While tonight's close loss stung, it's almost incidental to the now full-blown crisis surrounding the Nuggets organization. Ty Lawson being arrested on suspicion of DUI, season-long reports of clashes between Brian Shaw and Kenneth Faried, the Denver Post's Chris Dempsey's reporting about the Nuggets being out partying the night before the MLK-day blowout in Golden State, losing Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee for significant chunks of the season to injury... the list goes on.
This is a rudderless team who's floor general just got tagged for his (alleged) second DUI. Shaw clearly doesn't command the respect of the players, and Shaw doesn't respect them with his bizarre public sniping to the media. One would hope that Gallinari can eventually mature into the leader of this team, but he'll need to prove himself out on the court again first.
It's hard casting such a bleak view of the team right now, but it needs to be said: this team is actually probably better off losing at this point in the season. With over half of the season played, the team is 7 games behind the Phoenix Suns for the 8th playoff spot and headed in the wrong direction. I'm not a fan of tanking at all, but securing a high draft pick through close losses throughout the remainder of the season would be a best case scenario for this team. I want to see energy and professionalism, even though any playoff hopes have been long extinguished.
The game tonight was a microcosm of the way the season's gone for the team - an up-and-down rollercoaster ride that featured the Nuggets gaining multiple double-digit leads only to eventually squander them in a losing effort due to poor execution, poor shooting and lacking a key player. The Boston Celtics also carved the Nuggets up on the inside with Jared Sullinger and Brandon Bass, once again highlighting the severe deficiencies with the team's interior defense.
Jameer Nelson showed some fire tonight and clearly is an enormous upgrade over Nate Robinson (RIP NateRob). He had a fantastic first half, draining long three after long three, but faded in the second. He's still getting familiar with his teammates, but he showed some nice chemistry with J.J. Hickson off the pick and roll tonight and has shown a capable ability distributing the ball. He finished with 23 points and 7 assists in 42 minutes of action on 9-20 shooting.
Danilo Gallinari made his long awaited return tonight, but definitely showed the rust, shooting just 1-7 from the floor and scoring just 4 points in 17 minutes of action. He missed all three of his attempts from beyond the arc, recorded a steal, and was a team-low -12. Here's to hoping that we're not rushing Gallo back too quickly again.
It's time to start looking at the rest of the season as a development and value-building 38 game preseason for the 2015-2016 incarnation of the Denver Nuggets. Hopefully the team can avoid further injuries, get Gallinari back to form, develop Jusuf Nurkic, and snag a high draft pick with the lottery they're careening towards. It's going to take all of Josh Kroenke's and Tim Connelly's expertise to carefully manage the minefield that's suddenly appeared before the organization, and getting through the rest of this season is just the start.