The Rocky Mountain News confirmed the biggest fears of Nugget fans today. The following quote from Anthony Carter sent chills down my spine.
"I talked to coach (George) Karl, and he said they're looking to bring back pretty much the same team as last year."
Dear God, in the name of all that is holy and righteous, no! How on earth can they bring this same team back intact next season? Are they trying to kill me?
In the same article it even reports that the Nuggets have contacted Bouna Ndiaye, the agent for Yakhouba Diawara, about Kuba taking a minimum contract to return to the Nuggets next season. Ndiaye throws out a few other teams who he claims are interested in Kuba, but we know he was pulling our collective leg, because they were all NBA teams.
If everything goes perfectly for this team, Nene, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby and Allen Iverson all stay healthy and play 75 plus games, they all play defense and George Karl proves to be more active than your typical three toed sloth from the bench then I can see this group approaching 53-55 wins. This is absolutely a talented team.
What the Nuggets brass does not seem to realize is it is not a contending team.
If Stan Kronke is content to put together a roster full of exciting offensive players who can sell a hoard of jerseys then this bunch is his ideal team and management deserves a great deal of credit for implementing the wishes of the owner. However, if the goal is to win a championship, then it is inexplicable that they would bring the same core back from last season.
Here is the list of teams that will be better than the Nuggets next season as long as they are healthy:
The same article points out that the Nuggets are already more than $8 million over the luxury tax for next season even though they only have nine players signed. They still must bring on at least four more players to meet the league roster minimum of 13 warm bodies. J.R. Smith still needs to be resigned, probably at a starting salary around $5.5 million a year, and then there is Eduardo Najera as well. Bringing back the same core players will cost at least $17 or $18 million in luxury tax payments. In case you were wondering the luxury tax bill for last season was “only” $13.57 million.
If Kronke believes he will get his money’s worth out of this team, he is either being misled or his scoreboard does not count down to zero.
We know based on the choice to bring in the decrepit Chucky Atkins as a replacement for the competent Steve Blake from last season that Kronke is not into blindly paying the luxury tax. To me that means that Eduardo Najera had better pack his bags seeing as how he is the last free agent on the Nuggets roster who is able to earn a contract for more than the league minimum.
In the end maybe it is unfair to the Nuggets to say they are bringing back the same team. If Eddie is shown the door along with his hustle, heart and smarts they will actually be slightly worse than last season.
Makes me wish I could afford season tickets.