Arron Afflalo: Nuggets are ‘a championship team under the right mindset and coaching’

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The Nuggets – despite losing the Executive of the Year (Masai Ujiri), Coach of the Year (George Karl) and one of their top players (Andre Iguodala) – entered the 2013-14 season with high hopes. To Denver, an 11th straight playoff trip seemed attainable.

But amidst injuries and growing pains under first-time coach Brian Shaw, the Nuggets stumbled to a 36-46 record. It was truly a dissapointing season, even if expectations were probably too high in the first place.

On the other hand, 36-46 must seem amazing at this point to Arron Afflalo, whose Magic went 20-62 and 23-59 his two seasons in Orlando.

Certainly, Afflalo is thrilled to be back in Denver, where the playoffs – even in a stacked Western Conference – are more of an immediate goal than they were with the Magic.

He’s just going a bit overboard in his optimism.

Afflalo, via Cody Taylor of Basketball Insiders:

“Being traded for me is a positive experience,” Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. “I really enjoyed my time in Orlando. Rob [Hennigan], Scott [Perry], Coach [Jacque Vaughn], the assistants and all of my teammates really helped me develop as a player and as a person over the past two seasons so I’m very thankful for my opportunity there. I’m happy to be back in Denver, I got some very familiar teammates. I believe this is a championship team under the right mindset and coaching.”

I don’t care whether Shaw does everything possible to model himself after Phil Jackson and every Denver player takes the most-extreme steps possible to duplicate Michael Jordan’s attitude.The Nuggets aren’t winning a championship next season.

For one, players’ mindsets are not as easy to change as many believe. Jordan’s killer instinct was deeply conditioned. Danilo Gallinari can’t just turn that on at Afflalo’s urging.

And Shaw is still learning the ropes as a head coach, and it’s extremely unlikely he makes a huge leap – let alone the jump to championship-caliber – in a single year. That’s OK. When he was hired, it was reasonable to expect he’d need time to develop.

I get why Afflalo, after getting stuck in Orlando, is excited. There’s nothing wrong with innate confidence, either. But he should temper that enthusiasm.

As it stands, he’s just setting up Shaw and his teammates to get blamed when they fall short of unreachable goals.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.

Frustrated Gregg Popovich calls all three referees “f****** blind”

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The Spurs completed an amazing comeback win against the Thunder Friday night, coming from 23 down to knock off the Thunder when Carmelo Anthony‘s game-tying three was just a two because his toe was on the line.

Gregg Popovich was into this one.

So much so that when he didn’t like an out-of-bounds call he made sure all three officials knew exactly how blind he thought they were.

The best part of this is Popovich covering his eyes, just to really emphasize his point.

We’re really going to miss Pop when he steps away to live at a winery full time.

Lonzo Ball walks away from Lakers-Suns skirmish

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If you’re on the court when your team gets in an NBA “fight” — what the rest of us would call a shoving match where nobody really wants to throw a punch — should you run into the fray and help your teammates?

Friday night, with just more than three minutes to go in Phoenix’s eventual win, the Suns called a timeout, and Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one of those silly shoving matches. Players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up.

The Suns’ rookie Josh Jackson picked up a technical for his role racing in and escalating the matter.

Watch the video again, and you’ll see Lakers’ rookie Lonzo Ball just walk away from it all and head to the bench.

That has led to criticism of the rookie from some Lakers’ fans, who see a guy who didn’t rush in to protect his teammates — that’s seen as part of the sports locker room culture. A “band of brothers” or “us against the world” mentality. Ball, frankly, gave a more mature answer than that.

Ball is right, nothing was going to come of this. It was meaningless posturing. Walking away was the mature move.

However, the question is how is this perceived in the Lakers’ locker room? Do the players care that Ball shrugged and walked away? Do they think he needed to race in and try to look tough like everyone else? That can impact his standing on the team — as a guy Magic Johnson brought in to be a leader — more than anything.

Also, with all his shooting woes, is this the first sign of some Lakers fans starting to turn on Lonzo? It’s a little early for that.