As I feared the Nuggets have once again decided to cut some costs along the fringes of the team in order to shave a little bit off their luxury tax bill.
Last year the choice was to let Steve Blake walk in order to save a couple of million bucks on Chucky Atkins. That was a disaster.
This year the savings are going to come at the expense of the only player who could shoot threes, move without the ball, play defense and who actually chose to dive on the floor for loose balls. I have no idea who will end up taking Eduardo Najera’s place on the roster, but I guarantee you that it whoever it is will be a poor replication of what he did for the Nuggets.
Najera certainly had his flaws. He was undersized and was not a particularly good rebounder for a power forward. His offense was limited to his crafty and perfectly timed cuts through the lane and his newly developed three point jumper. However, he was a perfect role player for this team. Najera did not need the ball in his hands to be effective and he cared about playing defense. Plus it is not like he signed a ridiculous contract. He is only going to cost the New Jersey Nets $3 million dollars a season.
With the loss of Najera the only way the Nuggets will be able to improve on their performance from last season is if they get a career year from Melo on both ends of the floor, J.R. Smith becomes a consistent contributor and turns into a scoring and playmaking force, AI, Camby, Nene and Kenyon Martin all stay healthy and George Karl coaching his way is vastly more effective from George Karl coaching whoever’s way it was he coached the past two seasons. If Karl is going to dedicate himself to coaching defense next season that task will be much more difficult without Najera ready to enter the game and do whatever is asked of him.
I had very little excitement about next season, what excitement I did have dissipated when I read the quote from Anthony Carter sharing what Karl told him about bringing back nearly everyone from last season. Now with the departure of Najera I already just want the 2008-2009 season to be over.
Of course, there is always a chance that the Nuggets decide that they are selling enough jerseys to bring back next year’s team in 2009-2010 minus yet another important piece of an already incomplete puzzle. Should that happen someone else will have to take over writing this blog.
I understand that there are financial realities that none of us have to deal with. Even without Najera Stan Kronke is making a serious financial commitment to this team. What I do not understand is why he is willing to go this far, but will not pay a little bit more to do all he can to put together a contending team. It is almost as if he has purchased the finest private jet that money can buy, but then decided that the expense of hiring a pilot to fly it was more than he could bear. I appreciate the nice plane, but it is not going to do anyone any good without someone to fly it.
The Nuggets have a bunch of talent, but by not going the extra mile to bring back guys like Steve Blake and Eduardo Najera the Nuggets are giving their fans a plane that will never go anywhere.
After five straight years of embarrassing first round exits I am sick and tired of looking at the nice plane.