100-plus point games.
It sure feels good to be a Denver Nuggets fan again, doesn't it?
Four games into interim head coach Melvin Hunt's tenure, the Nuggets are only 2-2 but have put forth four reasonably impressive outings: a 106-95 Pepsi Center victory of the playoff-heading Milwaukee Bucks, followed by an impressive 100-85 road win at Minnesota over the recently inspired Timberwolves and then two consecutive losses, a heartbreaking 120-111 loss at the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs and Saturday night's 114-100 home court drubbing at the hands of the Houston Rockets. I'm chalking up Saturday night's loss to the Friday/Saturday back-to-back, the Nuggets' fourth game in five nights and to mental and physical fatigue from an emotional week that began with the firing of head coach Brian Shaw on Tuesday.
(On a side note, it will be interesting to see where Melvin Hunt ranks in the Denver Nuggets Interim Head Coach Hall of Fame at season's end ... I'm predicting somewhere above Adrian Dantley and Dick Motta but just below Scott Brooks.)
But no matter how you look at it, just four games under Hunt has been enough to see that the Nuggets have taken on a renewed identity. Gone is the play-through-quicksand offense that Shaw seemed to impose on the players and gone is the players' outright disdain for their head coach, fair or not. Almost overnight, the Nuggets players have returned to the smiling, happy-go-lucky, energetic bunch that competed on the Pepsi Center floor two seasons ago. And as Denver Stiffs reader SpenserHaywoodTSJC astutely pointed out in the comments section of the Nuggets/Spurs recap, the current Nuggets squad still features four of the eight primary participants from the Nuggets' 57-win, 2012-13 squad: Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried. The other four being the since departed Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, Kosta Koufos and Andre Miller ... all of whom, with the exception of Iguodala, shouldn't be hard to replace.
So does this mean that high-octane, winning Denver Nuggets basketball is back? Well, sort of. Before you break out your David Thompson, Alex English, Fat Lever, Michael Adams, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf or Allen Iverson replica jerseys for your next visit to Pepsi Center, keep a few things in mind ...
First off, four games is hardly a large enough sample size to gauge what's coming for the remainder of the 2014-15 season. Second, it's not uncommon in pro sports for players revolting against a head coach to suddenly play with heightened inspiration immediately after a disappointing head coach gets canned. And third, the Nuggets' two wins came against a trade-deadline-shook-up Bucks squad and a 14-win Timberwolves team. Despite the Nuggets' 111-point outburst at San Antonio - the most points given up by the Spurs to an opponent at home since Christmas - the seasoned, champion Spurs figured out how to beat our Nuggets.
And thus, it will be interesting to see how the Nuggets play after the euphoria over the Shaw departure dissipates.
In the meantime, basketball has been fun in Denver again. So fun that I'm actually looking forward to watching our Nuggets take on the god-awful New York Knicks on Monday night (a game I had pegged as one of interest during the pre-season hoping for Carmelo Anthony's return, but we all know what a quitter that guy is).
If the brief stint of the Melvin Hunt Era has taught us anything, it's that fast pace basketball needs to be the order of the day for the Nuggets ... potential championships played with "half court sets" be damned. The Nuggets need to use their final 19 games to re-establish a culture of running and gunning as it will have a twofold positive effect: one, it will keep the players currently on the roster worth keeping wanting to come back for more and, two, it will make Denver a desirable destination of potential free agent acquisitions this and next off-season.
So here's hoping Denver Nuggets basketball isn't just back, but is here to stay.