Even though I knew the Nuggets first 32 games of the season was going to be brutal, I had no idea just how brutal it would be. A total of 22 of those games were on the road, with several back to backs sprinkled in there. Then Nuggets longest "homestand" was a mere two games during that stretch. That meant, before January 1st, the Nuggets played over HALF their road games.
When you stop to think about it, how is this team even contending with a brutal schedule like that?
We are used to the NBA being fairly predictable. While the best "team" always wins, that team usually has at least one identifiable "superstar". Been that way for as long as I can remember. The playoffs come around and suddenly the Lakers are shooting 27 free throws in the fourth quarter (2002 Western Conference Finals against the Kings), or Dwyane Wade is somehow unable to be touched in the last four games of the finals in 2006 against the Mavericks. We are used to this.
Yet, my advice would be to NOT sell this Nuggets team short. There are stars on this team, the league has yet to acknowledge them as such. Sneaky stars who help this team in a way the NBA has never seen before. No reliance on "take over" guys, but a collection of players who's only goal is to make the team work. This is well and truly an anomaly in the NBA. Refreshing? Yes, but also perfect for the market in which the team plays.
Maybe, just maybe this "team" concept is the kind of thing that will make the city of Denver sit up an take notice after 45 years of existence. While the city has been very slow to recognize the emergence of this team, you can feel the momentum shift, just like in the 2008-09 season. It gives you hope that, regardless of this playoff conclusion, this Nuggets team will be remembered and loved.
Sure, there's no LeBron James on this team, but we have Ty Lawson, Andre Iguodala, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari (injured), Evan Fournier, Kosta Koufos, JaVale McGee, Andre Miller, Corey Brewer and Wilson Chandler. A team of GREAT players that completely buys into the system in which they play, and plays for each other. Everyone steps up in the other one's place.
I hope that people now understand the definition of a great team is everyone pushing toward one goal, in unison. The Nuggets have a tremendous amount of talent on this team, but it would all be for naught if they didn't, in unison, buy in to what George Karl is preaching. This is a team you can be proud of. This is a team an entire city can and should get behind.
There's no qualifiers here. This team is legitimately great. To overcome the most brutal road schedule in the NBA since 1986, you have to be be good. Maybe the Nuggets should get more credit for that than they have? I remember saying over and over and over at the beginning of the year that once the Nuggets got past that brutal stretch of basketball they will be just fine. You know what, they exceeded even MY expectations.
The only thing left to do is go out there and kick some ass. Make this city proud of it's basketball team again. There is a momentum building right now, and if there's enough force behind it things will change in this city. Nuggets basketball is back baby!
Nuggets over Warriors in 5. Book it.
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78