MY BROTHER POKED HIS EYE OUT!!!!
Early on in my two stepsons lives, the youngest was hanging out with his mom and playing on the monkey bars, as they waited on the elder brother to get out of kindergarten. The younger boy took a nose dive off the bars just as school let out, and suffered a small cut above his eye, which started to bleed. Anyone who has had such a cut knows how dramatic they often look in comparison to what's actually happened. Which made him start to cry.
His mom picked him up to carry him, but laying on his back like that, the blood only pooled in that eye socket, making him cry even more. Right about then, five-year old older brother arrives to start proclaiming (loudly):
"Why is his eye bleeding? Where is all that blood coming from? Did he poke his eye out?!?!?! I think he poked his eye out!!! HEY EVERYONE, MY BROTHER POKED HIS EYE OUT!!!!!!"
Shockingly, a congregation of five-year-olds gathered around my wife and her wailing, bleeding, two-eyed child.
Somehow, we never grow up. We can all still be five years old at times.
Human beings have a fascination with bad news. Studies and stories abound as to why, but we are genetically hardwired to accept bad news as reality far more readily than good. That fight-or-flight response seems to leave an imprint.
The bad news about bad news doesn't stop there. We pay it much more attention than good news as well. Ask anyone who has spent time in slow traffic as the drivers ahead of them rubberneck to see the possible carnage associated with an accident. Was it bad? Did you see the head? Or, notice the preponderance of bad news that is output by any news outlet during their broadcasts. The ratio of bad news to good is ridiculously skewed in favor of bad. And not just bad, BAD. This is no accident. Bad news garners ratings, and ratings garner "success" via commercial advertising dollars for that station.
It's not that there's no good news to report... we just prefer to hear the bad stuff. Scary, isn't it?
To that end, your struggling Denver Nuggets have enjoyed a banner bad news cycle over the last 72 hours, with ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz writing a piece about Tim Connelly and the Nuggets front office that was less-than-flattering at best, and terrifying at worst. Our own mothership, SB Nation, followed that piece up with a few thoughts from Tom Ziller, making sure to lay some of the blame at the feet of Masai Ujiri and the previous front office as well.
Is it this bad? Is the sky truly falling on Nuggets Nation?
Let's address a few of the key points brought up by both articles. I'll do my best to leave my opinions out of it, and only deal in the facts we know. Additionally, no insult is meant to Mssrs. Arnovitz or Ziller, I am a fan of both of their work, and have found them to be well-thought, and well-respected. Still, let's synthesize a few of their most polarizing positions, and then see what we actually know.
Position 1 (Arnovitz - ESPN): Tim Connelly is outside his depth
Supporting arguments: The Kenneth Faried contract was originally reported as something outside the limits of the CBA. Unnamed sources report that the Nuggets front office have proposed other deals around the league which also do not fit inside current CBA limitations. This has fostered the opinion amongst unnamed league compatriots that Connelly is outside his depth.
What we know: Though the Faried deal was originally leaked as something outside CBA bounds, many early reports vacillated between a Denver error and a possible loophole the Nuggets may have found. When that loophole/mistake/typo was denied by the league, a CBA-appropriate deal was made so quickly that one might wonder if it had also been negotiated prior to reports. At best, the jury is out on whether the deal was accidental or not. Now, if the latter statement (the Nuggets regularly propose non-kosher deals) is true, then this item is fairly damaging to the Nuggets front office. I'm not sure Connelly's head would roll over such a thing, but his capologist sure might want to freshen up that resume.
But is Connelly in over his head, as many have made him out to be? Though several outlets scratched their heads over his moves at the beginning of last season, he was on the job for less than a month when those signings took place, and many were defensible in real time (J.J. Hickson? Signed after Darrell Arthur, when there were rumors of Faried's departure. Randy Foye? In theory, a veteran and steadying influence for a young Evan Fournier). Connelly's draft this season was widely regarded as excellent, and the Fournier/Arron Afflalo trade wasn't blasted via the media either (prior to the Nuggets slow start).
I'm not arguing Connelly walks on water, or is even good. I'm saying that there's very little data to suggest he's as lost as Arnovitz's article makes him out to be, and the jury is still out on TC. I've said so here before, but his draft this year was nothing shy of sly, in my humble opinion.
Position 2 (Arnovitz - ESPN): The Denver Nuggets organization, particularly Brian Shaw, are not crazy about Kenneth Faried
Supporting arguments: Faried's game does not work for the organization's direction, and there are reported personality conflicts amongst Faried and the team, both players and others.
What we know: Well... nothing, actually. Arnovitz's sources are unnamed, but it's highly doubtful he'd risk his career and reputation over a Nuggets article, so let's give him the benefit of the doubt here. Several fans have also seen Shaw get after Faried after poor play and lazy possessions. The Manimal's defense does not seem to fit Shaw's prototype, and by many reports, Faried came back from his successful time with Team USA with a sizeable chip on his shoulder regarding his game and star status. Boy, maybe this one is the truth... where there's smoke, there's fire, right?
Not necessarily. Faried and Shaw are both passionate and dedicated individuals. Neither of them have impugned each other in the press, and both have readily admitted their need to grow and mature in their roles when it comes to their young careers. Do they need to have sleepovers when they're not working together? Many coach/player tandems have had great success without holding hands and skipping along the way.
Again, Arnovitz may be dead on... but there's not a ton of data beyond those sources to suggest that the animosity exists, or if it does, that it's souring their ability to work together. Given the successes Faried, Shaw, and the Nuggets organization have had in the past by trying to come to terms, it seems possible (even likely) that any interpersonal wrinkles can be ironed out. If their takes on the game don't match over the long run, it doesn't make Faried's signing a mistake, it simply makes him the wrong guy for the Nuggets. There's still value there for someone, and it will be the job of this front office to get it.
Position 3 (Ziller - SB Nation): Masai Ujiri is equally responsible for the Nuggets current pupu platter, if not moreso:
Supporting arguments: Ujiri is responsible for four of the five "worst" contracts on the Nuggets roster, including the "albatross" that is JaVale McGee's deal.
What we know: Hindsight is always such a beautiful thing. I'm not necessarily pro- or anti-Ujiri, but it's much easier to leap on McGee's contract after a couple years of less-than-ideal growth and injuries than it was to do so right as the contract was signed... not long after McGee had two eye-popping games against the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs. While McGee has not progressed as anyone might have hoped, his deal is not outside the bounds of what a hoped-for prospect he was for the team.
Ziller also mentions the contract of Danilo Gallinari as a faux pas by Ujiri, along with the contracts of Ty Lawson and Wilson Chandler, citing each of their injuries and injury histories as a pattern of poor decisions on the previous front office's part. While I'll try not to be flippant, I can point you to national columns lauding each deal as good/intelligent when they were signed. If anyone were able to choose only players to sign who would never be injured, they'd have a leg up on being a very successful GM (and a psychic). Ujiri did happen to walk away from all these "poor" decisions with an Executive of the Year award, so take that into consideration, please.
Position 4: Ujiri's roster (Ziller - SB Nation) is still in play, and is doing diddly-squat for these current Nuggets:
Supporting arguments: This one is simple. Most of this roster was brought in by Ujiri, and the Nuggets currently suck (hyperbole, just making the article's point).
What we know: Ujiri signed this roster to play a certain way. The Nuggets are trying to change how they play. Asking someone to do their job differently is not always the smoothest process. Especially as a twenty-something doing it on a national stage nightly.
Are some of the things Arnovitz and Ziller report true and accurate? Quite probably. They are solid writers with good reputations amongst the community. But the Nuggets recent move from the middle to the bottom of the league has garnered them more national attention from the press this past week than they've seen in quite some time.
While all of the negativity may not be true, probably some of it is, and that's more than enough to stir a pot, isn't it? We're all clicking (and clacking) over it, and that was surely the bigger purpose over the long haul. Even good journalists are looking for the tale that titillates... And that tends to involve bad news.
But before you're sure the sky is falling, make sure that was actually a cloud that just hit you in the head.