50-win NBA seasons come in different shapes and sizes. But for a long time in Denver, they were altogether non-existent.
If you're a good NBA team, 50 wins should be a no-brainer. Win 75% of your 41 home games (31 wins, 10 losses) and 50% of your 41 road games (20-21 wins, 20-21 losses) and you have your 50 win season.
See? Isn't that simple?
Well, not so fast.
Prior to the 2007-08 campaign, the Nuggets went two straight decades without a 50 win season. And with Bernie Bickerstaff, Allan Bristow and Dan Issel running things around here, the thought of reaching the 50 win mark was more fantasy than reality.
Today, the Nuggets are on the verge of wrapping up their fourth consecutive 50 win season. To put that into historical perspective, before the 2007-08 season the NBA Nuggets (not to be confused with their ABA predecessors who twice won north of 60 games) had reached the 50 win plateau only three times total, and never consecutively. (Of course, the NBA was more competitive back then and not as talent diluted as it is now, but we'll take our 50 win seasons however we can get them.)
And yet no 50 win season is exactly the same as the others.
For example, even though the Nuggets reached the 50 win mark in 2007-08 for the first time in 20 years, that season was actually a colossal disappointment. Armed with one of the most talented (and the most expensive) rosters ever assembled in Nuggets history, the Nuggets barely made the playoffs and all they got for their 50 wins was a first round, embarrassingly non-competitive sweep at the hands of the Lakers. All season long the Nuggets played bad teams with a sense of indifference, and it cost them all their preseason hopes of actually winning a playoff series during the Carmelo Anthony Era.
2008-09's 54 win season was a different matter altogether. Prior to the season, the Nuggets shipped out starting center Marcus Camby for a trade exception and made no substantive off-season moves other than giving Dahntay Jones and Chris Andersen minimum one-year contracts. Many thought the Nuggets would have a .500 (or worse) record and miss the playoffs altogether, never mind get anywhere near 50 wins. Proving their doubters wrong, the Nuggets matched their NBA-best record with 54 wins, secured the Western Conference's second seed and marched into the conference finals.
Last season the Nuggets won 53 games, their second best total since joining the NBA in 1976. But that season was tarnished somewhat knowing that the Nuggets could have broken their 54-win mark had George Karl not been stricken with cancer and had Kenyon Martin not gotten hurt down the stretch (and had Melo and Chauncey Billups actually displayed some leadership in Karl's absence, but we can debate that another day).
And this season - akin to what was accomplished in 2008-09 - will be nothing short of remarkable when the Nuggets get to 50 wins again. During the eye of the Melodrama storm, the Nuggets looked like a team destined to end up in the 46-47 win range and with a low playoff seed. Then, when Melo was traded for four role players who couldn't even keep the Knicks afloat in the pathetic Leastern Conference, 46 wins and any playoff seed would have been regarded as a success. Instead, thanks to a great coaching effort by Karl and a plethora of surprises from the new (and old) Nuggets, we're heading towards our fourth straight 50-win season and a respectable five-seed. I certainly didn't foresee this happening.
Quietly - and in spite of all the griping about Karl's coaching, Kiki Vandeweghe and then Mark Warkentien's management style, or how the Kroenkes allegedly run the team on the cheap - the Nuggets have put together a competitive on-the-floor outfit for eight straight seasons now. Camby has come and gone. Andre Miller has come and gone. Allen Iverson has come and gone. Billups has come and gone. And now Melo has come and gone. And yet the Nuggets are one of just three Western Conference teams (Dallas and San Antonio being the other two) to complete in eight consecutive playoff series and should soon be one of just four, including the Lakers, to notch 50 wins for four consecutive seasons.
So while the Nuggets may have rest on their minds with two games to go against two shoddy opponents, I hope they give a good effort on Monday night and bring win number 50 home for just the seventh time in their NBA history. Because a day will come again when winning 50 games won't be as routine as it seems right now.
On to the links...
"There is NO MELO in TEAM" T-shirts
Check out these new T-shirts created by Nuggets fan KG!
Nuggets eager to reach 50-win milestone - The Denver Post
At least the 50-win mark is on the Nuggets' collective minds and they aren't going to lay down tonight.
George Karl wants to see the Mavs in the playoffs, badly - Ball Don't Lie - NBA Blog - Yahoo! Sports
Scott Hastings accused "bloggers" (gee, I wonder who he was talking about) of blowing Karl's comments about the Mavericks out of proportion, even though neither myself, Nate or Jeff got on Karl's case about those dumb remarks regarding the Mavericks...
Dallas Mavericks' Rick Carlisle: Denver Nuggets' George Karl's jab 'great motivation' for Mavs - ESPN Dallas
...but we should have, because now Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said Nuggets coach George Karl's quote would be good bulletin-board material. Memo to Coach Karl: please don't tell other teams how we're going to beat them in the playoffs!!
Krieger: Too many variables for Nuggets - The Denver Post
Dave Krieger writes about the various playoff scenarios that could unfold for the Nuggets, and why they shouldn't/can't worry about who they'll play in the first round of the playoffs.
Nuggets' Gallinari is Italy's gift to Denver - The Denver Post
Benjamin Hochman writes a great column detailing Danilo Gallinari's basketball pedigree, including the days when his father played against Karl's Real Madrid team in Europe.
Turn Him Loose
Mile High Sports' James Merillatt argues that Karl should give J.R. Smith more freedom to take over games.
Mythbusters: Lawson puts the hot hand to the test - CBSSports.com
Royce Young dissects Ty Lawson's incredible 10-for-10 shooting night from three-point range.
Kroenke mounts full takeover bid for Arsenal - MLB - Yahoo! Sports
American businessman Stan Kroenke has agreed to a full takeover of Arsenal that values the Premier League club at $1.2 billion and should end the long-running uncertainty about its ownership.
Lakers, Phil Jackson ramping up effort to oppose Kings' move - NBA - SI.com
Sam Amick writes that the Kings' biggest ally to keep them in Sacramento may just be their biggest enemy: Phil Jackson.