Basketball season! Duck season! Wabbit season!
The preseason ends tonight, Nuggets Nation, and a brand new season is upon us. A blank slate in which we might imagine any number of outcomes. This time of year always gets me in wish mode.
When I was a kid, Christmas wish lists were exactly that. Wishes. My family wasn't very well to do, and every year brought a single gift, and a modest one at that. I have no complaints, we had a lot more than many people did, and I'm grateful for the lessons those years taught me about gratitude and what's important. Still, every year there was one very deep question that had to be pondered...
"What do you want for Christmas?"
Oof. I'd pore over the pre-internet, also known as the Sears catalog for... hours. One of the ways I'd narrow down my final choice was to pick a favorite something from every page of toys, which ended up being a dumb fun game for a socially awkward kid. I'd even force myself to choose something from my sister's gross Barbie pages (usually a Ken doll, who I always pictured losing spectacularly as a Russian Agent to my G.I. Joe's), or some weird Lite Brite or something... anyway...
I don't really ask for anything for Christmas anymore, as I now have more crap than any one human being should ever possess, and so I thought I might form my only wish list for the year. Just selections from a few pages of the Denver Nuggets catalog, finishing off with the only gift from this season I really want. I don't care if it's almost Halloween.
From the "cool tools" page, a level. A new level for a healthy Danilo Gallinari. Gallo looks primed for a "why don't we talk about him more?" type of a season in the national conversation. After an impressive second half of last season, and a stellar summer for his national team, Gallinari is coming into his prime.
A new watch. For all the time we should be willing to give rookie Emmanuel Mudiay this season in being patient with growing pains. The kid has star material in there, and there's no quicker way to getting to it than extended time on the court, with encouragement and teaching.
A trampoline. Kenneth Faried appears to be bouncing (literally) back to the player that earned rave reviews entering the league, and looks to be adding elements to his game heretofore unseen. Could be a redemptive sort of a season for the Manimal.
A seven-foot high, seven-man tent. Something roomy. When super sophomore center Jusuf Nurkic returns in the near future to presumably take back the starting center spot, there will be a plethora of bodies to fill in at the four and five spots in Nurkic, Joffrey Lauvergne, Nikola Jokic, Faried, Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, and J.J. HIckson. A lot of bodies to fill 96 player minutes per game, and many of those gents have had exceptional preseasons. Expect competition to be stiff, Stiffs.
A pair of driving gloves. For all the steering Jameer Nelson will be doing on and off the court. Off the court, as he's taken this team under his wing to form some impressive bonds amongst the squad. On the court, hopefully showing the team and Mudiay how a professional plays and treats the game.
A data plan. For the amount of time the Nuggets ought to keep Chauncey Billups on close-advice retainer. Mr. Big Shot can only continue to provide the team another example of a pro's pro.
Sophomore Stepping Stools. If Nurkic, Gary Harris, and Erick Green can all avoid a second-year slump (a very big if) and better yet, each take a big step forward, the Nuggets are a much stronger team, indeed.
A security system. Or at least some security for the man who seems to be changing the Nuggets defensive perimeter, Michael Malone. The difference in this year's squad vs. the teams entering the last two years is palpable and remarkable, both in attitude and cohesion. If early returns are indicative, this will be Malone's second full-team overhaul with the pieces he was given (talented in both cases, but fractured), and should earn him a fair bit more security to try and improve this team over the long haul than he was afforded in his first coaching stint.
But... if I could wish only one thing for your Denver Nuggets this season, it is this: That after 82 games, they come out of the year with at least as much hope and excitement as they entered into it. It's been refreshing to see a team on the court that looked like they all wanted to be there, working hard together, wearing the Nuggets jersey. Sometimes it really is the simplest gifts that count in the first place.
What are you wishing for this season, and for who(m), Nuggets Nation?