The Nuggets bring in the New Year by playing the NBA's worst team (record-wise). But if the Nuggets players feel anything like I do today, they may be in for a long night.
For starters, Happy New Year to our fellow Stiffs. I hope everyone had a fun - and safe - New Year's Eve last night. Especially those who live in the Denver area where the roads were somewhat dicey.
I don't know about you, but I had a wonderful New Year's Eve. It began with a late dinner with a few friends, followed by an evening of dancing and drinking at a night club that ended way past my bedtime. I wasn't at one of Denver's "premier" New Year's parties, however, so I didn't spot any Nuggets or Kings players partying it up. I hope for our Nuggets sake that the young Kings players partied more than the Nuggets veterans did.
In theory, the Nuggets players could have partied into the early morning today while the Kings players rested up and the Nuggets would still win handily. In theory. But these being the never-met-a-fourth-quarter-lead-we-couldn't-blow Nuggets of 2010-11, I suspect tonight's game will present it's challenges just as any other game has to date this season.
Nevertheless, the Kings are terrible. Holders of the NBA's worst record at 6-23, a team that I had once pegged to be an up-and-comer in the NBA this season has become a cautionary tale about small market teams trying to rebuild with cap space and draft picks (sound familiar, Nuggets fans?). What's sad about Sacramento's situation is that their awful record tells just a part of the story.
Recent articles by Yahoo! Sports' Marc Spears and FanHouse's Sam Amick detail the dysfunction taking place among the Kings players and coaching staff. Despite having stable ownership in the Maloof brothers and a veteran head coach, the Kings have become rudderless on the court thanks largely to the immaturity of rookie DeMarcus Cousins and the recent struggles of second year star Tyreke Evans. Frankly, it's sad. I've always been a fan of small market teams who build the right way and the Kings should be performing better with the pieces they've assembled in California's capital city. The heydays of Chris Webber, Vlade Divac, Mike Bibby and Doug Christie's crazy wife are long gone. Oddly enough, the Nuggets dropped two of three games against the lowly Kings last season (Carmelo Anthony missed two of those games, however).
Our Nuggets, on the other hand, remain in their heyday (for a few more weeks at least). Just as the Kings' record doesn't tell their whole story, neither does the Nuggets 18-13 record. If ever there was a game that showed how good this Nuggets team is (or can be), it was Wednesday's victory over a rested Timberwolves team in Minnesota. No Carmelo Anthony, no Kenyon Martin, no Nene, no Al Harrington...no matter. George Karl and his coaching staff were able to put together a game plan and the reserves were able to execute it. The Wolves are bad, to be certain, but not that bad. This is why I believe the Nuggets have conference finals potential if their roster is fully healthy.
The Nuggets ultimate fate, of course, is tied to one Carmelo Anthony who makes his return tonight after missing five games due to the tragic death of his 38 year old sister. Melo finally spoke to the media in the wake of his sister's passing, and I hope the basketball court provides him some relief during his grieving process. I expect a raucous cheer in support of Melo from the few people who show up at Pepsi Center tonight. Nuggets fans have been class acts all season long in regards to Melo and tonight should be no different.
After missing the last few home games, I'll be back in my usual seats. So if you're coming to the game, email me beforehand and we'll say hello at some point. Now I need some Excedrin...
SCOUTING THE KINGS...
-Tyreke Evans: Evans is having a crappy sophomore season (trust me, I know - he's on my fantasy team) but is still capable of big production on any given night. Evans canned a game-winner against the Nuggets in Sacramento last season and nailed a remarkable half-court game-winner against the Grizzlies just the other night.
-Omri Casspi: Casspi is suffering from a sophomore slump, too, but look for him to play better for the remainder of the season.
-DeMarcus Cousins: Cousins has exceeded his reputation for being a head case by fighting with coaches, teammates and making obscene choking gestures to opponents. But once this kid figures it out, he could be pretty damn good.
-Jason Thompson: What the hell happened to Thompson? At 6'11" and 250 pounds, Thompson showed great promise the previous two seasons. But like all of his Kings teammates, he has regressed big time this season.
-Samuel Dalembert: Further proof that size does not equal good basketball, Dalembert is having his worst season as a pro since his rookie year, "shooting" 40% from the field.
The Kings are proof that rebuilding through the draft guarantees absolutely nothing. The Kings haven't been relevant since 2005-06 and won't be relevant for several years to come.