re much better. In the meantime, Greg Monroe’s progression makes Josh Smith expendable.


25) Kings

One of the league’s more talented, underachieving clubs hopes Darren Collison provides a calming effect that Isiah Thomas couldn’t.


26) Jazz 

Dante Exum will be one of the league’s most fun young talents to watch. Problem is this team is too young with nearly all of their key players under 24 years of age.


27) Magic

They’re improved athletically and defensively with the additions of Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton but relying on Ben Gordon and Channing Frye to score is a scary proposition.


28) Celtics

Will Rajon Rondo trade rumors prove to be a distraction? How does he deal with the drafting of Marcus Smart? Jeff Green could be on the move too if Danny Ainge finds a taker.


29) Bucks

If Rookie of the Year favorite Jabari Parker is true to his word and hopes to stay in Milwaukee long-term, the Bucks should be competitive within a few years.


30) 76ers

As with Nerlens Noel a year ago, Philadelphia took a flyer on redshirt rookies. Joel Embid could miss the entire season while it’ll be two years until Dario Saric makes his way to the NBA.


Derrick Rose

LeBron James

Trevor Ariza


Chris Bosh

Tyson Chandler

Paul George

Danilo Gallinari

Carmelo Anthony

Kevin Love


Kobe Bryant

Rajon Rondo

Nerlens Noel


Tags: NBA

Miller injured, Nuggets eliminated

Jul 16, 2014 -- 10:17pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider


Erick Green (photo from @denvernuggets on Twitter)

The Nuggets summer league team was eliminated from single elimination play with an 87-75 loss to the D-League Select team. The dirty word that defined last season at the Pepsi Center reared it’s ugly head Wednesday night in Las Vegas: injury.

In this case, the injury was to Quincy Miller’s right ankle in the first half, he didn’t return although initial reports were the ankle is not fractured. In his absence, Erick Green led the team in scoring with 17 points while Gary Harris added 15. The Nuggets’ recent cold shooting continued as they converted just 37% from the field and 27% from three.

Although they were eliminated, the Nuggets will have one final game to play this summer. That contest will take place on Friday against the Lakers. Miller’s status for the contest is unknown at this time.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

Harris scores 18 but Nuggets fall to 1-2 in summer play

Jul 15, 2014 -- 8:57pm

By Raj Sharan
Nuggets/NBA Insider

Erick Green and Dante Exum (photo from @utahjazz on Twitter)

The Nuggets summer team was blown out for the second consecutive game, falling to the Jazz 87-69 Tuesday night in Las Vegas. Denver went cold, make that ice cold, during the second quarter when they failed to score a point for nearly seven minutes. The Nuggets weren’t able to recover, and began to over rely on the three-point shot despite a horrific night shooting 3-of-27 from beyond the arc.

Quincy Miller had his worst game of the summer league thus far, shooting just 3-17 night on his way to only seven points. Gary Harris bounced back from his rough game on Sunday, registering a game-high 18 points but his outside shot continued to miss. Erick Green finished with 13 points and committed just a single turnover while playing the point for nearly 25 minutes. Jerrelle Benimon made some nice plays late in the contest when the game was out of reach. He scored nine points and grabbed 11 rebounds during just over 15 minutes of action.

Utah’s top rookie Dante Exum was mostly quiet, taking just four shots and scoring six points. He did demonstrate his athleticism on a few occasions including a chase-down block. Ian Clark and Erik Murphy led Utah with 17 points each while Malcolm Thomas added 14 and Trey Burke scored 11.

The Nuggets finished preliminary play with a 1-2 record and will begin single-elimination play on Wednesday.

Follow Raj Sharan on Twitter @Raj_Sharan

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