That season, the Nuggets went 27 -14 at Pepsi Center and finished with an overall 40-42 record (which was their best record in 6 seasons ... which tells you how bad that period was for the Nuggets). The reason I bring this up was that team was decidedly mediocre despite having some talent with Antonio McDyess and Nick Van Exel. There was no real vibe to the games at Pepsi Center and the tepid fan vibe contributed to the overall malaise that fell over the team toward the end of that season.
This season your Denver Nuggets are an uninspiring 7-6 at home, on the road they are 7-7. They are playing like a team that doesn't have one of the greatest home court advantages in all of sports.
Why do I bring that up? This year's team has the same mediocre stink about them and the crowd at Pepsi Center has responded in kind. The Nuggets listless, lifeless and borderline sleepy performances ... particularly in the fourth quarter have taken the greatest home court advantage in the NBA and rendered it completely meaningless. What's worse, its not the opposing team that is getting tired in the fourth quarter of the game ... it's the Nuggets.
Running at home is what tired teams out. It is what made the Nuggets virtually unbeatable at home last season.
Coach Brian Shaw insists that he hasn't slowed the pace down, and that the team is simply not doing what he is asking him to do. This is curious. There's two possibilities, and neither of them are appetizing for Nuggets fans. 1. Either Shaw is telling the public one thing, and saying another to the team or ... 2. The players simply aren't listening to Shaw and are either doing what they want, or are not good enough to understand.
Option one is not thrilling, but sometimes understandable. Shaw has been peppered with questions (often by myself and Nate Timmons) about the Nuggets lack of pace, and more specifically how they have gone from a faster pace than they played last year (during the 7 game winning streak) to, since the Cleveland game, playing as a MUCH slower and more deliberate pace. Check out Nate Timmons' write up on the pace factor right here. Option two - which Shaw seems to be hinting at - is much more serious and points to either a disconnect between he and his players OR it means that they just are disregarding him. It comes back to the old bromide, does the square peg fit into the round hole?
All of this leads to tepid/milquetoast performances that have no enthusiasm. This reminds me of Nick Van Exel, stone faced, bringing the ball up the court and heaving a 20 foot contested shot with no emotion. This reminds me of Voshon Leonard clanging open threes. This reminds me of Antonio McDyess and his sweet turn around baseline jumper that he used far too much.
This brings us all to the question about what the particular motivation for this season is. Is it for development? Well, doesn't seem to be because Evan Fournier struggles to see the floor anymore and an increasingly irrelevant Randy Foye continues to start (although Foye played around 7 minutes in the Golden State game). Is it about winning? Well, the Nuggets are ... kind of, doing that. I guess.
The biggest problem the team has is there is zero identity. JaVale McGee has been such a non factor in his time in Denver that people have largely moved on mentally without him. Everyone seems to want Danilo Gallinari desperately to return, but it will take him awhile to get back into playing shape and mentality once he comes back. Fans are struggling to grasp on to something ... ANYTHING to make this season less drab.
We are at Christmas break now. The team returns to action on Friday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. Maybe between now and then the Nuggets will have found that thing that makes things less bland. The fans at Pepsi Center and becoming increasingly disconnected from the team, and there needs to be a jolt of energy to wake everyone up.
On Monday night, the crowd seemed to be "in" to the game because Andre Iguodala was making his return and the booing brought everyone together. The Nuggets need more than negative energy directed at another team to make people excited again.
What will that moment be?
REMINDER: STIFFS NIGHT OUT
HOLIDAY EDITION THIS SATURDAY
Join your fellow Stiffs at Jake's Food & Spirits as the Nuggets take on the Grizzlies in Memphis at 6pm. As part of the festivities we'll be giving out an autographed Ty Lawson jersey. Be sure to RSVP here or on our Facebook event page.