The Denver Nuggets suffered from an agonizing season in 2014-15 in more ways than one. An assistant coaching staff that wasn't trusted (outside of Melvin Hunt) and a head coach who didn't seem to connect with his players or know what he wanted to do from night to night was one thing. A handful of malcontent players who poisoned the locker room was another. Those two elements, combined with some key injuries mid-season, lead to one of the worst and most unappealing seasons in Denver Nuggets history.
Those are facts.
In covering the fallout from these very complicated series of events, 90% of the National media took soundbites from Brian Shaw, who was clearly in self-preservation CYA mode, and ran with this "organization out of control" narrative that would be insulting if it wasn't completely lazy (I'm not counting Matt Moore from CBSSports here ... he lives here and sees the team often. His takes are balanced and fair about the Nuggets even when being critical, and he has been plenty critical) The situation was always more nuanced than that. Why seek nuance when you are looking for someone to click on your article right?
What is frustrating about the larger NBA media is the utter and complete laziness that they apply to covering the Nuggets. It's been that way since 1976 when the high flying David Thompson and Dan Issel lead Nuggets came swooping into the NBA from the ABA, utterly surprising the establishment with how good they were. Lazy, inattentive flat out incompetent coverage from people who'd rather be watching something else. You know what ... as a Nuggets fan who has dealt with Alex English being ignored for 10 years (despite being the leading scorer of the 1980's), or had revisionist history types implying that Dikembe Mutombo's best moment DIDN'T occur when he was a Nuggets player, or have Carmelo Anthony lose to LeBron James in rookie of the year voting in 2003 despite having a (substantially) BETTER season ... well it gets old. Very, very old.
Andrew Sharp of Grantland (formerly SB Nation) provides a sterling example of this lazy coverage in two lines and a tweet (from Tony Jones who was merely pointing out the Nuggets were resting a significant portion of their roster last night). It both encompasses it all spectacularly.
SELL: Whatever Is Happening in Denver for the Next 12 Months
So by my count, Denver's playing without the following guys: Mudiay, Jameer Nelson, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler and Joffery Lauvergne— Tony Jones (@Tjonessltrib) October 23, 2015
I had no idea there was an NBA player named "Joffrey Lauvergne" until I saw that tweet. Please keep the Nuggets out of my life.
So ... Sharp manages to sound lazy with a hint of basketball xenophobia. I don't care if you've never heard of Lauvergne, most people havent, but you sound like a clod when you say stuff like that. It kind of lays out bare the dismissive tone the greater NBA media throws the Nuggets way. (outside of the 2012-13 season when everyone "kind of" loved the Nuggets, but I'm convinced that was more of a hipster-chic/George Karl appreciation sort of thing).
Before you come back at me with the "they don't deserve to be covered" that is completely subjective, and you'd think that with all the drama the Nuggets had surrounding them last year that you'd get MORE coverage because most people enjoy a bit of drama. Yet the National press just took pot shots and press releases from Shaw and didn't bother with the rest because ... Denver. Kevin Arnovitz article from the beginning of last season seemed to be waiting for the Nuggets to go on a losing streak before being published ... and then ESPN kinda forgot that they wrote this "expose" and stopped investigating what was going on in Denver. It's infuriating. There is no cause for being lazy ... unless you're trying to get clicks.
Fans aren't supposed to be objective. Fans have unbridled expectations that generally sway from positive to completely unrealistic/"what were you thinking?" kind of territory. The fan is a fan. Its generally been my view as I've transitioned away the last six years from being a fan of the Nuggets to covering the team that you can't temper fan reaction even though 9 times out of 10 they are completely wrong. It's just the nature of the beast. Not SHOULD it be tempered.
In the vast void between dismissive, lazy indifference from the NBA media ... and unbridled, unrealistic, out of all reason positivity expressed by fans is, generally, the truth. It seems that most Nuggets fans this year are completely realistic about the team while NBA media types, who seem to get their information on the Nuggets through pony express, are stuck in last season (many have forgotten the Nuggets have traded Timofey Mozgov, Arron Afflalo, JaVale McGee, Nate Robinson and Ty Lawson and have turned over a large portion of their roster). The Nuggets are likely to struggle big time this season while being infinitely more appealing and fun to watch, I think everyone acknowledges this, but the condescending dismissive behavior of people outside of Denver is truly perplexing.
Watching the Nuggets play the Golden State Warriors a couple weeks ago on NBA TV reminded me of how generally clueless the NBA media is about what goes on in Denver. The announcers seemed surprised that Danilo Gallinari was a good player. They seemed a bit shocked that Nikola Jokic has a bit of game. They seemed pleasantly surprised that, despite the turnovers, Emmanuel Mudiay looks to be a rookie with unlimited potential.
Then it dawned on me. They still think this is Brian Shaw's 2013-2015 Nuggets. A team that loathed lead assistant Lester Conner and had poisonous elements in the locker room. The Nuggets have a large hill to climb to get respect from other NBA teams, and the media always seems to be five steps behind when it comes to the Nuggets.
Is this an article that's just griping? A bit. You have to see it from my perspective. I've been a Nuggets fan/reporter since 1985. I've seen my favorite players dismissed and derided. I've seen our favorite moments chided for not being good enough. I've seen this for so, so long. It gets old. Really old. With the advent of social media and information going as quickly as it does, it's amazing that Denver still receives such lazy coverage. It makes one wonder if old habits die hard?