September 27, 2020

PepsiCenter2.jpg

The Pepsi Center's two major occupants won a combined three playoff series. 

 

 

As Kroenke Sports and Entertainment mogul Stan Kroenke followed the progress of another team in his family empire -- the Los Angeles Rams -- against the Bills at Buffalo Sunday, the post-mortems about the Ann Walton Kroenke-owned Avalanche and Denver Nuggets continued.

 

This can't be denied: The Nuggets' run -- successfully coming back from 3-1 deficits in series against Utah and the Clippers in the bubble at Orlando-- was both entertaining and electric. It's not gushing cheerleading to acknowledge that.  

 

This will be remembered as Jamal Murray's breakthrough.

 

With Murray and Nikola Jokic both among the league's young stars, the future truly is bright.

 

My major quibble remains that Michael Malone, who on balance has done a solid job, still deploys his personnel as if he's still not sure who his best players are and every night is as experiment. 

 

And he still has that maddening fixation on defense -- not trusting his younger players because of it -- that often can be counterproductive.

 

Defensive effort is crucial, of course, but the coaches always have driven me nuts who who don't seem to recognize that "defense" in the NBA is a relative term. You're not going to shut down anyone, and to have, say, Michael Porter Jr. sitting when his scoring could be energizing is madness.

 

The Nuggets took a major step in this weird season and postseason, and I'm going to bring in the Avalanche to illustrate the point.

 

Maybe even until the playoffs, it was absolultely correct to give the Avalanche the nod as the "best" half of the Kroenke empire's NBA and NHL properties -- even with similar records and positioning in the Western Conferences.

 

The Avalanche all along was a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Cup. A lof of that had to with the nature of the NHL, with goaltending the great equalizer or difference-maker, and with greater parity. But it also involved the Avalanche truly being among the elite, with the best player in the league -- Nathan MacKinnon -- and greater depth after bolstering offseason acquisitions a year ago. This offseason, Joe Sakic's shopping list should include a big-time defenseman and -- maybe, just maybe -- a veteran goaltender, if Philipp Grubauer's injury issues have lessened the Avs' faith in him. 

 

You could picture Gabe Landeskog accepting the Stanley Cup from Gary Bettman. Yes, when the Avs compiled a 42-20-8 record before the shutdown, leaving them at No. 2 in the conference heading to the bubble. Yes, even after the injury siege that had the Avs down to their third goaltender and otherwise thinned out their manpower against the Stars in the Western Conference semifinals -- a series that still wasn't decided until overtime of Game 7. Absolutely, it could happen after next season.       

 

When the Nuggets went back to work in the bubble, they weren't among the favorites. Could they end up accepting the Larry O'Brien Trophy? Although they were a solid third in the Western Conference, finishing 46-27 after the restart, no way. The concept was ridiculous, and the run anded with the five-game loss to the Lakers in the West finals.  

 

Now, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid. The NBA landscape might change by next season, too, with the Warriors healing, among other things. But especially if Malone gains trust in Porter and even Bol Bol, I believe the Nuggets have crashed the party of thet NBA's championship threats.                            

 

The major offseason story, though, isn't about personnel changes or coaching challenges.

 

It's that especially with both franchises having made major progress, it would be an absolute abomination if the teams' games again aren't available on television in the majority of homes in the market.

 

It also would arrest some of the momentum for the Kroenke empire, which otherwise has a right to crow about it being the most successful of the four dual NHL/NBA ownerships in 2019-20. (The four are in Toronto, Washington, New York and Denver.) This is sad: Instead of being flooded with praise for now having two of the most entertaining teams in the NHL and NBA, we're hearing comparisons of the Kroenke empire in Denver to the Bill Wirtz ownership reign with the Chicago Blackhawks. There, Wirtz poisoned the franchise's relationship with the fan consituency by refusing to put the put home games on television.    

 

Reaching a deal with Comcast on how much the cable giant will play Altitude at this point seems a longshot -- such a longshot, I'm not going to run through the details of the dispute for the 783rd time.


So the issue is what other measures KSE and Altitude will take to make the games available. That marketplace -- and its technology -- is changing daily. It well might be that a 14-year-old is in the final stages of inventing another revolutionary streaming method 

 

These teams are too good to be playing in the dark.