Seemingly wherever you go, the media is busy pointing out the failures, the flops and the shockingly different Nuggets this season. It's a new system, less flashy. Less full of moles and holes. The familiar entertaining but ultimately futile Karl era teams are long gone, and its transformation into Shaw's Soldiers of the half court has been full of uncertainty and doubt.
We don't have to look far to find the doubters at home, either. These Nuggets have already been written off by the 104.3 The Fan's morning show (to the surprise of virtually nobody). There are more than a few here who also think that this team should just roll over like the Utah Jazz and deconstruct this team, one Kenneth Faried at a time.
National pundits have begun to circle this team like vultures, predicting lottery, watching for a struggling team to finally succumb and put the for sale sign up in the front window.
But that blood in the water might just be food coloring.
To be sure, these first seven games have been a slog. Calling the offense ugly (until recently) would be understating just how bad it's looked. Shaw has been remarkably patient as he still tries to find the right combination of players. Meanwhile, the Nuggets have been forced into giving significant playing time to Anthony Randolph, who stepped in valiantly - but largely ineffectively - during the absences of Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. The defense has struggled mightily, fighting their old impulses under Karl to play the passing lanes, switch screens, to spin the roulette wheel and hope for the best.
After 2 straight wins over the (bad) Utah Jazz and the (surprisingly decent) Lakers, the Nuggets seem like they may finally have a foundation to build off of going forward. In the last two games, the Nuggets have won by an average of 15 1/2 points. They outrebounded the Jazz by 17 and the Lakers by 7. Against the Jazz, Faried turned in a solid 15 points and 13 rebounds, then followed that up with 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers. Chandler's return finally gave the Nuggets a true starting wing back, and he responded with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals, including some critical three pointers. Lawson has been a revelation, and is averaging 21.7 points per game, highest amongst all point guards in the NBA. It's very possible that if Lawson can maintain his level of play, he may finally break through as an All-Star. Derided by many - even me - as a clumsy, stone-handed lumbering golem, Timofey Mozgov shut us all up with a 23 point, 9 rebound 4 block effort to help seal up the game against the Lakers' Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill.
It's been bad, no doubt. The early struggles cast the shadow of doubt over a team already in the dark, feeling their way to the light. The Nuggets could still be derailed by whatever cursed spirit is haunting their tendons and ligaments, sure.
Yet the Nuggets are 3-4 and are just 1 game below .500. Barely a tenth of season has been played. Before the chorus chant swells to roll out the Abrams, this team deserves a better chance than we've (myself included) given them.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Denver has made it clear to Kenneth Faried's reps: There are no active talks involving him. Knicks offered Shumpert. Denver rejected idea.</p>— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) <a href="https://twitter.com/WojYahooNBA/statuses/400760904263794688">November 13, 2013</a></blockquote>
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Enough said. It's sort of hilarious to me that the Knicks are so desperate for help in the frontcourt that they have to float a trial balloon in Iman Shumpert out there via Frank Isola.
With the second highest point differential in the Western Conference, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and... Corey Brewer! are making noise for a Timberwolves team that hasn't been relevant since Kevin Garnett was there. If they can avoid the injuries that derailed them last season, they could be a force in the playoffs. The Nuggets play them on Friday at the Pepsi Center, in what will be another early big game for this team.
Mike Krzyzewski won't even give it a thought and frankly, neither should we.