The Nuggets are in the middle of the toughest stretch on the schedule all year. With a final home game against the Spurs looming tonight and a long road trip starting tomorrow, the Nuggets are going to be tested mentally and physically over the next week. We already saw tempers flare up in the team's last game against the Clippers. It will be interesting to see how the team responds tonight against the Spurs.
Q: Michael Malone and Emmanuel Mudiay got into a heated exchange on the bench during last Tuesday's loss to the Clippers. Big deal?
Gordon Gross (@GMoneyNuggs): Only in the sense that it show how much both men care. Yes, this is a different standard than we hold some other people to, but neither Mudiay nor Malone has shown a propensity for being a malcontent or tone-deaf. I don't have any problem with Mudiay and Malone getting heated. It happens to even the great ones - Pop and Duncan get heated and work it out, and Malone picked up some things from Popovich. Hopefully one of them was how to get on your players without losing their faith in you. Mudiay seemed fine afterward, and that kind of fire is what we want to see more of on the court from him, where he's been a little too passive as he learns the league. If the spark that ignites his season has to come from some bench friction, then so be it. Until there's more evidence of an issue, I don't see one.
Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares): Not really. I don't mind the dust up, especially given the quotes from both guys after the game which demonstrate that the two are on the same page. The only thing that I take away from it is that Emmanuel Mudiay is clearly frustrated with losing. This season was never going to be an easy one for the rookie and while I love that he doesn't accept losing, I do hope that he is able to maintain his confidence through the adversity he will face all season.
Hernan Birckenstaedt (@CombatChuk): I don't think it's a big deal. What we saw was a couple of guys that are tired of losing. Better seeing some passion for the game, than just nothing. In a way I am happy seeing this from Mudiay, with Ty Lawson we never saw that before.
Q: What do you hope to see from the Nuggets over the next 7 days?
Gross: Consistent effort. With Joffrey Lauvergne on the verge of returning, Denver's frontcourt minutes should get better, even if he has a bunch of rust to knock off. If Faried can make it back by the end of the week as well that gives Denver almost its full complement of big bodies. I don't care whether the Nuggets win or lose, but I do care how they play. It's time to start putting 48 minutes of basketball out there, whether or not shots are falling. If we can't shoot our way out of a paper bag yet, that's fine - but 22 seconds of ISO ball followed by a contested fallaway 3 is not acceptable. Show me 4 quarters of effort to pursue Denver's offensive and defensive principles and I'll be fine, even if we go 0-for-the-week.
Mares: Ball movement. It's the only way that the team will succeed in the half court. When the ball is popping, the Nuggets offense looks adequate. When the ball sticks, the Nuggets look like the worst team in the NBA.
Birckenstaedt: Fight. The Nuggets are heading into a tough stretch of games in the next week. One thing I saw from the Mudiay/Malone dust up is a couple of guys tired of losing. To borrow a phrase from our neighboring football team, I expect the Nuggets to be kicking and screaming in this difficult next week.
Q: The Nuggets next win will come against....
Gross: The Spurs, tonight. San Antonio is short-handed, having left Duncan and Manu back home as the ultimate insult for a stopover in Denver. I predicted the Spurs would take it in the preview, but after thinking about it, this should be where the Nuggets eke out a win over a better team.
Mares: December 5th, at the 76ers. Yes, I think the Nuggets are in for an extended losing streak that will test the team, the players, the coach, and the fanbase. Fortunately, December 5th marks the end of the toughest stretch on the schedule. If the Nuggets can make it through the next week or so without coming unhinged, then I think they have a great chance at having an encouraging season the rest of the way. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. As long as the Nuggets don't "die" over this next stretch, they'll come out even stronger.
Birckenstaedt: Tonight against the Spurs. I just read that Duncan and Ginobili will not be playing (staying home to rest) so that will be a big help (Especially without Joffrey.) Also, I'll be going to this game, the Nuggets are 21-3 when I'm in attendance.