Pope
You watch the games, you see the scores, but how do you really know what's going on in NBA Playoffs 2005? NBA.com has infiltrated the action with the ultimate insiders -- the players themselves. We're giving you an exclusive look at the postseason with a roster of player mailboxes.

Denver's Mark Pope has spent six seasons competing in the NBA. Send Mark a question via e-mail and we'll post his answers to the best questions at least once for each round of the Playoffs the Nuggets reach.


Q: Since the Spurs are big down in the paint, do you see yourself getting in a few minutes each game when Camby needs a rest?
-- Cory Elwood

Pope: Cory,

I wish I could get some minutes each game—or any game for that matter. Unfortunately I am not on the playoff roster, which cannot be changed at any point throughout the entire playoffs. I will be spending the playoffs on the bench. That is probably a good thing for my team! Over the past two years I have only averaged 3 points...A SEASON!!! With Marcus, Kenyon, Nenê, Eddie, and Francisco, our front line is very solid.

Q: What do you think is the key to the Nuggets making a series run through the playoffs? and how do you think we can shut down Tim Duncan in the first round?
-- Dean Michalk

Pope: Dean,

I think the key for the Nuggets to get through Round 1 of the Playoffs is PACE. We want 100-point games with both teams flying up and down the floor. Why is that important? First, we play our best when our team in on the run and attacking the basket. Second, San Antonio has been the best defensive team in the NBA for five consecutive years. When you let them get set in their half court defense, it is TOUGH to score. In the first two games of the series, San Antonio has controlled the tempo, and we have been playing a slow, muddy, frustrating tempo.

As for how we can shut down Tim Duncan in the first round: We can't. What we can do is try to lessen his impact on the game both offensively and defensively. Once again, the best way to do this is to keep things going at light-speed.

Q How do you guys guard Earl Boykins in practice? He's so damn fast!
-- Nick Kozyrski

Pope: Nick,

How do we guard Earl Boykins in practice? We DON'T! We try, but just like every other team in the league we have a very difficult time containing him. Not only is he fast, but he is also extremely clever. Worst of all—in practice he will talk his fare share of smack when he gets going. There is nothing worse than a four-foot, twenty-seven pound point guard scoring at the rim over a seven-footer and letting the whole world know about it. Unfortunately that happens to me in practice on a regular basis. We love having Earl on our team.

Q: What three Nuggets, in your unique opinion, play with the most heart and why would these be your choices? Please include practice time as part of "play".
-- Patrick Fortier

Pope: Patrick,

Naming the three Nuggets with the most heart is tough. I don't know if I can narrow it down but here are my thoughts. Can you leave Earl Boykins off that list? Andre Miller hasn't missed a practice or a game in two years -- an unbelievable statistic in the NBA today. Greg Buckner is our defensive stopper. Bryon Russell is 124-years-old and has played every position (1-5) for the team this season. K-Mart, Marcus, and Nenê have missed games, but have great competitive fire. One of the best signs of someone with heart is how they overcome adversity. Carmelo has definitely had his fare share of adversity this season. But over the last three months he has been rock solid and once again has led his team to the playoffs. Eddie Najera has made a career out of being a heart and work guy. It really is a tough call.

Q: I'm a loyal season ticket holding Nugget fan. You were so sweet to me and my son on autograph night, when he hurt his arm snowboarding. You made him feel good about it! Here's my Q:
Why do you think that Denver is getting no respect from the national media? I want to punch the TV set. Hardly anyone believes! How can we be the hottest team in the NBA and nobody believes in the momentum? Having played on other teams, do you have any insight into this? And Earl should be Sixth Man!! But I doubt he'll get it because he's from Denver.
-- Katherine Chang

Pope: Katherine,

NO Respect! I can understand your frustration at the lack of props from the national media. We sure heard them killing us during the first half of the season when we were playing poorly. So why don't they shout praises just as loud when the team is playing great? That just seems to be the general rule when it comes to media coverage. The great thing about respect in this league is that you have to EARN it. And basically that means playoff success. If we play great in the playoffs and make it through a couple of rounds, people will start to jump on the bandwagon. That's when things really get fun!

Thanks for the great questions. I look forward to answering more of them as the Playoffs continue on. Hopefully the Nuggets will still be playing the next time the NBA decides to check their mailbox.

-- Mark Pope, Denver Nuggets