What to do on a long holiday drive home from the middle of nowhere?
Think of how much I actually enjoy a healthy Nuggets roster and how much I'm looking forward to seeing the Nuggets from here on.
I had a lot of time on my hands yesterday. Driving back from a quick day-long business trip can lead one to think quite a bit. This time it was centered on the Nuggets current roster and on how much, in actuality, I enjoy this lineup when it's been healthy. What are it's virtues? Where do the Nuggets need to improve?
There has never been a nickname I enjoy more than the Thuggets. Even though for some it holds a derogatory connotation ... for me it's something that is near and dear to my heart. In the 2008-2009 season the Nuggets owned that tag. They embraced it wholeheartedly and it became a team identity. Who can forget Dahntay Jones tripping Kobe Bryant in the playoffs? And Jones getting Chris Paul so flustered in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series he never recovered mentally. How about when Kenyon Martin planted Dirk Nowitzki into the Pepsi Center floor? Chris Andersen was tattooing basketballs on Rudy Fernandez's face. The meanness of the team was a thing to behold.
The edge is still there, but it's been seriously affected by the injuries. I can attribute this almost directly to Martin's and Birdman's knee issues and various nagging injuries. Energy (Birdman) and Edge (K-Mart) are what gives this team its identity. Not the offense it runs, and not the defense it plays. When I got back from my trip late last night I caught the replay of the game and watched this team sleepwalk through a victory over the Sacramento Kings that was very reminiscent in my mind of 2008-09 team because of what a healthy K-Mart and Birdman provide the Nuggets.
Thuggets: Us against the world
All of us, by now, are familiar with what the players in the League and its fans think of Denver. Not very highly. The prognosticators all had the Nuggets finishing anywhere from 6th to 13th in the Western Conference. Granted, there was an expectation that Carmelo Anthony would be traded by now ... and I don't particularly blame those who had those expectations. Once we got into the season, however, there's been this zeal to pick at the carcass of the Denver Nuggets. I'm starting to take it personally. On top of talking bad about the team, it's the insulting and condescending tones expressed toward Denver as an undesirable location for players that is irking me.
There's no better time to build the "us against the world" mentality than right now. From Nuggets fans to Nuggets players. If everyone thinks you should reside on the scrapheap of life, then maybe you should go out and prove that you don't. Denver is currently on a three-game winning streak and, while they haven't played their best it should certainly show that they are an above average team when healthy. The Nuggets need to take respect. Prove yourself in every game. Show the rest of the world who wants to prey on you like vultures that indeed we as Thuggets Nation are alive and well!
Thuggets: Time to heal and get better
The advantage of having a completely healthy roster is it eliminates the built in excuses. When Al Harrington gets back from his thumb injury (perhaps Monday night vs. the Rockets) we will have a pretty good idea of what this team looks like as currently constructed for the first time this season. There can be no fallback position. Essentially from this point on, every game is a reflection of who the Nuggets truly are. George Karl is healthy and coaching. K-Mart and Bird are injury free. Chauncey Billups has bounced back nicely from his hand injury. Melo has returned from his leave and Harrington will be back soon and coming off the bench.
Finally we will see the roster as it was intended to be structured when Mark Warkentien signed Big Al in the summer. So let's see how they do. The great thing about it is there's some finality to it. No more "what if" no more "wait until".
The Nuggets have compiled a 19-13 currently. As far as I'm concerned the record is 0-0 and anything that happens from here on out will not only affect the Nuggets this season, but how the Nuggets are constructed for future seasons. Yes, it creates a bit of fan anxiety, but on a whole this sort of thing excites me. Going forward, we can see how the "Thuggets" vision of Mark Warkentien matches up from here on with the viewpoint of current Vice President of Player Personnel Masai Ujiri and team President Josh Kroenke.
Thuggets: It could be the another chapter ... or the end
Based on how the team performs we could be seeing either the beginning of a playoff run, or the sad final moments of an era in Denver. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective) we may be seeing the last of the best era in the history of the organization. Either way ... we will know. I'm looking forward to seeing if the Nuggets can finally put a winning streak together on the road. I'm looking forward (in January) to seeing how the Nuggets stack up against the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers with a healthy team. I'm done, quite frankly, worrying about the future and regretting the past. Life is too short ... time to start enjoying a good team. What happens will happen, right now we might as well start enjoying our Thuggets play rather than dreading the future.
James - Tomorrow (via psymatt)