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If you cannot run the Pick and Roll, you get the Axe!

Not too long ago Pickaxe and Roll joined the SB Nation basketball family. If you haven't checked out the site yet you should. And now is as good as opportunity as ever with the Celtics headed to Denver. Furthermore, I've exchanged some questions and answers with Jeremy who runs Pickaxe and Roll. His insight across the board - on altitude, Marcus Camby and Linas Kleiza - was fantastic. And he might have the best slogan in the blogging business (see post title). So enjoy:

Green Bandwagon: Back in the early 90s Glen Rice allegedly described playing in Denver as follows, "It feels like you've got someone sitting on your chest. I can't breathe. I can't stand it when you get into a run-and-gun game there. You go up and down the court twice and say, 'Whoa, slow down.'" Do you think Denver's altitude has a noticeable impact on games?

Jeremy from Pickaxe and Roll:

"You are getting at one of the defining characteristics of Colorado sports.  The pro sports teams still make a big deal about the elevation by welcoming the visiting team to the Mile High City.  The Nuggets even used to sound a fake warning to beware of the high altitude and to watch out for the signs of altitude sickness before every game.

There is no disputing the fact that the air is thinner in Denver, just ask Mike Hampton, Denny Nagle or apparently Glen Rice.  However, I do not think it has nearly the impact on games as locals would like to believe.

I started to doubt the voracity of the Mile High phenomenon when I left Colorado to go to college in Indiana.  I expected to be in incredible shape due to the fact I was going from high altitude to farm altitude.

Well, I was wrong.

Not only did I find out I was not in some otherworldly condition, I also found out that it was difficult for me to breathe at times due to the humidity.  Could it be that the altitude was not nearly as prohibitive as Colorado sports fans had been lead to believe?

Back in the seventies and eighties there probably really was something to the altitude getting to players and it is certainly something that Denver fans of those eras grew up believing in.  However, today athletes, especially NBA players, are in such tremendous shape that even though they are playing in an environment where there is 10% less oxygen (or whatever the statistics may be) that will have a slight impact, but it is not one that would typically decide a game.

Colorado team home winning percentages have declined over the years and some people point to the fault of new stadiums and expensive tickets making the games more corporate events than raucous displays of local fanaticism.  I believe the loss of "home field advantage" is more a result of players breaking through the altitude barrier through better conditioning.

If the Nuggets played at 9,280 feet then we would be talking about a huge advantage, but the way athletes train today, I would have to say most athletes barely notice any difference."

Green Bandwagon Note - So the Celtics, minus Glen Davis of course (love that picture), should be okay.

Green Bandwagon: If you had to rank the top 5 centers in the NBA would Marcus Camby make your list?  

Jeremy from Pickaxe and Roll:

"This is another excellent question.  I found the calls for Camby to make the All-Star team laughable.  Camby is great at what he does, but he is an atrocious offensive player.  He has no post game.  Earlier in the season Golden State was guarding him with Mickael Pietrus.  Any self respecting center would take that 6' 6" defender in the post and light him up.  Camby never even gave it a thought.  The only thing Camby is good at on offense is driving to the basket with his right hand.

Defensively he is incredibly overrated.  Yes, he is a great weak side shot blocker and he is a very good rebounder.  He has tremendous instincts.  He cannot guard players of any significance in the post because of his frail frame and he never tries to step out and stop the ball handler in a screen and roll situation because he wants to sit back and try to block shots.  The result is an endless string of open fifteen footers or driving lanes through the paint.

In the last game before the all star break against Orlando Camby had to sit out most of the fourth quarter because he could not guard Dwight Howard inside not could he guard Rashard Lewis or Hedo Turkoglu on the perimeter.

Camby is very good for the Nuggets because they have Kenyon Martin and sometimes Nene to guard the big post scorers of the NBA, but if Camby had to guard every post scorer on his own, he would never, ever be in consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year."

Green Bandwagon: From what I've seen Linas Kleiza is a tough guy that can score. If he didn't just happen to share a position and team with Carmelo Anthony would he be more of a household name? What do you think his ceiling is as a player?

Jeremy from Pickaxe and Roll:

"Before the season started I wrote that for the Nuggets to become a legitimate contender they needed one of their bench players to step up and be that role player that can hit the big three, make a game changing block or nab the game sealing rebound.  Linas Kleiza was the most likely player to fill that role and he has not disappointed.

I think every Nugget fan is surprised at his development, but I do not think we should overestimate his ceiling because of his accelerated development.  He has become a good perimeter shooter when he can spot up, but he is not someone who can shoot off the dribble.  He has an amazing ability to drive the baseline, elevate and dunk before the defense is able to react.  His other talent is running the floor.  He ran Utah out of the Pepsi Center on his own in his 41 point performance in their first meeting this season.

That being said, I do not think Kleiza will ever be a player who you can give the ball to and expect him to score.  I think he has had this success because he gets to play with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson.  Defenses cannot key on him at all.  He has done a tremendous job of taking advantage of that.

I do not think his ceiling is much higher than where he is now.  He can still improve his three point shot, he has no left hand and he is still working on finishing in the lane with a floater or push shot.  Once he masters those things he may be able to be a good number two scorer for someone.

There is a lot of interest in Klieza around the league right now and it may be the right time for the Nuggets to sell high."

Green Bandwagon: Speaking of Kleiza, what are your thoughts on the Zach Randolph to the Nuggets rumors?

Jeremy from Pickaxe and Roll:

"I actually had an email string with Seth at Posting and Toasting about this rumor.  Here is the Cliffs Notes version of our exchange:

Dear God please no!

I do expect the Nuggets to do something at the trade deadline, but if this deal is the only option on the table, they must say no and go ahead with the team they have.

Randolph is a very good offensive player, but the Nuggets do not need another offensive player, but would be a disaster in Denver.  The Nuggets would not be replacing anything they gave out with his addition.  They would not bring back Najera's hustle and heart, Kleiza's shooting or ability to run the floor or J.R. Smith's shooting and upside.  Add in Randolph's disinterest in defense and his acquisition would ensure an appearance in the lottery for Denver.

They need someone who can play without the ball, or someone who can set up Melo or AI.

I believe I was the first person to propose that Mike Miller would be a great fit as a Nugget on the day Gasol was traded to the Lakers.  He can create for himself or others and he is obviously a great shooter.  He is a better version of Kyle Korver and would put the Nuggets ahead of Utah.

In conclusion, I will tell you what I told Seth.  If Randolph becomes a Nugget I will put a brick through the big glass windows at the Pepsi Center and I will not even care if I go to jail.  It will be worth it."

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