The Nugggets in many ways have struggled for a very long time with mediocrity and a term many basketball-types refer to as “middling”. The term is a bit nebulous, it kind of means getting outed in the first round of the playoffs, but it’s also a reference to player quality. The last two seasons, we were not “middling”. Until the trade this year we were. I would argue two seasons ago we were the best, I would argue that Billups lost it and Lawson/Felton won’t/can’t. I would argue last season we were better than we showed in the playoffs because of irreplaceable injuries (specifically GK, Kmart), and we were probably better then the year before.
Now, we have serious speculation about whether we are better this year than the past two seasons. Logically, if we are better now than when we were vying for a title spot we are in a world of top 5 contenders. In very particular order 1. Bulls 2. Lakers 3. Nugz 4. Orlando 5. Miami is my opinion- with the Celtics and Spurs in the mix if/when they pull out of their Moby Dick bball doldrums.
Beating the Lakers on the road at this time of the season is what championships are made of. I honestly thought we would win by a little more. What I noticed was perhaps that we were playing scared ball. We were playing like we were supposed to lose, like we are afraid of our own talent and potential. But not Danilo, Danilo will be integral to our success, he was very significant in an important game, he will be the one to show our team that we are better. That we are a team that should embrace superiority and dismiss “middling”.
Playing scared had ramifications last night, missed layups, missed free throws, and janked open looks. Players with “Oh man if I miss this…” looks on their faces. Luckily we had some players with a little moxy in them, Kmart, Nene, and ‘Nilo had respectable looking stat lines. But Felton/Lawson had moments as well. Kmart’s career of putbacks was highlighted last night, he made a statement that he is our veteran leader, and he will be the toughest he’s ever been.
We’re going to need this same Kmart in the playoffs, and I’m not concerned- he’s going to be there. He’s going to tear teams to shreds. He’s going to because it’s time for him, because he deserves it ”I’ve been around this game, I know how to play, I’m a winner. Melo is a great player, I’m not taking that from him, but Melo didn’t make this team.” says the one-time first pick, long time subservient “I mean that in no disrespectful way whatsoever. But it’s a team. It’s not tennis, it’s not golf, it’s not an individual sport. But I have pride, and guys on this team have pride.” I think basketball deserves us winning, a lion’s roar against overpaid stardom and selfishness.
Great basketball should have an excellent story, something special to it. Our story begins with our players fates intertwining the way they have. Without AI, we never get Chauncey, without Chauncey- we never get Afflalo. Without Melo and Chauncey we never get Nilo, Chandler, Felton. Without Melo we never attract any of the talent. We get to watch long time buddy-ballers from New Orleans JR and Bird buddy stomp in the paint. We get to watch Nene and KMart prove their metal and give back to us after years of almost-ball. We get to watch two PG’s from the same dynasty create their own new dynasty.
And that’s what we have in the Nugz now, the beginnings of a dynasty- and really the reason for the title of this post, all that glitters. We have an era in the making, a group of men with blooming potential.
We have Mozgov who is going to become a top 5 center. We have Lawson who is fast becoming an All-Star PG. We have Nene who wants to commit further, we have Afflalo the best % shooter in the league, we have Nilo to rally on, we have J.R. and Bird to dunk with, Chandler on defense and mid-range, Harrington- to eat all the taco’s, and the promise of cheap young talent in future first round picks. We are truly no longer fool’s or upstarts, we are all that glitters. It’s time for gold.