After the loss in Sacramento, the reaction from Denver Stiffs readers seemed to be that of disgust and anger. I mean, how can a team that most projected to at least challenge for the Western Conference's best record, play like a team that is headed for the lottery? Many of you pointed out (rightfully) that the Nuggets just did not put forth 100% effort when going on the road (as evidenced by an 8-11 road record, good for 8th out of 15 West teams). There is also the issue of losing to bad teams (as evidenced by an 11-8 record against sub-.500 teams, this is not good).
But in the end, the Nuggets will be fine. Maybe not great like we had hoped for; but at this point, nearly halfway into the season, this is pretty much it. Unless the FO can trade for an impact player, this is the Nuggets. Frustrating on the road, brilliant at home, frustrating against bad teams, brilliant against good teams, unable to win without their stars, able to win without their stars.
The team is good. They will make the playoffs, they will probably cruise to a division title and at least a 3rd seed (unless Portland makes a big trade which would drop Denver to maybe 4th or 5th), all on talent alone.
Sure, we had hoped before the season that the Nuggets would win 55ish, maybe even 60 games if everything broke exactly right. But unfortunately, reality kicked in (in my opinion) after the loss to a severely undermanned Detroit team on December 10th. All the problems we saw in advance (lack of rebounding, lack of size, inconsistency from JR) were compounded by several key injuries as well as newer, more unexpected problems (poor defense, slow starts for Birdman and Chauncey, why the heck does Balkman never play). Also, Anthony Carter.
Can the Nuggets win 60 games? Yes, they can. But if you want to be technical about it, they can also lose
60 59 games and hope no one notices.
Can the Nuggets win 50 games? Well, it would require them to go 27-18 the rest of the way. Considering that they have 23 games left at home and 22 on the road, 27-18 should be reached. The schedule does get tougher though, particularly in the month of February, when the Nuggets will visit Cleveland, Utah, and the Lakers twice, and receive visits from Phoenix, San Antonio, Dallas, and Boston. Next month also comes complete with 3 back-to-backs, with 2 of the 3 being road back-to-backs.
For us fans though, we realistically cannot expect the Nuggets to overtake the Lakers. Whereas our team is not very deep and pretty banged up, the Lakers have a ton of depth and Kobe playing at an elite level with, what is it, 3 fingers on each hand? Despite this, we can hope for the Nuggets to overtake Phoenix and Dallas while holding off Portland and San Antonio.
Even if they don't acquire a big man, the Nuggets will still be fine. They might have a tougher time down the stretch, but as presently constructed the Nuggets do have the talent to stay among the top 3 in the West. It's just not reasonable to expect a big trade or a "wake-up call" at this point. It could happen, but the chances are small at best. (And no, firing the longtime coach in the midst of a potential 50-game season is not the best way to "wake up" the team.)
So let us, the fans, calm down and be thankful for what should be a good season, and keep the disgust level to a minimum. Because in the end, there is one thing which brings us all together: we all hope that, sometime in June, there will come a time when Anthony Carter is holding a basketball and we are not shielding our eyes, because the ball in his hands is golden.