Aside from my slightly-too-gorgeous-for-my-sanity daughters, very few great things emerged from my first marriage... But one was a habit my former father-in-law practiced for his birthday celebration every year. He was born on April 1st, an April Fool's baby, and practiced what I originally found a very odd "habit".
The first year I was around on his birthday, he greeted me at his door with a gift, something I received every year thereafter (at least while still a part of the clan). Anyone who was a part of his family got a gift on his birthday, a nod to the April Fools date-of-birth. I asked him early on about the genesis of the idea, and he told me, "Originally, it was meant to be a joke. But I saw the joy it brought all of my loved ones, and realized that their joy was a much greater gift than opening another tie or tool."
I loved this response, and have tried to practice it myself every year since (I fail miserably, but try). And with a birthday upcoming this next week, I wanted to wish a few gifts to the guys I may spend a little more time with than a lot of my family, the Denver Nuggets, (and the Denver Stiffs). These are gifts which may make me happier than them, akin to buying my wife an Xbox. Hey, I should buy my wife an Xbox. Anyway. Here's the basic rules... I decided to not wish anyone traded away, as that just seemed too easy. But in reverse order of I'd-care-if-they-were-traded...
To Anthony Randolph, I'd gift him a gym-rat addiction to improve his overall game, as he is ever-so-rarely dangerous, and a lot of fun to watch when he is. I just don't want to break out in that cold sweat when he exits the bench. I'd also gift him an excellent seat cushion and a SnuggieTM, as I hope he exits the bench only when the Nuggets are up by double digits. Get comfy, AR-15. But Happy Birthday.
To J.J. Hickson, I'd gift a friendship of epic proportion, and a powerfully deep 82-game conversation. Both with Anthony Randolph. Beyond that, I'd wish J.J. never ever had to play at the five ever again. And I'll bet J.J. wishes that as well. I'd wish both you guys exceptional cheerleading skills.
It got tougher from here to pick an order immediately. Forgive any offenses to Stiffs and the players you love on the team.
To Quincy Miller, I'd give another year of almost-irrational confidence. Q, keep up that level of effort on BOTH ends of the floor, and keep getting tougher. I think you have a breakout year coming.
To Jan Vesely, I wish something coordinated... Um... dance classes? I don't know. Just something that synchs up all your parts. Sitting in the lower bowl at the Wizards game recently, I was blown away by your effort and attention to the game. You were always in the mix of things, and I believe you have a motor like the one people admire Kenneth Faried for. I think an offseason with great big-man coaches, and conditioning with Steve Hess will make for an impressive leap this year for Jan.
To Aaron Brooks, I wish the power of caring. Because apparently sharing is caring, and I'm hoping, given the ridiculous set of rules I started this article with, that somehow Brian Shaw knows exactly which of his catch-fire backup point guards to ride at exactly the right times this season, and that everyone somehow got enough time over the season to stay happy. I also believe in Santa Claus. Because we're wishing here, people.
To Darrell Arthur, I wish persistence to pay off, and that your newfound three-pointer becomes what that pick-and-pop hook off the top of the key was before the groin. I wish you no more groins, Darth.
To Nate Robinson, I wish you makeup. Not in the mascara fashion, but as in a makeup season for you. After a tough start that looked to be even harder for you than it was for Nuggets fans, you rescued a number of games last season, and I've read that ending this season to injury was a tough pill to swallow. I wish you find the line that Brian Shaw wants from you, and then keep barely darting over it. Please feel free to lay waste this year, NateRob. All while sharing with Aaron Brooks, somehow. Sure.
To Randy Foye, I wish you no chance. Wait, that sounded rude. I wish you no chance at Dale Ellis' three-point record next season, if only because you just don't get enough court time this next year. Beyond that, I wish you whatever you want for this ReverseBirthday, because honestly, you put in DoubleOvertime beyond what you or anyone else expected, at times injured and out of position, and I never once heard you bitch or be anything less than a pro, and that made a huge impression on me. In case you thought no one noticed.
To Evan Fournier, I wish you what you're capable of. It feels like you are one solid leap away from everyone saying, "how did I not pay better attention to this guy?" Half step better on D gets you less slap fouls. Knowing where you're headed with the ball prior to leaving your feet on the court cuts back on turnovers. I know you model your game after Manu, and I know that even cerebral guys like George Karl and Brian Shaw have given you props for being a smart guy. I hope your game looks like some of the very smart moves your idol is making these playoffs. Some heady ball from Ginobli, I hope you're watching closely.
To Wilson Chandler, I wish you twice the on-court smiles of this past season. Which I think is still only four. You'll survive it. Beyond that, I wish the Denver community embraces you for the bedrock of hoops you are. There was a point right before Gallo went down at the end of the previous season that you were one of three one-on-one lockdown defenders we could put on the court simultaneously. If we could actually get you to the expected spot of coming off the bench, I think you'll feast on competition all this next season or two for that unrestricted contract in '16.
To JaVale McGee, I'd give Gravity. Both the DVD set, and just a little more gravitas. You're a funky and seemingly cerebral guy, JaVale. I don't think The Dream should be your mentor, I think Kareem should be. You have the rare physical gifts to be one of those guys who a generation of people say, "I saw him play once." Not many guys get that sort of a gift. I'd also wish you a fully healed leg, and a pain-free season. Tangentially, I'd wish me a little patience. I keep forgetting I'd read that your Mom said you hadn't stopped growing until just before you joined the Nuggets. When I stopped growing, I was not only clumsy those next few years, I was... less than consistent in my maturity. No stories here, I promise. More than anything, I wish you such a great season that your previous Shaqtin' days are a long-lost memory.
To Timofey Mozgov, I wish for caring as well. More sharing. Because I believe you deserve to start this next season, and that you're going to have an even more impressive year. And I still hope in the midst of all of that, that you're being pressed for court time by JaVale, and that the Nuggets have TwinTower and SmallBall options for this next year. And I wish you a pizza commercial deal.
To Kenneth Faried, I wish your wildest dreams come true, at least in regards to the recent Denver Post article mentioning your desire to "take that next step". And Kenneth, I wish that your first priority in that next step is on defense. The truly special guys improve every facet of their game, and I hope it happens for you. The latter half of this last season was certainly a pleasant surprise, and it seems like it's happening to a really good guy.
To Danilo Gallinari, I'd gift "salute e benessere", or what Google Translate tells me is "health and wellness". Gallo and the team suffered mightily due to the unfortunately-failed first attempt at healing his ACL, and he is due a bit of a karmic rebound from that attempt. Right before he went down, Gallo was playing impressive ball, an impressive one-on-one defender, and playing well both inside and outside on offense, a nightmare for the opposition at his size. I maintain he'd have been a wrecking ball against Golden State, and that postseason and our Coach/Executives-of-the-Year might have been a wildly different situation. Gallo, you deserve an amazing year this year.
To Ty Lawson, I'd give the gift of solitaire. A deck of cards, and the ability to do the solo job of being a team's leader. Probably the toughest and most intangible gift amongst them. The team is obviously lost without Ty's presence, and there's a leadership aspect in that alone. But Lawson has an example of how to form those bonds, even the "tough-love" portion, in new coach Brian Shaw. The two of them seemed like oil and water at the beginning of the partnership, and I had serious concerns in the early going. But they've righted the ship, and there at least appears to be a real bond between the two. I wonder if some of my fellow Stiff writers with better access could confirm or deny the same. You'd think if coach and All-Star-hopeful point guard/leader are on the same page, it bodes well for the team. It's been said a lot, but Ty had his best statistical season this last year, and you felt there was still room for him to take another step or two.
And since he's come up so often, Coach Brian Shaw. I'd give Coach Shaw a record-setting season for Nuggets victories, a three-seed, and the end of the Did-We-Make-A-Mistake-With-George-Karl conversation. Maybe a Western Conference Finals and Maybe-He-Was-Important-To-The-Pacers article at the end of next season.
‘Cause I wish like that.
What would you gift the Nuggets this next season, Nuggets Nation? (Or do we remaining call ourselves the Summer League?)