MILE HIGH MONDAY

Mile High Monday: Michael Malone deserves blame for Nuggets loss

Apr 18, 2022, 6:38 AM
Michael Malone...
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

This is an exciting time of year with the NBA Playoffs underway and the NFL Draft almost here. I like when the draft is almost here. This last two weeks before the draft are great because my scouting reports are done, and I just get to sit back and let my brain rest – while also seeing what my friends (and great draft minds) like Dane Brugler, Matt Miller and Matt Waldman think of this class.

I also like contemplating life and sports when driving around with the top down on my old Jeep TJ! The following is a result of those trips during the week.

Buckle up, let’s take a ride through my thoughts.

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Fools Gold

The Denver Nuggets might get swept in the opening round of the NBA Playoffs. I was worried about that happening before Saturday’s opening playoff game against the Golden State Warriors. After they got blown out of the gym against the Warriors 123-107, things are looking pretty bleak.

Nikola Jokic is the reigning MVP, and he should be a back-to-back winner of that award after carrying the Nuggets to 48 wins this season. It’s a boring argument to debate whether Jokic is the MVP or not; he played better than he did last year. If you don’t think Jokic is the MVP, then you just didn’t watch Nuggets basketball.

He was great in the regular season, but playoff basketball is much different. The Nuggets have now lost five in a row in the playoffs (remember “Suns in 4” last year?) with the MVP out there doing his thing. Yes, Jamal Murray is out – and I think he’s a superstar with MVP potential himself – if he can ever get back healthy. Yes, Michael Porter Jr. is out – and I don’t think his back injury will ever heal the way it should. That’s no excuse for a team who should’ve been better prepared for this Warriors game.

The Nuggets kept things interesting early, but as the game went on their game plan fell apart. I put this on head coach Michael Malone. I like Malone, but I fear he might be the coach to turn things around (as he did with the Nuggets) but not the coach who gets you a championship.

This team needs to get one on the road – Monday – against the Warriors to give themself some life in this series. In the end, it seems like the Nuggets could be out after the first round – and that’s disappointing – even with all the injuries to top players. Yes, next year is supposed to be the year they make a run at the NBA Finals, and this is “the year before the year.” However, the league doesn’t work that way and they need to show better if they want to be serious championship contenders in 2023.

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USFL 2.0 Not Bad

This weekend, the USFL returned to the football field. The original USFL was created in 1982 and played for three seasons, from 1983-86. They stopped playing football after that for various reasons, and the league has been defunct for 30-plus years. However, it was revealed a couple of years ago that the USFL would return in 2022.

Even on the “All-Star road trip” this year, I saw scouts from the USFL in addition to the CFL and of course the NFL. The USFL may not have household names, but they do have plenty of players with NFL experience. This, in addition to college football stars regional fans will remember, piqued my interest over the weekend.

In the first USFL game of the season, the Birmingham Stallions made a late drive to get the win over the New Jersey Generals 28-24. It was a quarterback keeper from J’Mar Smith that sealed the deal in what was an exciting debut for the new/old league. Undrafted out of Louisiana Tech in 2020, Smith spent a bit of time with the New England Patriots before heading to Canada for the 2021 season. Now, he’s making plays for this new league and could be turning heads of those in the NFL once again.

Add in players like Scooby Wright, Alex McGough and Victor Bolden (plus others) and you can see how fans of college football (or dynasty fantasy football) would be interested. Oh yeah – there are also a bunch of different rules which honestly could find their way to the NFL. Plug in the helmet cam for a view we don’t often see, and the drone camera angles were AMAZING! Listen, I’m a football fanatic so maybe I’m different but even the casual sports fan could get some entertainment from this new product.

I didn’t think the game against the Generals and Stallions was that bad – and it was certainly better than watching the Nuggets get trounced. The USFL is back, but for how long? I’m not sure about that, but I do like the different rules, and I feel there’s an appetite for spring football. We’ll see if the USFL can keep the excitement up or if things fade as they mostly do with these startup leagues.

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Cool Under Fire

There is no doubt that Russell Wilson is a future Hall of Fame quarterback. A third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson has one Super Bowl championship with the Seattle Seahawks in two appearances (and it should have been back-to-back). What makes him a special passer is his ability to keep plays alive with his feet while keeping his eyes downfield. Wilson loves to extend plays – some say holding onto the ball too long – but he’s in full control when he does this.

Pressure is the name of the game in the NFL. Every quarterback looks great when well protected with the pass rushers at bay. The truly special quarterbacks don’t get rattled when they are under duress. The ability to play with a calm mind with chaos swirling around you is one few in the NFL have. Wilson is one of those players, and it’s the most important trait in his natural ability.

I love advanced data – when it backs up the film. Too often, NFL analysts will quote data when they have no idea what it means – or its irrelevant because it doesn’t reflect what the film shows. However, when advanced data shows what film shows it becomes exactly what you’re looking for. Recently, Pro Football Focus released data on which quarterbacks were best under pressure. It was no surprise to see Wilson near the top of the list, No. 2 in fact, only behind Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.

The Broncos offensive line had better protect Wilson better than the Seahawks line did. Left tackle Garett Bolles went so far as to say “I know you’re used to getting hit. You’re not going to get hit here.” That’s cool to say, but I’d like to see it backed up. Of course, Wilson is going to get hit, but minimizing the number of hits will greatly help this team as they march towards a playoff berth – and perhaps an AFC West title in 2022.

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Nothing But Surprises

I’ve always been a fan of movie critic/YouTube host John Campea. It started years ago when I found the YouTube show “AMC Movie Talk” with Campea hosting and great critics joining him like comic book legend Jon Schnepp (RIP). I watch a lot of YouTube – only second to football – so I was elated to find a show and a host in Campea that knew movies the way I know football.

Well, Campea moved on from AMC – then to Collider – and now to his own channel on YouTube that he’s had for years. Campea knows the movie industry, and he talks to insiders about upcoming projects only to then give little tidbits out to the fan base – and I just eat that kind of stuff up.

His latest bit of information had to do with the upcoming blockbuster “Dr. Strange 2: The Multiverse of Madness.” Campea has reported that this latest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have more surprises than “Infinity War” “Endgame” and “Spiderman: No Way Home” combined!

Now, I know some/most of the spoilers for “Multiverse of Madness” and I won’t spoil them here. It sounds like there may be stuff in this movie that keeps people going back to see it multiple times. From what I know, fans of superhero movies will be incredibly please. As I’ve written about before in Mile High Monday, I’m not a huge Dr. Strange fan but I am 1,000 percent seeing this movie multiple times – especially with the surprises I know about coming to life on the big screen.

What surprises do you want to see in “Multiverse of Madness?” Hit me up on social media and let me know!

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