I understand what Brian Shaw, Josh Kroenke and Tim Connelly are trying to do. I really do.
The Nuggets lack of execution in half court offenses, traditionally, has bitten them come playoff time. It seems that all teams really had to do (with the obvious exception of the Golden State Warriors last season, they out ran the Nuggets in the post season ... and made more shots) is pack the lanes and dare the "shooters" on the Nuggets to shoot. It was a simple recipe that worked in many of the Nuggets first round exits.
Except for one season - 2009. That season was most definitely an anomaly in this recent run of success in Nuggets land. However, we may be able to learn something from that team that maybe we have forgotten with the passage of time. Of the Carmelo Anthony era Nuggets, that was one of the "slowest" paced teams of that run. In the last Allen Iverson year, 2007-08, the Nuggets lead the league in pace. They were second in pace in 2007, as well as 2006. In the year they made their run to the Western Conference Finals, they had dropped all the way down to 6th in pace.
As the story goes, Chauncey Billups was alarmed to see there were no set plays run by the Nuggets. In fact, there weren't even any out of bounds plays drawn up. So CB, being the kind of guy he is, taught some inbounds plays to the players, as well as slowed the team down a bit. Remember that year, the Nuggets (with CB's aid) tended to run a semi-half court set while managing to keep the pace up. It seemed to be the best of both worlds and, quite frankly, it nearly worked ... giving the Los Angeles Lakers fits. In fact, there are those who said that the reason the Lakers brought on Metta World Peace (then - Ron Artest) was to combat Carmelo Anthony, specifically.
It was four years ago, and it seems like decades. That team played a bit (relatively) more deliberate and they were the best team that this town has seen since the 1987-88 Nuggets. The half court principals installed by Chauncey Billups was the main catalyst to playoff success in 2009.
Meanwhile, the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets seem to be taking a different approach all-together than the CB/Melo led WCF team of 2009. Coming of a 57 win year, playoff disappointment, and chaotic off season ... the team seems to be trying to build a model similar to what the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies have used of late. Slower pace, half court sets, tough defense. What we have seen is a painful learning process that has featured a horrendously out of sync offense (albeit with two injured players, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari) and a confused and at times lackadaisical defense. It hasn't been pretty, and we are only two games in to the season. There's a "square peg, round hole" feeling about this team that you just can't escape.
There was one, brief, shining bright spot amidst the increasing amount of panic setting in among Nuggets fans, it was the frenetic, fun, 6 or 7 minutes of basketball that was played by the Nuggets in their blowout loss to the Trail Blazers on Friday in the fourth quarter. Lead by Nate Robinson, the Nuggets stormed back from 26 points down at one point in the third quarter to down by 7 with 4 minutes to go in the game. It was fun, exciting, and it woke up the half empty opening night crowd at Pepsi Center. The team ran out of gas at the end, but it livened up a dead crowd and put some energy back into the building.
Maybe the Nuggets don't need to reinvent the wheel to gain playoff success? Because the team signed Robinson, J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and traded for Darrell Arthur in the offseason, you get the feeling that tanking isn't what they intend to do. After winning 57 games, to deliberately tank a season would be a form of self-sabotage that would probably be the cherry on top of an organization that historically shoots itself in the foot. I don't see it happening. So if they are wanting to be competitive this season, maybe a slight pivot on the philosophy is in order.
The only thing I will ever ask of you, as a fan, is that you are fun to watch. The Nuggets aren't fun to watch now, in fact, they are quite painful to watch. The first two games of the season have been like watching tooth surgery. What is interesting is you can see the team wanting to get out and run so bad and yet they hold themselves back. So what we have is a team that is unsure of what actually to do. Right now the Nuggets are 18th in pace. The slowest I have seen them play in many, many years.
Much like the 2009 Nuggets, maybe the key would have been to gradually slow the team down ... incorporating more half court set plays while still running a bit. It seems like the team slammed on the breaks far too fast, and everyone on the team is having a hard time adjusting to the sudden stop. Brian Shaw is and will be a good coach. I think he is smart enough and savvy enough to find a way to exploit this team's inherent talents while trying to instal his philosophies. In order to instill these philosophies, George Karl HAD to go. There was no way Karl would slow down the team again (Chauncey Billups strong will kind of forced it on George) and as successful as George is and was, you wouldn't blame him for saying no to that.
Who knows? Maybe I'm being far too myopic, but there's too much talent on this team. I believe good things can happen. Maybe easing off the brake a little will help out?