EDIT: I know we lost to the Mavs. But the message remains the same.
So, yeah. I'm not too sure what I plan to say here but whatever.
Warning: fragments of life story and *gasp* optimism may be found below.
I think I'll start by explaining how I became a Nuggets fan. It's weird, actually. I've never lived in Denver. I've never even been there. Get this: I've never even seen a Nuggets game live.
I've already lived in seven or eight different US cities by now, despite only being in high school. So as a result, my fanhood is a little weird (Mariners fan, former Pacers fan, part-time Colts fan, part-time Bruins fan). Now those were teams that were good when I lived in those cities, so it's natural that I might root for them. The Denver Nuggets, however, are a different case.
Carmelo Anthony (15) on his way to winning the NCAA tournament and the Most Outstanding Player award.
Like many of you, 2003 was the first season I took notice in the Nuggets (back when I was even younger than LACK). You probably all know the reason too: that guy in the picture above. To be honest I don't even remember how I became a Carmelo fan. Maybe it was his name. Maybe it was that I foolishly thought Lebron would be a bust and was tired of all of my friends telling me how awesome he was. Maybe it was that Orangemen is a great team name. Whatever it was, he quickly became one of my favorite NBA players, behind Yao Ming and Reggie Miller. Yes I was a weird kid back then. Still am.
Anyway, I kept an eye on the Denver team which had somehow made the playoffs after a truly awful season the year before. I spent 2003-04 rooting for Indiana, but I do distinctly recall feeling pretty upset that Lebron won Rookie of the Year. And it was thus that after the Pacers imploded in the debacle that was their 2004-05 season, I found myself cheering for the unlikeliest of candidates: the Nuggets. It was somewhat poorly timed, because the Nugs would end up winning exactly 2 playoff games over 10 tries in the next two years.
Then in 2006, when the Nuggets traded for Allen Iverson, I was elated. My main teams that I followed had not been particularly successful as of late; the Mariners had just come off two seasons of futility and the Nuggets seemed to be stuck in that whole get-bounced-in-the-first-round routine that I was afraid would continue for a while. So, like pretty much everyone I knew, I figured the Nuggets would become a legitimate title contender with AI on board.
Allen Iverson, right, played a key role in leading the Nuggets to 50 wins in 2007-08.
Yep. Another two years, another two playoff losses. This time they won just 1 playoff game in 9 tries.
Throughout this whole time, Melo remained my favorite non-Yao player. Now, he had screwed up pretty badly. We all know it. He wasn't exactly horrible but because of his off-court issues, coupled with his inability to win anything and his lower numbers, he began to fall under the long shadows cast by draft-mates Dwyane Wade and Lebron James. Significant improvement was on the horizon, though (read: Beijing). But with the struggles of the Nuggets as a team growing, and the hopes of an AI-Melo championship duo fading, what motive did I have to stick with a team that seemed to be going nowhere? I mean besides not wanting to look like I was jumping on someone else's bandwagon. And to be honest, I couldn't figure it out. (no it was probably the jerseys. the Nuggets have like some of the best jerseys in the league and we take them for granted.)
Chauncey Billups, right, became the team leader the moment he joined the team. He has led the Nuggets to back-to-back 50 win seasons (knock on wood) and helped stretch Denver's 50-win streak to 3 seasons.
At any rate the Nuggets wouldn't have AI for too long, and as we all know Chauncey would come to the team in 2008 and holy crap what a difference he would make.
2003-2008: playoff record of 4-20.
2009: playoff record of 10-6.
Chris Birdman, under, has been an invaluable shot-blocking, game-changing presence since arriving with the Nuggets.
And that brings us back to the present. 2010. Year in which the Blazers, Rockets, and Spurs fell as the Suns, Mavericks, former-Sonics, and Jazz rose. There's been a lot of turnover this year, to be honest. Even in the East we're getting things like the Wizards collapsing, the Bucks and Hawks surprising, and the Nets shocking everybody by winning their ninth game. I mean talk about a thrill ride of a season.
Not the Nuggets.
Now it definitely feels like a completely different season. We have new players, and we have old players who are having career seasons. We have an inexperienced coach who due to extremely unfortunate circumstances has been thrust into the role of head coach right smack in the middle of the hunt for the #2 seed.
But at the same time, a lot of it is still the same. Melo continues to dominate offensively while shortchanging things somewhat on the defensive end. He continues to hit crucial buzzer beating jumpers right in his opponents' faces. Chauncey continues to be the same leadership-providing, transition-3-loving point we all respect and admire (usually). JR continues to do things like hit 10 3's in a single game, throw down a 360 alley oop, and shoot 1-8 on multiple occasions. Bird continues to block shots. Balkman continues to not contribute anything relevant to the team. AC continues to chalk up assists, and then help us go back to hating him when he commits four turnovers. Nene continues to make us all think he'd be an All-Star if he got the ball more. And hey, looks like we're on track for 54 wins again too.
It's been a tough season in a lot of ways. We came in thinking this could be our year. We hoped that a few lucky breaks and some overachieving from the Nuggets would be enough to lead us, perhaps, to an NBA championship. It was definitely plausible. Looking at the schedule, I count 12 games that could have and should have been wins. If the Nugs come away with just 7 of those, they're in first place in the West.
But we haven't gotten any lucky breaks. No overachieving either. It's been a could-have-should-have type of season.
And yet it's not over. There's still games to be played. Still a full playoffs ahead of us. No one knows how this one is going to end. It's a cliche, but here it is: the slate is wiped clean for the NBA playoffs. Brand new.
Well, kind of brand new. Hopefully we get our coach/players back from cancer/injury. KMart: back (please). George Karl: back (and hopefully well on the way to recovery). Ty Lawson: hell yes (he really had better be back). It's funny, because those are the same guys we started the season with. Along with Melo, and Chauncey, and JR, and...you get the idea. It's funny, but I think that's why I've stuck with the Nuggets despite not being from Denver: they've had the same core of players (Melo, Nene, KMart, JR, now Chauncey) for years now and every year you're ready for them to take the next step. It's an exciting team that has that whole us-against-
David Stern-the-world thing working.
Don't tell me about stats. I don't care. I don't want to hear anything about matchup problems either. The Nuggets, as has been well-established, can beat anyone, anytime. If they play their best.
So. Season: not over yet. GO NUGGETS