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Nuggets Summer League impressions: Trey Alexander standing out, Jalen Pickett struggling

Nuggets Summer League impressions: Trey Alexander standing out, Jalen Pickett struggling

17/07/2024, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 31868682

Now that the first weekend of NBA Summer League is over, games throughout this week will probably feature less and less of the key rotation-caliber players.

That certainly applies to the Nuggets. Standout guard Julian Strawther was in street clothes Tuesday at Denver’s 80-66 loss to the Charlotte Hornets, and he’ll likely be done for the duration of the team’s stay in Las Vegas.

Here are three takeaways from the loss as the Nuggets fell to 0-3 at Summer League 2024.

Trey Alexander could be this year’s impact two-way contract

Alexander has comfortably been Denver’s second-best option in Las Vegas behind Strawther. And with Strawther resting Tuesday’s game, the new two-way player from Creighton got an opportunity to shine as a lead guard. Alexander went for 18 points and eight rebounds, bringing his Summer League averages to 16 and 5.3.

The rookie plays with good spatial instinct and operates at his own pace with the ball. He’s knocking down 3s off the dribble and the catch. He’s getting to the line when he attacks the rim. He said on the broadcast Tuesday that Denver knew the Hornets would be in a lot of drop coverage, allowing him to prioritize getting to his confident midrange jumper.

After three steady performances — starting when he came off the bench last Friday — Alexander is shooting 50% on 10.7 field goal attempts per game and 46% on 4.3 outside attempts per game. Seeing as Michael Malone was already impressed by his week at mini camp before the trip to Vegas, this summer might be tracking toward Alexander becoming a valuable regular-season role player.

Jalen Pickett’s Summer League struggles

On a less encouraging note, Denver’s sophomore point guard is still waiting for a breakout game at Cox Pavilion. Pickett is now shooting 5 for 22 at his second Summer League for an average of 4.7 points after a 3-for-9 outing Tuesday.

He displayed his skill at scoring and distributing out of post-ups a bit Tuesday, but he’s not accessing the paint enough to be consistently effective. There have also been a few instances of him getting beat off the dribble at the defensive end of the floor this week.

Pickett is clearly a gifted passer, but the other dimensions of his game with the ball need to improve in order for him to optimize that.

Why the Nuggets are 0-3

The lack of size on Denver’s Summer League roster has been glaring, especially since DaRon Holmes’ season-ending Achilles tear last Friday. Opponents immediately started taking advantage of the Nuggets on the offensive glass after that, and with two-way big man PJ Hall getting the game off Tuesday, the problem was exacerbated.

Charlotte grabbed 18 offensive rebounds for 18 second-chance points, also outscoring Denver in the paint by 12. Parker Braun, the tallest guy on the roster, was the only player who ended the day with a positive plus-minus, in 10 minutes.

Holmes’ injury took the air out of this year’s Summer League festivities throughout the Nuggets’ organization, and now they’re going to miss the playoffs in Las Vegas. The primary goal at this point should be avoiding further injuries.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/16/nuggets-summer-league-trey-alexander-jalen-pickett/
Who is Ingrid Andress? Colorado-grown singer says she was drunk during Home Run Derby national anthe

Ingrid Andress — a Colorado-grown singer-songwriter — went viral after her Monday night performance of the national anthem at the 2024 Home Run Derby … for all the wrong reasons.

A video of Andress’ performance was trending on social media before the game even started, with viewers calling it “one of the worst” renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in history.

“My ears are bleeding,” one viewer wrote on X. “One of the worst national anthem renditions ever. Fergie thanks her for taking the prize.”

In a Tuesday morning statement, Andress said she was drunk during the performance.

“I’m checking myself into a facility today to get the help I need,” the 32-year-old singer stated. “That was not me last night. I apologize to MLB, all the fans and this country I love so much for that rendition. I’ll let y’all know how rehab is, I hear it’s super fun.”

Andress sang the anthem a cappella at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and had a unique take on certain notes throughout the song.

“This person tried to sing the national anthem with a voice so screechy, even the bald eagle covered its ears,” another viewer wrote.

Andress grew up in Highlands Ranch and has released numerous hit songs and two albums since her 2019 breakthrough single “More Hearts Than Mine” hit Number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2020.

The Colorado-grown singer has received four Grammy nominations in her career but has yet to win any. Andress was nominated for Best Country Song, Best Country Album and Best New Artist in 2021, and put up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2023.

Many social media users were quick to compare Andress’ Home Run Derby performance to Fergie’s delivery of the national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game in 2018.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” Fergie said in 2018. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase wasn’t well received, with fans laughing the singer off the field after her performance.

“After last night’s performance of the national anthem at the Home Run Derby, I believe everyone can agree when I say this… Fergie… you are finally off the hook,” one X user wrote.

“That Ingrid Andress national anthem might have been the worst thing to happen in America in the last 48 hours,” another added.

With a new single set to be released on July 24, Andress had two special concerts lined up.

The country singer was scheduled to take the stage of Nashville’s Row One on Wednesday night, and she had a second show slated for Denver’s Globe Hall on July 24.

As of Tuesday morning, tickets for both shows were no longer available online, though neither venue confirmed Andress’ shows were canceled.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/16/ingrid-andress-national-anthem-home-run-derby-singer-mlb-colorado/
Who is Ingrid Andress? Colorado-grown singer faces blowback after Home Run Derby National Anthem per

Ingrid Andress — a Colorado-grown singer and songwriter — is going viral after her Monday night performance of the National Anthem at the 2024 Home Run Derby … for the wrong reasons.

A video of Andress’ performance was trending on social media before the game even started, with viewers calling it “one of the worst” renditions of the National Anthem in history.

“My ears are bleeding,” one viewer wrote on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter. “One of the worst national anthem renditions ever. Fergie thanks her for taking the prize.”

The 32-year-old sang the anthem a cappella at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, and had a unique take on certain notes throughout the song.

“This person tried to sing the national anthem with a voice so screechy, even the bald eagle covered its ears,” another viewer wrote.

Andress grew up in Highlands Ranch and has released numerous hit songs and two albums since her 2019 breakthrough single “More Hearts Than Mine” hit Number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2020.

The Colorado-grown singer has received four Grammy nominations in her career but has yet to win any. Andress was nominated for Best County Song, Best County Album and Best New Artist in 2021, and put up for Best Country Duo/Group Performance in 2023.

Many social media users were quick to compare Andress’ Home Run Derby performance to Fergie’s delivery of the National Anthem at the NBA All-Star Game in 2018.

“I’ve always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA,” Fergie said in 2018. “I’m a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn’t strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best.”

Fergie’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t well received before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase, with fans laughing the singer off the field after her performance.

“After last night’s performance of the National Anthem at the Home Run Derby, I believe everyone can agree when I say this… Fergie… you are finally off the hook,” one X user wrote.

“That Ingrid Andress national anthem might have been the worst thing to happen in America in the last 48 hours,” another added.

Get more Colorado news by signing up for our daily Your Morning Dozen email newsletter.



https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/16/ingrid-andress-national-anthem-home-run-derby-singer-mlb-colorado/
Keeler: Nikola Jokic should be furious with Calvin Booth, Nuggets’ offseason so far

Keeler: Nikola Jokic should be furious with Calvin Booth, Nuggets’ offseason so far

16/07/2024, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 31866959

The Joker deserves a better hand than this. Of course, he’ll elevate Christian Braun, the way he elevates everyone in his orbit. Nikola Jokic is a basketball unicorn, a walking cheat code, the sort of generational tide that lifts all boats.

He ain’t Moses.

“When we talk about Nikola, the MVP of the league, I’m the steward … of his peak years. You want to optimize those and take advantage of those.”

That was Nuggets exec Calvin Booth, exactly 25 months ago. June 2022. Those were the days, my friend.

Bruce Brown was on the way. So was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. If we only knew then what we know now … we’d take it, wouldn’t we? Every time. Warts and all.

Alas, the Steward of the Peak Years is in one whale of a shooting slump.

In the last month, Denver’s lost a starting guard, one of the better pure 3-and-D types in the league, in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The Nuggets traded away their backup point guard in Reggie Jackson, a vet who averaged 10.2 points per game for a team whose starter at the point, Jamal Murray, can’t shake the injury bug. Oh, and they had to send Charlotte three second-round draft picks in the process.

They sent another three second-rounders to Phoenix on draft night in order to nab big man DaRon Holmes II out of Dayton, a leaper who could anchor the second unit and soak up some of those Aaron Gordon minutes during the regular season. Holmes made it 26 minutes in the Summer League before tearing his right Achilles, ending his rookie season before it ever got started.

But, hey! Dario Saric!

Jokic turns 30 in February. If Joker wasn’t Joker, he’d be calling up Dame Lillard for notes on the first draft of a “trade-me” statement.

Booth put the perfect finishing touches on an exquisite house, the belle of the block. A crib with almost enough bathrooms to keep Russell Wilson happy.

Only now, two years later, the roof leaks. The faucets won’t stop dripping. The grass dies.

Structurally, it’s fine. The Nuggets are fine. But the neighborhood is growing, and the houses springing up around them are looking swankier by the day.

The Thunder got better. The Mavs got better. The Spurs got better. The Grizzlies got better. The Kings got better. The Pelicans got better.

The Nuggets got Dario.

Yes, there’s still time. Russell Westbrook is still sorta-kinda-maybe dangling out there, although, for a roster that needs tough, playoff-grizzled hombres and shooters, Russ ticks only one of those boxes, and it’s not the latter, which is the box the Steward needs the most.

And while it’s OK to grumble about how the enforced parity of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is dynasty-proofing the Nuggets, it’s also past time for Booth and president Josh Kroenke to stop whining about the darn thing.

The CBA didn’t make the Nuggets guarantee $32 million to Zeke Nnaji through 2027, with a cap hit of $8.9 million this season.

The CBA didn’t make the Nuggets guarantee $10.25 million to Jackson, with a player option, through 2025.

The CBA didn’t make the Nuggets extend guaranteed contracts to second-rounders Jalen Pickett and Hunter Tyson, who as of Monday afternoon are averaging 13.0 points per game in the NBA Summer League — over a combined 61.6 minutes per tilt.

The CBA didn’t make the Nuggets trade away three second-round picks on draft night for a rookie big man who might have fallen to them at No. 28 anyway.

Every time the front office scouts itself a step forward, a contract decision knocks the franchise two steps back.

Booth might’ve cut off a few fingers in order to try and save some face. Because those second-rounders, hypothetically, might’ve helped sweeten a deal that could get two of the Nuggets’ other contract overpays — Nnaji, for sure, and maybe even Michael Porter Jr. — off the books. And they’re gone.

Former Nuggets coach George Karl joked on Xwitter over this past weekend that the current administration’s probably angering the hoops gods by not pushing all its chips in around the greatest player in franchise history.

He may be on to something.

For Nuggets faithful, summers are only going to get scarier. Every time Jokic goes home to Serbia, it’s going to be harder and harder for him not to want to stay there.

Legends are leased. The Nuggets may own Joker’s contract, but they’re renting his glow. It won’t shine forever. One day, hopefully, ages from now, he’s going to wake up and decide he’s not coming back.

“I don’t feel the pressure,” Booth said two summers ago. “I’m excited for the opportunity. I want to be able to help (Jokic) in the way he’s helped our organization and everybody in it.”

The Steward’s got some work to do. The West won’t rest. And parting the Red Sea is no longer a one-man job.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/15/nikola-jokic-calvin-booth-nuggets-offseason-moves/
Renck vs. Keeler: Will Deion Sanders’ CU Buffs or Jay Norvell’s CSU Rams win more football games

Renck: A trip to Las Vegas brought clarity and lost money. The Big 12 and Mountain West Conference held their media days last week. CU was welcomed in its return to the Big 12 like a favorite aunt who spoils nephews on their birthday. CSU made headlines as coach Jay Norvell called out Texas A&M and Ole Miss for tampering, accusing them of trying to poach star receiver Tory Horton. The fall is a lot more fun when these two programs are relevant, pushing for bowl eligibility. Coach Prime brings eyeballs to screens. Coach Norvell brings urgency, likely coaching for his job this season. So, Sean, I ask you, who wins more games between the two teams this season: the Buffs or Rams?

Keeler: The Buffs, by Ralphie’s nose. And a CU win at the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Fort Collins breaks the tie. Although my head says there’s a heck of a chance both teams wind up 6-6 and both need victories in their final home games in late November in order to land the plane. The Rams get saved by missing Boise State and UNLV. The Buffs get saved by the power of Prime. And Shedeur. But mostly Shedeur.

Renck: For argument’s sake, I predict seven wins for the Buffs, meaning the game between the two teams will determine which has the better season. Listening to Deion, Shedeur and Shilo Sanders discuss the improved offensive line, it is easy to believe the Buffs will be better, though frankly the group cannot be worse. But how much? Remember, lines must coalesce over time. And the reality is the Buffs need a rocket-launch start to reach seven victories. The path to 7-5 is winning the first five games. It is possible, save for the fact that Nebraska and CSU are on the road this season. It would not be a surprise if they split those games, leaving the Buffs scrambling for an upset to seal a bowl berth late in the season, likely at Kansas.

Keeler: Ain’t the W-L game fun? After Sept. 21, I’ve got CU at 3-1 (the Huskers, already mad, get even) and CSU at 2-2. I don’t think either program can afford a losing September. Yes, the Buffs draw the four best teams in the league in Utah, K-State, Oklahoma State and KU, but here’s the kicker: The first three of those are in Boulder, which will be sold out and bouncing. I say they win at least two, and ESPN and Fox roll into town again to fight over lawn space near Folsom.

Renck: Talking to sources in Las Vegas, there is reason to remain bullish about CU’s offense. Sanders, if his sacks shave from 52 to 30, will throw 35 touchdowns, rush for five and remain firmly in the Heisman mix for a few months. The Buffs skill positions are strong, led by receivers Travis Hunter and Jimmy Horn Jr. and running back Dallan Hayden. The issue? The defense remains suspect at multiple positions and lacks depth. CSU is similar. The offense is potent, and if quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi cuts down on turnovers, they will go to a bowl. But seven wins is a stretch because the Rams defense is suspect. In the end, the winner of the CU-CSU game will finish the season with the most wins.

Keeler: Sources I talked to after the Buffs’ spring game kinda hated what they saw of CU’s offensive line, so there ya go. And I’m going to remain skeptical of a Pat Shurmur offense and a first-time defensive coordinator pushing the buttons for Prime, although the roster upgrades are real. CU is the Big 12’s wild card. The Buffs could win five or they could win 10, so seven-ish feels about right. CSU’s ceiling is lower but the floor feels sturdier — as long as Tory Horton and BFN remain upright.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/15/deion-sanders-jay-norvell-cu-buffs-csu-rams-football-wins/
Julian Strawther playing through injured ankle at Summer League, and leading Nuggets: “He obviousl

LAS VEGAS — If Julian Strawther was narrating his own life, the play-by-play would probably include a sardonic remark at his own expense after his last 3-point shot clanked off the rim late Sunday night.

His sense of humor seems to be enigmatic. His friends have trouble describing it, at least. He’s tremendously funny, they insist, but in that “you have to know him” kind of way. He delivers a churn of “non-stop jokes all day,” Jalen Pickett said, but “some of those jokes we can’t say out loud.”

“He’s just super sarcastic,” Peyton Watson said Sunday night while watching Strawther at NBA Summer League. “He’s got almost like a pessimistic humor.”

Strawther’s miss from the left wing hammered the final nail in an 84-81 Nuggets loss to the Toronto Raptors. His dissection of the sideline out-of-bounds play afterward wasn’t played for laughs, but it might’ve offered a small glimpse into what Watson means. “That was a great call,” Strawther said, complimenting Summer League coach Andrew Munson for noticing Toronto wasn’t switching off-ball screens. “I mean, that’s about as good as it gets for a guy that’s got it going. I’ve just gotta make it next time.”

That would obviously be a reductive summary of Denver’s second consecutive Summer League loss. Strawther was the star of the show again in Las Vegas, amassing 32 points and five assists on 10-of-21 shooting. He was 6 for 11 from 3-point range before the final play, and one of those misses could be chalked up to Strawther receiving the ball late in the 24-second clock with no choice but to hoist. It was an immediate uptick in efficiency from his first Summer League game Friday, when he was still Denver’s best offensive player.

And he was playing on a bothersome right ankle.

“I rolled it during the training camp in Denver,” he said while the ankle was wrapped up. “Took a couple days off. Just rehabbed it as much as I could. Came out here. Obviously felt good enough to play in these first two games. It’s there. I’m good.”

Minutes into the game, Strawther reached down to massage the ankle, wincing. Nuggets coach Michael Malone got up from his court-side seat to check on Strawther during the Nuggets’ huddle at the first timeout. Playing through injury during Summer League is a serious risk in a relatively low-stakes environment, after all. And Strawther might’ve felt more inclined to exercise caution after watching rookie teammate DaRon Holmes II tear his right Achilles in the fourth quarter Friday.

But as he rationalized while riding a freight elevator downstairs for his postgame interview Sunday, he didn’t come to Vegas to sit and watch.

So Strawther attacked.

The coaching staff’s mission to showcase his ball-in-hand offense has been carried out thoroughly, if not always effectively. That’s kind of the point of Summer League.

Strawther is evidently unafraid of contact, for instance, even if he’s not consistent at finishing through it. His drives are experiments. And testaments to his toughness in the face of that injury.

“I’m playing my role, and whatever role is given to me,” he said. “At Gonzaga I didn’t have that many opportunities to get downhill. I was a shooter. In a space like this, in an environment like this where I’m able to get downhill and guys are super amped up, playing super hard, it’s good to kind of get in there and draw some fouls.”

To be clear: Unlocking other skillsets doesn’t mean fully inhabiting another position, in Strawther’s mind.

“At the end of the day, I’m not a true point guard,” he said Sunday. “That’ll never be my true position.”

There are other fundamental elements to his game that may warrant equal or more attention, most importantly the catch-and-shoot bedrock of his 2023 draft profile. He was only 29.7% beyond the arc as a rookie despite occasional displays of heat-check potential. Just before Summer League, Strawther spent some time at Aaron Gordon’s warehouse-turned-basketball court, getting up shots. His entire development depends on that 3-point percentage.

“He obviously has a gift shooting the rock,” Watson told The Post. “He’s a big time shooter. That’s gonna be big for us this coming year. I’m super excited for him. He already showed flashes of what he can do this season, and he’s had some big games for us already. So I expect him to have plenty more, and I can’t wait to play a lot more with him.”

Encasing all these layers to who or what Strawther can be in the NBA is his grasp of pace. After he injured his knee in January and was resigned to the end of the bench, Malone often gave him tasks before the Nuggets’ games. On any given night, Strawther might have been instructed to focus entirely on Jamal Murray. “Or whether it’s a guy on the other team that might have a similar archetype to me,” Strawther explained. “Just getting me to think the game instead of just play it.”

“I feel like when I first got into the league, everything was moving a lot faster than I anticipated, just because when you watch the game on TV, just like the average fan, you think guys aren’t playing that hard. They’re playing hard,” he said. “They’re moving, and they’re strong and quick.

“At first, it’ll catch you by surprise, and it’s easy to get sped up, especially by a vet that knows you’re a younger guy that hasn’t experienced much. So (it helped) just being able to go through the year and kind of slow my game down, not only just physically with speed but also mentally, just processing things. Being able to see things before they happen a little bit.”

If that abstract area of improvement is the source of Strawther’s Summer League success, maybe it’s because observational tasks are perfectly suited for him.

After all, the closest Watson could get to pinpointing Strawther’s sense of humor was this.

“He’s just really observant, really intelligent — so he’ll just point something out, and it will be funny, just in his tone and the way that he says it.”

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/15/julian-strawther-summer-league-nuggets-ankle-injury/
Christian Braun refuses to assume open spot in Nuggets’ starting lineup is his: “I haven’t don

LAS VEGAS — For an understanding of Christian Braun’s perspective on the job opening that’s been publicly presumed his, just look to the baseline at Cox Pavilion.

Sitting between teammates Zeke Nnaji and Peyton Watson, Braun was an enthusiastic front-row spectator at Denver’s NBA Summer League opener Friday night. So much so that he was careful not to step aside for an interview as the second half was beginning, requesting rather to wait for the stoppage at the end of the third quarter.

That’s when he explained that his appearance in Las Vegas is about more than just supporting his brother Parker, who’s suiting up for the Nuggets at Summer League.

“I would have been here anyway,” Braun told The Denver Post. “That was always the plan. … I need to be around these guys. I need to be around the coaches. I’m still young. I’ve played a lot of minutes, but I’m still young. So I need to be out here either way, and Parker being out here is pretty cool.”

Indeed, Braun has accomplished more than most non-lottery picks do in their first two years as an NBA player. It’s why he’s been widely projected (including by general manager Calvin Booth) to replace Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the Nuggets’ starting lineup next season, as they prepare to fend without their killer five-man unit for the first time since winning the 2023 championship.

But Braun won’t allow himself to assume the job is his.

“I’ve gotta go take it. It’s not written in that I’m gonna be the starter, and I don’t approach it that way. I never will,” Braun told The Post. “… I need to go prove myself again and again. I haven’t done anything in this league yet. I know we won the championship, but I still have so much more to do, so much more to offer, to give. I think that lineup fits me really well — but it fits a lot of people really well. So like I said, I’ve gotta go take it. I’ve gotta go earn it this summer. I’ve gotta go earn it in training camp. That’s the way I’m approaching it.”

By the time Caldwell-Pope agreed to his three-year, $66 million deal with the Orlando Magic, most of his teammates back in Denver already had a sense that he would be moving on in free agency. As compelling as the opportunity is for Braun to take the next step in his career, the loss of KCP was still bittersweet.

“My initial reaction was just, I’m grateful for him. I’m grateful for the time that we had together to play together,” Braun said. “He taught me a lot. Obviously, we play the same position, so he showed me a lot of different things, whether it was defensively, offensively. I got to spend time with him. He’s very welcoming. His family was always great to me. So just appreciative. And then obviously it was really cool to see him go sign that deal and take care of his family.”

Caldwell-Pope was a quintessential 3-and-D starter in Denver, where he won his second championship. He often shouldered the most challenging defensive assignment in any given game, matching up against the opponent’s top scoring guard, fighting through screens with seemingly endless stamina, playing almost every game.

If Braun is to replace him, dependability and consistency will be core tenets of the job. His trial run last season included appearing in all 82 games as an NBA sophomore.

“We have a lot of similarities, I think,” he said. “Defensively, kind of being pests. Offensively, we both fit alongside Nikola. And it’s the reason we were brought in. I was brought in to play with those guys, and so was he. … I think I’m gonna do a great job the same way he did a great job. And I’m excited for that. I’m excited for the opportunity to, like I said, go out and earn it.”

In philosophical unison with Braun, Nuggets coach Michael Malone said Friday night on ESPN, “I’m not giving that spot to anybody. It’s going to be a competition.” That’s a fairly typical stance for a coach to take when a starting job is up for grabs. But who could challenge Braun for this one? There’s Julian Strawther, who’s a year behind Braun in experience. He was Denver’s best player in the Summer League opener, amassing 25 points and five rebounds while playing more assertively on the ball. But his point-of-attack defense isn’t at Braun’s level, and he shot just 29.7% from 3-point range as a rookie, an area that must improve regardless of his role.

Denver also has an open roster spot, which will likely be filled by a guard. Chemistry with Nikola Jokic is essential, both as an off-ball offensive threat and as a defensive partner in pick-and-roll coverage.

“I think even offensively, we have good chemistry. But the defensive part I don’t think is gonna be a big difference or a change,” Braun said. “I think they know what to expect from me, and I think that especially at the end of the year in that last series, I think everybody saw what I was capable of.”

His confidence in that area is warranted. With Braun’s strength and tenacity, he fits the profile of a lead defender who can guard bigger ball-dominant players. He already showed signs of leveling up during the playoffs, when he was Denver’s most effective matchup against Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards.

But the Nuggets ultimately lost the series in a heartbreaking Game 7. Braun took the loss as hard as anyone in the locker room — losing almost felt like a foreign experience for him. As a rookie, he won the NBA championship. The previous year, he won the NCAA title at Kansas.

“I never want to lose. I don’t want to lose,” he said Friday, reflecting on Denver’s 20-point collapse. “You’re not gonna win every year, I understand that. But we’ve just gotta bounce back. We’ve gotta get better. All of us. Individually, I need to go get better. The team needs to get better as a unit. We need to be more hungry. I think that loss should motivate us. Could be good for us going into this year. You don’t want it to happen that way. And we got beat fair and square, obviously. But I think we had a good opportunity, especially being up that many points in a Game 7. You don’t lose that game very often. And we did.

“I think it could be a good thing for us, if we use it the right way.”

For Braun individually, it’ll remain forever on his mind. For now, it’ll fester as a second source of motivation to pair with the notion that he’s not a Denver Nuggets starter until he’s earned it.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/14/christian-braun-nuggets-starting-lineup-kcp/
Renck: UFC packs punch in return to Denver. Shouldn’t take six years to come back

Renck: UFC packs punch in return to Denver. Shouldn’t take six years to come back

14/07/2024, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 31863385

The introduction assaulted the senses. UFC returned to Denver on Saturday with a bumping bass, shrieking vocals and flashing strobe lights.

Sitting 15 feet from the Octagon, the vibe was palpable — a Monster Energy drink come to life. The roaring crowd at Ball Arena was told it was “about to see something it has never seen before.” The fights, as promised, blended karate, jiu-jitsu, martial arts, wrestling and boxing.

There is an urgency to the bouts that conjure memories of Marvin Hagler and Thomas “Hitman” Hearns in the 1980s. The first rounds are not methodical. They are about survival.

“Everybody is tough early,” Evan “The Phenom” Elder said. “It’s the second and third rounds you find out what you are made of.”

Elder took the first fight to Darrius “Beastmode” Flowers, delighting the crowd in the UFC’s first card in Denver since 2018. Elder kicked, punched — one was deemed below the equator, causing a near-five minute delay — and won by submission over Flowers. Elder on the mic was even better than Elder in the fight.

“I am trying to break necks and cash checks. UFC, Dana White, put me back in here,” said Elder after his welterweight victory. “I want to make some moneeeeeeeey!”

UFC has come a long way since holding its first two championship events in Denver in November 1993 and March 1994. It’s a coed sport now. Ball Arena featured entertaining women’s fights — Rose Namajunas and Tracy Cortez were the headliners — and “U-S-A!” chants for flyweight Fatima Kline. She lost to Jasmine Jasudavicius, who told the heckling crowd to “shut up!”

UFC has figured out how to entertain, how to market, how to deliver. It has done an amazing job branding itself as a reality show, and Elder’s post-fight address is exactly the type of moment that resonates with the audience on screen and in the arena. There is candor, bravado, vulgarity and vulnerability rarely seen at the podium following an NFL, NBA or MLB game.

The UFC feels everywhere. It is omnipresent on ESPN through classic highlights, contender shows and “The Ultimate Fighter.” And the sport’s best rarely, if ever, duck each other. UFC soared in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many sports struggled to survive, UFC thrived, matching the NFL in its desire to move forward against an avalanche of criticism. The draw is undeniable based on sold-out bouts, and eyeballs on TVs. It features fights locally, globally and the product is endlessly and easily available through streaming.

In-person, the raw appeal possesses a pull that makes me hope there is not another six-year pause between UFC events at Ball Arena. There is a gladiator nature with these men and women. These fighters do what we can’t do and won’t do. They train with the discipline of a monk. They eat like a jockey and compete like they are on a ledge with only one cushion available on the ground below.

There is accountability to how it plays. No teammates to blame. No fingers to point at officials. We know they are great athletes. But who is the toughest?

It is a loaded question because it requires such a diverse skill set. The first eight fights included three submissions, two decisions, a no contest — Cody Brundage was illegally elbowed multiple times in the head; not cool — and a pair of knockouts, one 18 seconds into the bout.

When Josh Fremd entered the arena in the second preliminary fight, he was embraced like a long, lost friend, showered in applause. He is from Pittsburgh but has trained in Denver for more than a decade. This night provided an opportunity “to make a statement.” Instead, the only appropriate description 15 minutes later was buzzkill. His opponent Andre Petroski took the fight to the mat, laying on and outmuscling Fremd.

He blocked out the merciless boos to win a decision that featured few memorable snapshots beyond Fremd’s running knee to Petroski’s ribs. Fans entertained themselves with Rick Flair “Woooooo!” chants throughout the final two rounds.

The bout required an appreciation for the science of winning on the mat and provided the first negative feedback about the Mile High City.

“There’s no (bleeping) air up here,” said Petroski in the ring afterward. “(Wrestling) was the only game plan to win. It sucks. But, you have to do what you have to do to get the win. I couldn’t take risks.”

Part of the charm of the UFC is that the next fight can be the fight of the night, and can leave jaws agape. Bantamweight Montel Jackson delighted the packed arena, living up to his “Quik” nickname. Eighteen seconds into the first round, he floored Da’Mon Blackshear, catching him flush in the face with a straight left. Blackshear required medical attention before leaving the ring. Jackson thanked Blackshear for taking the fight on short notice, saying too many “chumps” don’t.

The crowd was not as familiar with his game, but they appreciated the jolt.

UFC is not for everyone. It is violent. It is dangerous. But that has always been the fight game, whether it was Jack Dempsey, Mike Tyson, Chuck Liddell or Anderson Silva.

It makes no apologies. The “oohs!” when kicks smashed into chests and “aahs!” when punches slammed into chins offered a reminder of why it was hard to find any empty seats when the lights turned on.

There were fighters who left needing to practice getting up. There were fighters who needed practice in shutting up.

But there were UFC fighters, based on the attendance and reaction, who should be back in Denver.

“Denver, Colorado is amazing,” said featherweight Julian “Juicy J” Erosa. “Thank you so much.”



https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/13/ufc-return-ball-arena-renck/
Nuggets rookie DaRon Holmes II suffers torn right Achilles tendon in Summer League debut

Nuggets rookie DaRon Holmes II suffers torn right Achilles tendon in Summer League debut

13/07/2024, USA, Basketball, NBA (Basketball), Article # 31862024

LAS VEGAS — Nuggets rookie DaRon Holmes II tore his right Achilles tendon during the fourth quarter of his first Summer League game Friday night, a league source confirmed to The Denver Post. He is expected to miss the 2024-25 season.

Holmes was seen leaving UNLV’s Cox Pavilion on crutches after Denver’s 88-78 loss to the Clippers, a Summer League debut in which he amassed 11 points and seven rebounds. He made all three of his 3-point attempts.

The Nuggets traded up six spots in the NBA Draft to select Holmes 22nd overall this year. He was their top target throughout the pre-draft process, viewed as a potential plug-and-play backup big man who could provide vital frontcourt depth behind three-time MVP Nikola Jokic.

After an awkward landing with about 4:15 remaining, Holmes limped off the court without any help but with barely any weight on his right leg. Trainers tended to him behind the bleachers of the small gymnasium attached to UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center for the remainder of the game. Nuggets coach Michael Malone, who’s overseeing but not actively coaching the Summer League team this weekend, was called over from his court-side seat before the final buzzer. Teammates approached Holmes to check on him and offer words of comfort after they shook hands with the Clippers and left the court.

“I just told him that — we don’t know, exactly — but I’ll be praying for him,” Hunter Tyson said.

“Obviously he’s new around here, but he just brings such a positive energy,” Julian Strawther said. “So just being able to reciprocate that energy for him (was important).”

Holmes’ parents and agent were also in attendance for what had been an encouraging Nuggets debut before the injury. As Summer League coach Andrew Munson pointed out after the loss, “we really missed his rebounding obviously down the stretch.” The Clippers scored 11 second-chance points in the last 4:07 after Holmes went down.

At Dayton, Holmes averaged 20.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists last season in his third and final year of college basketball. He won Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

“I don’t think all rookies are made the same,” Nuggets general manager Calvin Booth said after the draft. “I think you have the 18- or 19-year-old guys that may or may not have more upside. And then you have some other guys that are accomplished, that do a lot and for all intensive purposes may be more ready for high-pressure NBA games than some guys on NBA rosters, that have been in the league for two or three years. In that sense, I think DaRon is one of those guys. Has a high IQ. Knows how to play in different styles and different scenarios.”

Without the rookie, Denver’s frontcourt behind Jokic loses some of its flexibility. Dario Saric is the only true newcomer to the roster other than Holmes, but the Nuggets are also getting Vlatko Cancar back from a torn ACL. Zeke Nnaji is entering his four-year, $32 million rookie extension after he was in and out of the rotation last season as a backup center.

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https://www.denverpost.com/2024/07/13/daron-holmes-injury-tears-right-achilles/
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