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Lunch Special: Is Nuggets center Nikola Jokic the front-runner for the NBA MVP?

Denver Post logo Denver Post 4/19/2021 Mark Kiszla
a basketball player during a game: Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) for two in the fourth quarter at the Ball Arena March 19, 2021. © Provided by Denver Post Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots over Chicago Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr. (34) for two in the fourth quarter at the Ball Arena March 19, 2021.

Denver Post sports columnist Mark Kiszla answered questions about all things Colorado sports in a live chat on Monday. Here are the highlights.

First of all if Nikola Jokic does not get the MVP it would be one of the biggest injustices ever. With Jamal Murray out, a lot of people are jumping off the bandwagon. I feel that Michael Porter Jr. will step up and be just fine. The first round we will probably see the Lakers with LeBron James and Anthony Davis faking injuries so they can rest until the playoffs, but once we beat them I can see us making it to the Western Conference finals again. What says you?

Kiszla: The MVP race? It’s not a race. It’s over. Nikola Jokic is the MVP, provided he stays healthy (not to bring up a sore subject with Nuggets fans). That loss of Jamal Murray to a knee injury? Still makes me sick. It’s lookng like a near certainty that Denver’s first-round opponent in the playoffs will be the Lake Show. My best guess is the Nuggets will get the No. 4 seed and L.A. will be the 5 seed. But we know LeBron James will get all the calls, so I’m not certain how much homecourt advantage matters in this series. While I like your optimism for Denver success vs the Lakers (“Once we beat them” as you say), I don’t share it. If Anthony Davis and LeBron are healthy, he Nuggets would be underdogs in that series. And distinct underdogs at that.

Hey Mark — in retrospect, think the Nuggets made a mistake giving up R.J. Hampton for Aaron Gordon? And should the Nuggets have limited Murray’s playing time more given his knee was bugging him? Too early to tell obviously but think they can overcome the loss of Murray via committee?

Kiszla: I know for a fact the Nuggets did not want to give up R.J. Hampton in the trade for Aaron Gordon. But Tim Connelly and the front-office staff pushed their chips ot the middle of the table and bet that Denver could win it all in 2021. Would Hampton get meaningful minutes now in a Nuggets uniform, with Jamal Murray injured? Of course. But wish that the trade for Gordon was never made? No way. No how. I don’t look back in regret for aggressive action taken after careful consideration. Never lived my life that way. Never will. Worry about what could go wrong and you sit on the porch instead of run with the big dogs. Running with the big dogs is where the fun … and profits … and championships are to be found. Do I think the Nuggets will overcome Murray’s loss by committee? No. Sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you planned. And if it doesn’t? No regrets. No surrender. And no whining.

So let me get this straight. Stan Kroenke can’t get a local cable TV deal done for fans of his teams in Denver, but he can help launch a breakaway European soccer Super League? Oh and it seems like Arsenal fans are angry about it, too. Do I got that right?

Kiszla: First, let me say: I grew up fond of Arsenal. And when Mr. Kroenke first bought into the club, I told him so one night in the Nuggets locker room, with the (half-kidding) aside: “The Gunners are my side, don’t (bleep) em up.” Wish I could have framed the look on Stan’s face.

I don’t think anyone who truly loves futbol is too keen on this idea of a Super League. Let’s start here: If it’s truly a Super League, what the heck is Arsenal doing in it?

And let’s put it in terms that maybe American football fans could understand: If the truly elite NFL franchises of the moment decided they wanted to play their own Wednesday night games, then your Broncos would be watching with noses pressed against the glass, with the other NFL also-rans, like the Bengals and Jaguars.

I propose that Denver needs to erect 2=two statutes. Pierre LaCroix for all he did for the Avs! And Goofy at Coors Field for all Dick Monfort has done to destroy the public trust in the Rockies. Agree?

Kiszla: A statue outside the Avalanche’s home arena in tribute to Pierre Lacroix?

I like the way you think! Excellent idea!

A statue of Goofy outside of Coors Field to mock Rockies owner Dick Monfort?

Easy there, big fella. What did Goofy ever do to deserve being lumped in with Monfort?

What do you think about all this talk about Julian Edelman being Hall of Fame worthy? There’s so many guys who deserve it more, like Rod Smith. Heck, even Ed McCaffrey had better career numbers AND he won three rings.

Kiszla: Rod Smith and Ed McCafrey are not Hall of Famers.

Period.

You want to make an argument for Randy Gradishar or Louis Wright?

I’m all ears.

But Smith belongs in the Hall of Very Good. And McCaffrey is a Hall of Fame father.

Anything more in the orange KoolAid talking.

Sorry, my friend.

And what’s Julian Edelman got to do with it?

Nothing in my book.

Let me add: I don’t have a vote for the Hall of Fame. And I never will.

So campaign on without me.

Hey Kiz, I don’t mind Denver taking a QB in the draft, including in the first round, but I sure hope George “Don’t call me General” Paton doesn’t trade up in the first to do it. That not only jeopardizes this year’s first round pick, but possibly next year’s as well. One of these guys may be worth going after, but the risk sure is high. I’ve seen so many teams trade multiple firsts to move up to draft their QB of the future only to see him fizzle out and that ended up setting that franchise back multiple years.

Kiszla: Don’t trade up?

Yep, and keep your money under the mattress rather than investing it in artificial intelligence stocks.

Is trading up full of risk? Certainly. Does George Paton have to be 100% sold on a QB to trade up? Of course.

But are you old enough to remember 2017?

The Kansas City Chiefs traded up to No. 10 in the first round to take some raw gunslinger named Patrick Mahomes, who didn’t really win diddly squat in college.

When the Chiefs gave up two first-round picks and a third-rounder to draft Mahomes, I thought it was a reach.

Well, how did that turn out for the Chiefs … and the Broncos?

Howdy Kiz,

Let’s get after it!

Is it just me, or is Altitude play by play guy Chris Marlow the greatest.

Speaking of Nugs.

I know, you don’t give them much (any?) of a chance. But I got rainbow colored glasses, and Maxie Miner swag. So let’s do this.

Let’s say they face the Lakeshow in the first round. Walk me through the key matchups, one knucklehead to another. Would Davis guard MPJ? Who would James guard? Or would they leave James free to double Joker?

How do the Nugs win the matchups, win the series? My thought is that Joker is going to have to be even better than now, MPJ will have to prove they can’t double Joker. Thrill and the rest of the guys are going to have to hit shots. Nugs are going to have to play near perfect to win.

What say you?

Next. Barton, Milsap, Green, JaVale, Harrison, and Howard are free agents. Paul will probably retire, yes? Who do think they prioritize? Me thinks it’s Green, because Malone says he’s solid lockerroom. And based on the past few games I agree. What about Thrill? Is Thrill still a fit for what this team wants to be?

That leaves JaVale, Harrison, and Howard. I like JaVale. He’s got 3 rings. Do we give him a 1 year deal? I don’t have a comment on Harrison, don’t know his game. Seems like with Facu doing so well Howard isn’t a priority. Although again, for all I know Markus could be a diamond in the rough. Would be bummed to see a player leave.

That’s enough out of me.

Gracias, Kiz.

Kiszla: Please try to limit your comments to something shorter than a play by William Shakespeare.

Getting wordy might over-stress the software program of this fine chat.

(Hey, I only kid the ones I love.)

They say the NBA is all about the match-ups. I say they’re wrong. Match-ups are important, but does it really matter who guards (or doesn’t guard) Anthony Davis when he launches a shot at the buzzer?

(Sorry … too soon?)

OK, two things about free agency.

My read is: JaMychal Green has already left the building. He has every reason to believe the Nuggets sold him the same bill of goods that caused Jerami Grant to become disenchanted with Denver a year ago, long before the NBA playoffs began.

And Will Barton? Now there’s an interesting question. I like Will. But not sure I like him enough to pay him big bucks.

Do you think the Avalanche will be hurt, or helped with the COVID-19 layoff?

Kiszla: As long as the Avs are healthy heading into the playoffs, I don’t think their current COVID issues will make even a little difference, good or bad.

How many losses for the Rockies this year? And does Monfort finally fire Bristly Jeff Bridich to save face at season’s end when attendance is in the tank?

Kiszla: Way back in the day, Don Baylor got fired as Rockies manager because the no-show factor late in the season was being felt in the wallets of ownership. The reign of Mike Shanahan came to an end with the Broncos because paying customers had become very reluctant to send in money for playoff ticket deposits late in the regular season Fans staying away from the ballpark (or stadium) can make a difference. Money talks. When fans keep that money in their pockets, they wield power.

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Also, second question. I am going with that the Rockies will lose 110 games at least. Are you agreeing with me or will they lose more or less?

Kiszla: Well, the Rockies are currently on pace to lose 120. They’re bad. But not that bad. It’s very difficult for even a bad team to lose 100, much less 110 games.

I’m surprised and somewhat disappointed that the Broncos have not brought in competition at the QB position. How did the Broncos (of John Elway and Peyton Manning fame) become one of those teams that has mediocrity at QB year after year?

Kiszla: The Broncos have not yet brought in a veteran, methinks, because general manager George Paton would rather draft a quarterback than settle for a journeyman veteran. My story. Sticking to it. For now.

If Rockies fans want to see change, they should stop going to games. Nothing speaks louder than empty seats or empty concession lines.

Kiszla: True dat. 100% agree. Fans can spend their money however they like. But money talks. Loudly and clearly.

How about the Broncos start Drew Lock but make him run at least one read option per series? Then there is justification to make him run wind sprints until he can keep up with Hamler.

Kiszla: Drew Lock can do the read option. Here’s thinking Trey Lance could do it better. But that’s just me.

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