Streaking into December with the Ask A-Lo mailbag

After a tryptophan-related hiatus during Thanksgiving week, the Ask A-Lo mailbag is back as we head toward December.

Thanks to a Carmelo Anthony buzzer-beater and a high-scoring, high-wire act against the Phoenix Suns, the Nuggets will end November riding a four-game winning streak. That prompted questions about a potential return to the Western Conference and an analysis of Denver’s dramatic victory over the Chicago Bulls.

I’ll also address questions about tattoos, Anthony's future and the theory that defense wins championships.

Let’s get to it.

A-Lo:

Many people are talking about a Lakers' “three-peat.” If it ends up being the Nuggets and L.A. in the West finals, who do you think has the edge?
- Tad, Denver

Tad:

The Lakers and Nuggets have enjoyed some pretty good battles over the past three years, with the most memorable one being the 2009 Western Conference finals. A lot of the L.A. players say there’s not much of a rivalry with Denver, but I think they’re in a bit of denial. The Nuggets have won five of the last seven regular-season meetings, and coaches George Karl and Phil Jackson have a history dating to the 1996 NBA Finals when Karl’s Sonics lost a tough series to the Chicago Bulls.

Looking at it objectively, I’d say the Lakers have a slight edge because of their championship experience and tremendous size, particularly when 7-foot center Andrew Bynum comes back from injury. But who’s to say that Bynum will stay healthy? It hasn’t happened in the past. The Nuggets have more depth than they did when they gave the Lakers a playoff scare in 2009, and their speed really bothered the Lakers during a six-point win at the Pepsi Center on Nov. 11. Given the star power of Melo, Chauncey, Kobe and Pau. I’d love to see a playoff rematch next spring.


A-Lo:

Do you believe that the Denver Nuggets should play better defense? Defense does win NBA titles. Will Ty Lawson develop into one of the best point guards in the NBA? Chauncey Billups is a good player to help him become one of the best point guards in the NBA.
- Jason, Columbia, Tenn.

Jason:

Coach Karl made a point of emphasizing defense during training camp, so I know it's a high priority (though it was hard to tell in a 138-133 win Sunday against Phoenix). Recent NBA champions such as Detroit, San Antonio and Boston were very good defensively, and even the Lakers can cause problems with their size in the middle. So, yes, it's a huge factor for teams with title aspirations. I think the Nuggets will improve dramatically on defense once forward Kenyon Martin returns from knee surgery later this season.

As for Ty, I think he's realizing how difficult it is to be consistent in the NBA. He took some people by surprise as a rookie, but now he's on everyone's radar. To his credit, he is putting in the extra work at practice to make the necessary adjustments. He sits near Chauncey in the locker room, so that is invaluable for a young point guard. Ty’s numbers have been very good of late, and I expect him to become a high-impact player sooner than later.

Aaron:

Do you think Denver got lucky in its victory over Chicago last week, or was it Tom Thibodeau's inexperience as a coach putting John Lucas III in the game late in the fourth quarter?
- Matt, Peosta, Iowa

Matt:

There were a lot of factors that went into Friday night's dramatic finish. I give the Bulls a lot of credit for not throwing in the towel when they fell behind by 19 points in the third quarter. They fought back without talented point guard Derrick Rose and were in position to win the game before Carmelo Anthony drained his game-winning jumper at the buzzer.

Coach Thibodeau was asked about having Lucas in the game in the final seconds. It was a fair question considering that Lucas hadn’t played in an NBA game since 2007, but I think Thibodeau wanted another guard who could handle the ball as the Nuggets tried to force a late turnover. The big mistake might have been Kyle Korver’s decision to pass the ball to Lucas instead of just holding it and forcing the Nuggets to foul him. Korver is a career .879 free-throw shooter.

As for luck, Nuggets coach George Karl said his team had a little bit of that as well. To have a “special” season, as coach Karl likes to say, the basketball gods have to smile on you occasionally.

A-Lo:

Is there any player on the Nuggets team that does not have any tattoos?
- J, Colorado Springs

J:

Nice to hear from you again. I can say with certainty that Arron Afflalo does not have a tattoo, and I’m 90 percent sure the same goes for Nene. Newcomer Shelden Williams doesn’t have any visible tattoos when he’s on the court, but I can’t say for sure if he’s completely ink-free.

With Chris “Birdman” Andersen leading the way, all 11 other Nuggets players have at least one tattoo, if not several. Most of the tattoos hold personal significance; they include tributes and portraits of their friends or family members.

I, personally, couldn't handle the needle.

A-Lo

Will Melo stay? If so, how long?
- Andrelicia, Denver

Andrelicia:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question in some form or another by everyone from Nuggets fans to my neighbors to my mailman. I’ll tell you the same thing as I tell everyone else: If I had that answer, you'd be hearing me sing it from the rooftops.

No matter how many unnamed sources you hear about in the media, Melo has not strayed from his stance that his “options are open” and one of those options includes staying in Denver. There is a reported maximum three-year contract extension on the table, so Anthony would be under contract through the 2014-15 season if he signs it.

That’s it for this week’s edition of the Mailbag. Don’t forget to watch the Nuggets this week on Altitude and check Nuggets.com for game recaps, videos and feature stories. You can also follow me on Twitter @Lopez_Nuggets.


Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for Nuggets.com, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...

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