Anger Management for Nuggets Fans

The Nuggets have come under a great deal of criticism so far this offseason.  In my opinion most of it has been miscast.  I have been disappointed in the reactions that many fans have had towards what the Nuggets have done over the last five or six weeks.

 

I am tired of reading some of the same old thoughtless garbage everyday and I guess I want to try to talk some sense into some of the Nuggets fans out there who are as down on the team as ever.  Here are eight arguments that I have seen in one form or another that I think are either incorrect or downright ignorant.

 

1.  Stan Kronke is a cheap skate that is not willing to pay for a winning basketball team.

 

Let’s start off with this one because it makes me very, very upset.  Like washing my hands only to realize I have to take a leak upset (you know, because I have to wash my hands again for the second time in less than a minute).  Kronke can be criticized for a few things, but being cheap is not one of them.  How many times has he prevented the front office from doing a deal because he was not willing to pay the extra salary?  I believe the answer to that is not once.

 

Yes, he has ordered a cutting of salary for this season.  Can you blame him?  He shelled out about $100 million in salary and luxury tax payments alone for a team that finished eighth in the conference and earned exactly zero postseason wins.

 

I would be worried about Kronke if he did not demand that the Nuggets cut salary.  The definition of insanity is doing something over and over the same way and expecting a different result.  Bringing back last year’s team as it was would have been insane.  Nuggets can rest assured that Stan Kronke will spend what it takes to win.

 

2.  The Denver Nuggets had a team worth keeping together.

 

One of the problems with the Nuggets fan base is that they do not think in terms of winning championships.  Many fans, and head coaches too, were thrilled with winning 50 games last year.  The danger for the Nuggets, and many other NBA teams, is measuring success by relatively meaningless milestones like winning 50 games.  I do not want to cheer for a team who measures success by anything other than championships.  Most fans will say that is too farfetched.  We should be happy with winning a playoff series or may be two.  After all this is the Denver Nuggets we are talking about. 

 

It is true that most championship teams have to work their way up the ladder, but hanging on to a flawed team in hopes that they can maybe squeak their way into the second round is a pathetic mindset.

 

Even though next season’s version of the Nuggets might be weaker than last season’s version, although if Nene can play 70 plus games there is no reason not to think that they cannot win 50 games and get swept in the first round again if those kind of “accomplishments” mean something to you, the future is brighter because they realized that changes had to be made.

 

3.  The current management is incompetent and I have no faith in them to build this team into a contender.

 

Well, I cannot really refute this one.  The current front office does not have a track record of building championship teams.  In fact, their track record suggests that the chances of the current management team building a championship caliber organization is about as likely as Rick Mahorn getting beat up in a WNBA brawl and that is certainly a concern.

 

However, the transactions they have completed so far this offseason have been solid.  I was very much against trading their first round pick in the 2008 draft, but I understand why they did it, which brings us to the next point.

 

4.  Why did they trade their draft pick to save money when they knew they were going to trade Marcus Camby to save money?

 

Here is another criticism that really bugs me.  The only way they could have dumped Camby’s salary was if a team with cap space or a trade exception was willing to bring him on board. When they traded the draft pick they had no idea, nor could they have foreseen the events that would transpire over the next two weeks, that lead to the opportunity to make the Camby salary dump.  On June 25th when the Nuggets agreed to trade the 20th pick in the 2008 draft to Charlotte there were no indications that Elton Brand was planning on opting out of his contract and the Clippers were not projected to have any salary cap room.  Also, in the event Brand did opt out it was considered highly likely that he would remain with the Clippers.

 

My point is that they had no idea that they would be able to dump $10 million off of their payroll at the time they traded away their draft pick.  Even had they known they were going to be able to make the Camby trade they would have also known that they would still be over the luxury tax limit and they may very well have traded their draft pick anyway.

 

5.  If they wanted to save money why didn’t they just fire George Karl?

 

Firing George Karl would have probably won them some PR points with disgruntled fans, but it probably would actually cost them money instead of saving any.  The contracts that coaches sign are guaranteed just like the contracts that players sign.  They may be able to work a buy out to reduce the amount they owe Karl this season, but then they would have to hire another coach and pay him.  They may be able to save some money by buying out Karl and hiring a cheap alternative, but not enough to alleviate the need to cut salary.

 

6.  How could they not get more for Marcus Camby?

 

Apparently Camby himself does not understand this one either.  We have already beaten the importance of the trade exception to death so let me just redirect you to this post as an explanation for how well the Nuggets actually did unloading Camby.

 

7.  Why did they give up two players for Renaldo Balkman?  He could not even get on the court for the Knicks and they suck!

 

It is true that Balkman played limited minutes with the Knicks and his numbers are not particularly impressive, but he is exactly the kind of player the Nuggets need.  If the primary problem that people have with him is he could not get more than 14 minutes of action on a terrible team, let me remind you all who the coach of the Knicks was during Balkman’s stay in Gotham.  It was Isaiah Thomas!  In case you have not been paying attention the past few years he is a complete buffoon.  (I hear what you are saying.  “Yes he is a buffoon.  He drafted Balkman in the first round!”  Everyone agrees that the one thing Thomas did well was draft.  It was certainly a shock when he drafted Balkman, but he is definitely an NBA player, which is more than you can say for many of the guys drafted ahead and behind him.)  Anyway, do not blame Balkman for not getting more minutes.  That is on Thomas.  I doubt he plays more than 20 minutes a game for Denver next year, but he will be a much more important player to the Nuggets than Bobby Jones or Taurean Green would have ever been.

 

8.  The front office has no plan.

 

This is another of my favorite complaints.  You can say the front office is deficient in every way.  You can say that their plan is a terrible one.  What you cannot say is they have no plan.  I guarantee you they have a plan.  What the plan is and how detailed the steps are we cannot know.  It seems clear from their actions that the first phase of the plan is to cut expenditures and stockpile assets.  We are in the middle of that phase and to draw conclusions before we see how it unfolds is silly.

 

I understand the frustration of Nuggets fans.  I too have been frustrated with this team from the top down over the previous couple of seasons.  I believe George Karl has failed the Nuggets.  The players have failed to do what is necessary to win.  The front office has failed to put a championship team on the floor.  That being said, I am not going to take an attitude of trashing them no matter what.  If they do something right, I am going to give them credit for it.

 

So far they have done well taking advantage of unforeseen circumstances.  Dumping Camby’s contract on the Clippers when Los Angeles was desperate to replace Brand was a very big step in reducing team salary.  Acquiring a very solid player that will fits a need in Balkman in exchange for a couple of non guaranteed contracts because the Knicks had to get down to the maximum contract level was a shrewd move as well.

 

Honestly the biggest mistake that Mark Warkentien made this offseason was the chess versus checkers comment he made to the media.  Despite the fact that his point was an appropriate one to make, it came across as condescending and gave fans, columnists and bloggers alike a line to mock endlessly.  The truth is many Nuggets fans and media members have been looking at this from a far too basic viewpoint.  This gets back to the issue that fans are reacting to these moves as if the Nuggets are tearing apart some dynastic force of a team.

 

The Nuggets do have a nice core of players.  If management can find the right mix of to fit in around them they certainly have a shot at becoming a championship caliber team.  It typically takes several years of careful planning, taking advantage of unforeseen opportunities, taking well thought out risks and some luck to build a true contender.

 

With the acquisition of Iverson the Nuggets took a risk with the intention of creating a contender.  I give them credit for that.  I can tolerate taking a good risk that ultimately fails as long as the goal is to win a championship.

 

What I cannot tolerate is a team that is content with losing every year in the first round of the playoffs and the moves the Nuggets are making is proving that they will not be content to just make the playoffs and I give them credit for that too.  It may take a year or two to get back to where they were last season, but if the team they put together at that point is a truly contending team it will be worth it.

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