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The curious case of Arron Afflalo's second half benching vs Blazers

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Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Garrett Ellwood

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Brian Shaw benches a well-respected Denver Nuggets guard.

Last season on Jan. 1, 2014 it was Andre Miller. This season on Nov. 12, 2014 it was Arron Afflalo.

AAA benched

Yes, the same Afflalo that had this to say over the summer:

"Being traded for me is a positive experience," Afflalo told Basketball Insiders. "I really enjoyed my time in Orlando. Rob [Hennigan], Scott [Perry], Coach [Jacque Vaughn], the assistants and all of my teammates really helped me develop as a player and as a person over the past two seasons so I'm very thankful for my opportunity there. I'm happy to be back in Denver, I got some very familiar teammates. I believe this is a championship team under the right mindset and coaching."

Well, things have changed in a hurry in Denver. Afflalo hit the nail on the head when he said the team needed the right mindset and coaching. The mindset of the players is in serious question, as is the coaching of Shaw. Players and the Coach keep talking about guys "buying in" and if I had to guess, I'd say Afflalo isn't one of them. Take these quotes from Nov. 6th:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Afflalo on the state of the team: &quot;Talent-wise we’re fine. But it’s been proven year-in &amp; year-out that talent isn’t the end-all, be-all.&quot;</p>&mdash; Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) <a href="https://twitter.com/dempseypost/status/530247634930659328">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Afflalo: &quot;You have to have some cohesiveness, you have to have game plans that work with the group that’s on the floor and hopefully...</p>&mdash; Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) <a href="https://twitter.com/dempseypost/status/530247891332648960">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote>

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<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>&quot;...we can get that all together." Afflalo <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Nuggets?src=hash">#Nuggets</a></p>&mdash; Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) <a href="https://twitter.com/dempseypost/status/530247965840265216">November 6, 2014</a></blockquote>

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Afflalo is saying the team needs to come together, but they also need better game plans that fit the roster. Well, something boiled over tonight, but we'll have to wait for answers as Shaw didn't take any post-game questions, and Afflalo declined a request for an interview. But we can put some puzzle pieces together.

The Nuggets went into the locker room at the half down 84-50 to some pretty loud boos from the sparse crowd at Pepsi Center. Here's where things get interesting ...

Portland came back out of the locker room and began shooting routine warm-up shots on the hoop closest to the Nuggets' bench. With 4:02 remaining in the half, I noticed the Nuggets were not back out on the floor. The Blazers kept shooting, while the other end of the court remained unpopulated by Denver Nuggets. Finally with 1:44 to go in the half, J.J. Hickson emerged and took a total of six shots to warm up for the second half. His teammates? They didn't take a single shot. In fact, the other 11 players walked straight out of the locker room to the bench as Hickson shot alone. The 13th man, Afflalo didn't immediately rejoin the team as the second half got underway.

Let's examine some grainy photos I took of my TV upon returning home after the game.

Picture 1: Just before the second half began, Altitude zoomed in on the team, Afflalo isn't among them.

AAA 1

Picture 2: The second half is underway, but Afflalo is not on the bench.

AAA 2

Picture 3: Afflalo rejoins his teammates on the bench with 10:48 remaining in the third quarter, as he tries to find a seat on the bench.

AAA 3

Picture 4: The same picture of AAA rejoining the team, zoomed in to show Afflalo and his navy warmups.

AAA 4

So, what happened in that locker room at the half?

Here is what Shaw said after the game about the lineup changes he made in the second half where Afflalo, Kenneth Faried, and Timofey Mozgov were replaced by Alonzo Gee, Darrell Arthur, and J.J. Hickson:

"I started a different group in the second half," said Shaw. "A group that I thought was gonna at least fight and go out fighting, regardless of what happened. So, we go from a 45 point second quarter to a 46 point second half that we gave up. We almost gave up as many points in that second quarter as we did in the whole second half.

"So I commend the guys: Ty, Alonzo Gee, Wilson, D.A., and J.J. - who started the third quarter and didn't give up, kept fighting, and showed what a little bit of effort can do," Shaw continued. "There's nothing else that needs to be said other than the guys who give that kind of effort will be rewarded by being on the floor and playing."

Could we see a benching of Afflalo? Might Afflalo be suspended by the team like Andre Miller was? We'll see if cooler heads prevail tomorrow at practice after Shaw and Afflalo are given time to reflect on what happened.

Make no mistake, Afflalo was brought back to Denver, in part, to be a leader on this team. Shaw said that Afflalo was one of the "leadership council" members that is loosely in place instead of the standard team captains. Afflalo is one of the most respected guys in the NBA and he's beloved by Nuggets fans.

When Miller was suspended by the team for his outburst over his first career Did Not Play - Coach's Decision (DNP-CD), it was swept under the rug as a grumpy veteran who wanted his minutes, fair or not. Afflalo has always been viewed as a coachable player, a great teammate, and a guy who plays the game the right way.

It's insane to think that Afflalo could be the problem. We could hear that Afflalo's late arrival to the team bench in the second half was due to him getting something taped or maybe he was using the restroom - not buying that. He was definitely benched to start the second half and didn't want to talk after the game.

We need some questions answered. Was Afflalo benched for the entire second half or did he refuse to play? It's going to be hard for fans to have Brian Shaw's back in this one, unlike with Miller.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.