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Nuggets Analyst Scott Hastings Drags Joe Kleine into Comparison

By Andy Hodges,


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — On the day the Denver Nuggets are playing Game 4 in the NBA Finals, former Arkansas forward Scott Hastings had an interesting observation. It was one Razorback fans will completely get about Nuggets' center Nikola Jokic.

"You know what he is? He's kinda like a talented Joe Kleine," Hastings said on ESPN Arkansas on Friday morning with Tye Richardson and Tommy Craft. "Don't tell (Kleine)." Everybody was laughing about the jab at another former player for the Hogs under Eddie Sutton that Hastings played with. Exactly why he dragged Kleine into the whole thing was typical from Hastings because the former big center is down in Little Rock with a popular BBQ restaurant.

Don't let that detract from his view on Jokic, though. Kleine had some talent and wasn't a bad player (eight teams in 16 seasons). He can always point out his had a longer career than Hastings (five teams in 11 seasons). He finished his career in Denver and hasn't left, becoming a media personality covering the Nuggets with a daily sports talk show.

"Jokic is the best I've ever seen around here," Hastings said. "He's phenomenal. Plus he's a quality guy, nice guy that cares about winning. You don't see that all the time any more."

Hastings found a hot bed for sports with a lot of Arkansas connections, too. Every professional franchise can draw a direct line to Northwest Arkansas. Rob Walton bought the Broncos and Ann Walton is the wife of Stan Kroenke and owner of the Nuggets and the hockey team (their son is main guy now). But the Nuggets have always been popular, going back to their days as a team in the ABA before merging with the NBA in 1976.

"There is a hard-core fan base," Hastings said. "They have season ticket holders for 40 years and one of them came up to me outside the other night. He was in a wheelchair and his son was there and the son looked to be about 60 or so."

With their first appearance in the NBA Finals, it has created a big-time buzz in the Denver area.

"It's a lot of excitement," Hastings said. "Easily the most I've seen in my time here. They had a heckuva fan base when they merged and a lot of them are waking up during this. Plus they've got the best player in the world right now."

The Nuggets will try to take a big 3-1 lead in the finals with the Miami Heat tonight in Miami at 7:30 p . m. on ABC. You can also hear the game on ESPN Arkansas 99.5 in Fayetteville, 95.3 in the River Valley, 96.3 in Hot Springs and 104.3 in Harrison-Mountain Home.

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