A quick review of our contract situation reveals that we have just 5 players under contract for next season, essentially indicating an extreme makeover like we did this year.
To help alleviate that, I contact Joakim Noah's agent about an extension. He wants $5.4 million base, 5 years, 8% raises. After some back and forth, we settle on $5.1 million base, 5 years, 8% raises. Sure, $300,000 might seem like nothing, but by lowering the base rate even that small amount, one of my boys is signed from 25-30 and even in the last year, he'll still be making $6.9 million at most. Is Noah a light-the-world kind of player? No, even I'll admit that. But he's a high-quality defender with some scoring and rebounding ability, busts his ass off to get better, is loyal, loved by his teammates and pretty popular with the fans.
All told, 5 years for approximately $30 million. I'll take that kind of deal for a significant young player like my boy Noah.
We celebrate the extension with a thrilling 124-117 win over the Pacers. Chauncey Billups scores 39 points, Shaquille O'Neal his second man with 29 points. Newly rich Joakim Noah put up 15 points, 4 rebounds, a steal, a block and 3 turnovers in his first game since signing the extension.
The Clippers are clipped 108-92 next game, Ben Gordon leading in scoring with 33 points, Shaquille O'Neal double-doubling with 21 points and 15 rebounds and two absolutely freakish bench performances: Rod Little scored 18 points in just 11 minutes and Leroy Wright had a bench doublemint delightment of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Portland trips us 95-85 a couple nights later. Shaquille O'Neal gets the weak man's double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, but we just got plain schooled by Kevin Durant and Zach Randolph with 37 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds and 18 points and 19 rebounds respectively. I still say the Trailblazers should be one of the top teams in the league, but they just haven't been able to do it yet.
A nice, long break follows before the most nightmarish doubleheader ever: San Antonio and Phoenix back-to-back. We get destroyed by both the Spurs and the Suns, although Leroy Wright scored 10 in both games and double-doubled with 10 rebounds additional against Phoenix. Ben Gordon scored 31 and Chauncey Billups double-doubled with 21 points and 10 assists against the Suns as well.
Charlotte's much easier competition as we win 97-89 by balanced offense and gritty defense. Leroy Wright scores 10 bench points in his third straight game. He's more than earned his third-year option, which I'll be picking up at the end of the season.
The Clippers are always a fine feast for our players and in the next Red and White whipping, Ben Gordon paves the way with 34 points, Shaquille O'Neal and Chauncey Billups his doubled men with 22 points and 13 rebounds and 19 points and 15 assists respectively. Leroy Wright had a horrendous 2/7 shooting night to end his double-digit point streak with 7.
Poor Milwaukee. No true point guard equals a 21 point asskicking against our super backcourt as Ben Gordon scores 36 and Chauncey Billups tallies 20 points and 11 assists. Let's not forget Shaquille O'Neal's 12 points and 11 rebounds or Leroy Wright's return to 10 reserve points on the nose.
The Wizards go down next, 99-86, courtesy of 31 points from Ben Gordon and 14 points and 11 assists from Chauncey Billups.
But the real fun comes two nights later when we stun the Los Angeles Lakers 120-95 and hold Andrew Bynum to 0 points. Chauncey Billups had 23 points and 10 assists, Shaquille O'Neal 21 points, 12 rebounds and 3 beautiful blocks. What -really- made this game enjoyable for me and a lot of the Nuggets fans though was watching Paulinho Buboltz and Leroy Wright. Wright had one of his better games with 15 points, but what really amazed was Buboltz's line.
Paulinho Buboltz - 14 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 4 steals, 1 block in 22 minutes
That's right. In roughly a half of play, he broke double-digit scoring, dished out 6 assists, grabbed 3 boards, stole 4 balls and got a freaking BLOCK even though he's just 5'11" 182 lbs!
Now that's just damned cool.
The win train keeps right on rolling with a 99-83 whomping of the Kings. Chauncey Billups dethrones Sacramento with 29 points and Leroy Wright contributes 10 points from the reserves.
Not even our hot play could've prepared me for what happened next, however. We top the Suns 111-103 on the road behind 31 points from Ben Gordon, 25 points and 14 assists from Chauncey Billups and, in an extremely incredible turn of events, Leroy Wright rising to the occasion after Shaq was limited to 15 ineffective minutes because of foul trouble. Taking over at center for much of the game, Wright had 12 points, 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks. I'm becoming more and more amazed at just how much of a steal he was.
Another game, another win, this time 105-92 versus the Jazz. Ben Gordon was his usual pointmaestro self with 36 scored and we had three double-doubles: Chauncey Billups (14 points, 16 assists), Shaquille O'Neal (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Kenyon Martin (10 points, 11 rebounds).
But we've got a tough back-to-back to end the month; San Antonio, although at home, and Portland on the road. We shock the Spurs 119-100 even with Joakim Noah out with an injury thanks to Ben Gordon's 29 points, 26 points and 12 assists from Chauncey Billups, 10 bench points from Paulinho Buboltz and a surprise sub double-double of 12 points and 11 rebounds from Peter John Ramos. No such luck against the Trailblazers though, as Portland continues to have our number, this time 104-91. 18 points from reserve Justin Reed are the only real bright spot to this game, as Joakim Noah misses his second straight game with a sprained ankle.
Still, I'm not going to complain at all about being 46-26, not when it gives us a 5.5 game lead in the division with 10 games to play and not when we're in the hunt for the #2 seed in the playoffs. San Antonio's already clinched the #1 seed at 56-17.
We're a game up on the Suns for the #2 seed, but they in turn are only a game up on the Lakers in the Pacific division and the Kings are still very much alive at five games back of the Suns.
The best news is, if the playoffs were held today, the 38-34 Portland Trailblazers would be left out in the cold. If we're going to have any chance at making some noise in the postseason, Portland must stay home. They match up too damned well against us.
Out East, it's still Toronto and Boston tops in the conference with the 56-18 Raptors two games ahead of the Celtics for the division and the #1 seed. Both will belong to one of those two teams as the 42-30 Bucks and 46-26 Bobcats have no chance of catching either one. Cleveland's 4.5 back of Milwaukee while 39-35 Miami needs to win them all to even a slight chance of catching Charlotte. If the playoffs were held today, the defending champion Chicago Bulls would be going home and honestly, at 31-41, they've got way too much ground to make up to the 37-37 New Jersey Nets, who hold the 8th and final seed at present.
And now it's time for a good laugh!
The New York Knicks are still chasing double-digit wins at 7-64.
Lebron James is the lone player over 30 points a game on average, with 33.7. Ben Gordon is 6th at 26.5. Interesting note for the Miami vs. Denver best backcourt debate: The Heat guards, Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen, rank 4th and 7th with 27.6 and 26.3 points respectively.
Chris Paul still holds way in assists with 10.5 average. Baron Davis and Dwayne Wade are tied for 2nd with 9.9 assists per game, and Chauncey Billups is just behind them at 9.8. Makes for an even more intense argument I'd say.
No argument as to the best rebounders: Greg Oden with 14.2 boards per game, Yao Ming with 13.4.
Andrei Kirilenko has been an absolute blocking-machine over the last month and has shot up to 3.9 blocks per game average. Can he repeat the 4 block a game average by the end of the year? It'll be close, damned close.
Gerald Wallace reigns as King Ballthief with 2.1 steals a game, the only one at two or above.
Two rookies in double digit scoring: Jonte Jones of Dallas with 10.6 and Mike Vines of Sacramento with 10.3. Remember, I almost took Vines in the draft, but his attitude issues made me wary. Leroy Wright is 8th in scoring at an even 8 points a game. Paulinho Buboltz is second in assists with 2.7, but Brian Metcalfe is blowing everyone away with 6.3 dishes per game. That's what being a starting PG will get you.
Jonte Jones also leads in boards per game with 9.3, Kyle Jordan also at 9 boards average. Leroy Wright ranks 5th with 6.5. Kyle Jordan leads far and away in blocks with 2.1.
Ugh. I am unbelievably pissed at the Pacers right now. They've still got Mateen Yeaton sitting in the D-League even though he's fully healed and averaging 25.7 points a game for Albuquerque.
I'm tempted to call up Indiana this offseason and find out what it takes to get Yeaton. This is just stupid and the fanbase shouldn't stand for it.
In happier news....
Allen Iverson comes back in two days!!!!!!
He'll probably miss the game against Golden State, but then we'll have nine games in which to get him back up to playing speed and in sync with this wholly new team for the playoffs.
It's going to be an interesting final set of games, that's for sure.
2006 Golden Scribe Nominee
2006 Golden Scribe Winner
Best Non-Sport Dynasty: May Our Reign Be Green and Golden (CK Dynasty)
Rookie Writer of the Year
Dynasty of the Year: May Our Reign Be Green and Golden (CK Dynasty)