Sports Town USA Sippin' on Some Sizzur

With the Rockies in the World Series (it still feels weird to type that) and the Broncos two last second field goals from 0-5, Denver’s sports hierarchy is in disarray. But lost somewhere between the praise and the panic are the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets, the two teams usually on the lips of sports fans during the busy month of October – now officially, and embarrassingly, referred to as Rocktober. While you were out buying more “Purple than the dirty dirty”, here’s what our teams at The Can have been doing:

The Nuggets are 3-2 in the eight-game preseason, with both losses coming at the hands of the Detroit Pistons (who, after handing the Nugs their “most heartbreaking loss of last season” , now officially own us). Oddly, the preseason has begun where the regular season left off: Marcus Camby is still gobbling up boards (he’s averaging 15 a game and had 23 rebounds in the opener against the L.A. Clippers), Melo and A.I. are providing the scoring spark (in three games, they’ve averaged 18.3 and 16.7 points, respectively) and J.R. Smith continues to vomit up 3-pointers (4 of 21). Yet the preseason is more about feeling out new players than giving your established stars minutes, and in that respect, the Nuggets' already deep bench could be vastly improved. In a battle just to make the final roster, Forward Bobby Jones and Guard Von Wafer (mmmmmm, Von Wafer) are both averaging double digits per game, and as a team, the Nuggets are shooting .483 from the floor.

But the biggest story thus far is the return of Kenyon Martin. Apparently, his now bionic knees are healed, and as much as his attitude and ridiculous salary have burdened the team in years past, when he’s healthy, dude is still a baller. In the first half of Tuesday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks, he had 11 points, five rebounds, an assist and two strips, both of which came against heralded first-round pick Yi Jianlian. Even more impressive were his two alley-oop dunks courtesy of Iverson, which immediately recalled K-Mart’s salad days alongside Jason Kidd.

The starting five on Halloween -- when the Nuggets begin the regular season against the Seattle Supersonics -- could be Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Marcus Camby, Kenyon Martin and new Guard Chucky Atkins. Even without costumes, that’s scary.

Meanwhile, six games in, the Avalanche look like the Harvey Dent of Hockey. In four home wins, they’ve outscored opponents 20-10, with hat-tricks by the ageless Joe Sakic and second-year DU alum Paul Stastny (who has 13 points, tying him for the league lead). In two road losses, the Avs have been outscored 8-1, including a shutout loss to Nashville. Starting goaltender Peter Budaj has been mostly solid, but after allowing 4 goals in just over a period against the Calgary Flames on Monday night, he was replaced by the Avs version of K-Mart, Jose Theodore, who saved 17 shots and sparked a 5-4 comeback victory. At home, we look collected, smooth, and in synch. On the road, we seem listless and out-of-sorts.

At least part of this dichotomy can be attributed to beginning the season with a five game schedule almost as bad as the NLCS: We opened up with back-to-back games on Wednesday and Thursday, played again on Sunday, then had a five day layoff before back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday. But even more than basketball, good hockey teams thrive on chemistry -- with time, free agent acquisitions Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth will develop more Mile High mojo.

That’s the score on the other, other professional teams in Sports City, USA. You are now free to break in that new Rockies hat. -- Mark Schiff