As your Denver Nuggets outscored their last two opponents by a total of five points to climb back to center at 4-4, there are a number of things revolving around the middle for Nuggets Nation.
The Good - that glass is half full
Kenneth Faried flying. In one of many trips, up the middle against Milwaukee last night to rescue Danilo Gallinari's errant shot and slam home the ball that would eventually win the game. The Manimal, with a positive and communicative relationship with his coach out of the gates, has been the player that regularly terrorized the league over his first couple seasons. Faried has played very well in the first eight games, and shouldered last night's win, as well put by Gordon Gross in his recap.
Emmanuel Mudiay in the middle of everything, leading the team in different things on different nights: minutes (vs. Houston), scoring (Minnesota), assists (Lakers), plus/minus (Lakers), steals (Warriors), blocks (ok, not quite, but almost vs. Portland) and tacking on his second double-double of the young season last night against the Milwakuee Bucks... not counting the 17-point, 11-turnover opener against the Houston Rockets. Mudiay is getting love from CBS Sports' Matt Moore and the Bleacher Report as well.
Michael Malone, the team's glassy calm center in the middle, and the picture of practicing what he preaches - patience and positivity in exhorting his youthful crew to as many wins as losses eight games in. Malone is a young coach, and will take his lumps, but it's rare to see someone walk the middle line of holding people accountable without throwing them under the bus, and accepting successes and failures gracefully and candidly.
Danilo Gallinari has actually clawed back beyond the middle, according to his early scoring touch and the fellas over at the four-letter ranking him in the eight spot amongst the NBA's 30 starting small forwards. Good to see you back, Gallo.
I never thought I'd write this. J.J. Hickson has filled in admirably when called upon and has stayed within his role, showing his usual abilities to score and board without so many mishaps and liabilities on the defensive end. J.J. displayed no attitude in starting out the season with three DNP-CD's, cheering his teammates though every game. Whether J.J's early returns are due to player or system is early to tell, but if Malone has turned J.J. around, there ought to be some sort of special ESPY Award for coach at season's end. Mudiay sure seems to find him a lot on the pick-and-roll.
The Bad - that glass is half empty
Randy Foye is finding the middle again after a brutal five-game start to his season, and has looked better over the past couple games in spelling Jameer Nelson through injury, but has miles to go to get back to his career median. On the upside, if the law of averages works out for him, he'll have a hell of a hot streak at some point this season. Speaking of the law of averages...
Darrell Arthur has had a number of head-scratching moments on both ends of the floor to lead off the season, but also seems to be slowly finding himself over the past few games. Given that Darth has had successful years in a defensive-minded system, and was much more a stalwart in Denver's previous years, one would hope he'll find his way back to his middle - a solid-if-unspectacular part of a winning system, or a bridge to something even better.
The Ugly - that glass is broken and strewn about so as to injure, apparently
A bug has eaten a swath out of the middle of your Denver Nuggets The injury bug, which officially took Nuggets super-backup Wilson Chandler off the table for the season, as Jeff Morton's report relayed yesterday. Wilson's injury ran right up the middle of him, with a tear of his right labrum now to match his 2011 leftie.
Think the injury seems small? Here's a close observer's view: When you're not of the ilk of a professional athlete, or have reached a certain age where the tear-repair has far less chance of succeeding, your options are a hip replacement, or so much pain in walking that a stroll around the block is off the table. As observed in one near and dear. Good luck with your recovery, Wilson. Your first trip back was fun, let's do it again.
Chandler has had company in the infirmary along the way, with Jusuf Nurkic also yet to play, Adding to the wounded, Joffrey Lauvergne, Jameer Nelson, and Nikola Jokic have missed five, two and one game(s), respectively. That's 24 player games lost to injury over the first eight contests. To many, too early, with Chandler's cut the deepest.
But, as professional teams and players and their rabid fans are wont to say, no one is crying for our injury bugs when game time comes. In ways, it's been a pleasant surprise to come out on top as many times as not, while watching the team continue to gel. Malone's call for patience may be well-founded, when you consider our new floor general was born in the same month the Coen Brothers released "Fargo". While no one wants to be stuck in the middle for long, it's a good place to start.
P.S. One thing that is certainly NOT stuck in the middle has been your one and only Denver Stiffs, with the recent addition of several new and talented writers to the crew. Though there have been notably sparse crowds at the Pepsi Center to kick off the season, things are only improving on the site for the serious Nuggets geek. A quick well done to all of the new writers, and looking forward to the rest of the year.