Doug Moe wants some credit as a trend-setter.
"Last spring, I tell the Lakers they're the best, they're going to win (the NBA title)," said the coach of the Denver Nuggets. "So they win it, and then he (Laker Coach Pat Riley) says they're going to win it again.
"Hey, any idiot could have said that. Say it last year."
You must understand, placing a phone call to Moe is like dialing 976-YAPP. It's glasnost , National Basketball Assn. style. If there's something on Moe's mind, it usually winds up on the end of his tongue, not to mention in the newspaper.
It's no accident that Moe was named coach of the league's all-interview team. Do you think there are any National Football League coaches who give out their home phone numbers to out-of-town reporters?
Want to hear more from the mouth of Moe? Take the first round of the playoffs last spring, when Moe said he didn't think the Nuggets had a chance against the Lakers.
"I didn't think we had no chance, I said I knew we had no chance," Moe corrected Wednesday.
"We don't say things for effect here, we say them because we mean them. Out there (Los Angeles), they say things for effect."
Moe knew whereof he spoke: the Lakers swept the Nuggets by 33, 12 and 37 points.
So what, if anything, is different about the Nuggets six months later, as they prepare to play the Lakers tonight at the Forum?
Plenty. All-Star forward Calvin Natt, who tore his Achilles' tendon in the season's first game a year ago, is back. There's a new point guard, Michael Adams, who came with shooter Jay Vincent in a trade from Washington after being supplanted in the Bullets' lineup by Tyrone (Muggsy) Bogues.
Wayne Cooper, a huge disappointment at center last season, is in much better shape, both mentally and physically. Cooper and his backup, Blair Rasmussen, blocked eight shots apiece in the Nuggets' last game, a 132-104 win over the New Jersey Nets.
Once again, there's a complementary cast to support holdover stars Alex English, who needs just 47 points to pass Dan Issel as Denver's all-time scorer, and Lafayette (Fat) Lever, who had a league-leading 16 triple-doubles last season and Tuesday night nearly became the fourth player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double.
Playing just 28 minutes, Lever had 21 points, 14 assists, 13 rebounds and 8 steals against the Nets.
Ten players scored in double figures that night for the Nuggets, who arrive here with a three-game winning streak that has them in first place in the Midwest Division with a 7-3 record, a half-game ahead of the Houston Rockets.
"We're not great," Moe said, "but we're like we were a couple of years ago. We're a good, solid team that can beat anybody on any given night."
Does that include the Lakers?
"Last year, we could have caught the Lakers flat asleep--dead--and we still wouldn't have won," Moe said.
"Now, if we play good and they play good, they're probably going to win. For us to have any chance at all, they have to be a little bit off."
And since the Lakers are coming off two straight losses--including an 18-point blowout in Seattle Tuesday night--Moe doesn't expect that to happen.
"I expect them to come after us," Moe said. "They're going to be angry. They've got something to prove."
Asked how much of the Lakers he's seen this season, Moe said: "You want me to tell you the truth? I've seen a couple of (film) clips on the news, but other than that, I've not seen them at all.
"But hey, what am I going to see? That's the bad thing about watching film. If you watch a lousy team, you're going to get overconfident, and if you watch a good team, you'll get scared to death."
Moe inquired about the condition of Laker forward James Worthy, who played just 17 minutes and did not score against Seattle after the tendinitis in his left knee flared up.
"Why doesn't it flare up (tonight)?" Moe said. "Tell him I think that's totally unfair. We need those flare-ups.
"If the Lakers want to drop a superstar, that's fine with me."