We interrupt this Ty Lawson-is-melting-down-like-Chernobyl discussion to talk about the rest of your Denver Nuggets. After all, Ty really doesn't want to hurt me...
From the ashes of a lost couple of seasons, the Nuggets seem to have somehow begun to formulate a new mindset. An outspoken set of key voices talking about a better culture. A culture club, if you will. Changing like a chameleon. Must be a bit of karma in all that. OK, OK, I'm stopping.
What's changing in the Nuggets culture? A mindset, as much as anything. Let's look at a few examples...
It's been posted several times in the threads on Denver Stiffs, but for those who have been under a rock the last 48 hours, a Nuggets key player said words that we've been dying to hear someone say since... well, since Chauncey Billups left town, and that not of his own volition. Here's Wilson Chandler's thoughts, as posted on Instagram after his re-signing:
"I make all my decisions based on what will make me happier in life. That should say everything in regards to why I chose to re-sign with Denver for the next 4 years. Of course I could of played out my current deal and tested the waters next year when the TV money will sky rocket the salary cap.
However, Life is bigger then [sic] that. While the nuggets organization was very generous and I'm extremely happy with the new deal, I made this decision because of the city of Denver, the Nuggets fans, and my teammates.
I tasted what it was like to win in this great city, and I've never been more focused to recapture that feeling. It will take a lot of hard work and commitment from top to bottom but I know we can do it, and I'm ready to lead the charge. It's going to be a great ride and I wish the season could start tomorrow.
To the ownership and management I say thank you! To the fans I say an extra thank you for they are the real reason I'm staying here for the long haul. Nugget [sic] nation let's come together and turn this around!"
Will, that was totally ill. Please consider this my Stiffs hug. That's not as scary as it sounds.
Chandler is a tough player on both ends of the floor, a guy Michael Malone will love, as shown in one of many quotes our own Nate Timmons captured in his piece on Malone's player preferences. What kind of guys does Malone want for the Nuggets?
"Hard workers. I want guys that are tough. Not only physically tough, but also mentally tough. Can we go on the road and win a game in overtime, when all the odds are stacked against us?
Toughness. A lot of times, even when I was recruiting in college, I would prefer a tougher guy than a guy who may be more skilled because I know that guy is going to allow us to win some games when the going gets tough. And those guys are worth a lot in the NBA."
Tough guys. Defenders. Guys who want to win. How does Emmanuel Mudiay feel about such things?
"I'm a winner, I just want to win as many championships as I can. That's one thing I want to bring to the city."
And right here in Denver?
"I'm where I'm supposed to be. That's what I believe. Denver is where I need to be."
How about another Nuggets stud? What has Danilo Gallinari had to say over the summer? Jeff Morton's article covered Gallo's interview with Italy's La Gazzetta in June. A couple of Gallo's thoughts along these lines:
What goal have you given to this stage of your career?
"I want to win the ring and do it as a protagonist. A trophy team gives you something that you do not have an individual from."
Do you think there are conditions to do (that) in Denver?
"Yes, and it shows that before changing coach and GM, we made the playoffs for 10 straight years, since I was 3 on the team and not having much luck. We were on the right track, we can go smoothly."
OK, that last one falls apart a little at the end in the translation, but the first word (yes) was the most important one anyway.
As far back as March, the Nuggets strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess said the same in an interview late in last season's tough campaign. He saw the makings of good things in the struggling Nuggets:
It's just so exciting to see these guys succeed after all the hard work they've put in," said Hess, "And such a blessing to see the coaches do a great job with that as well. The best part of it all, the tough times never last. I have a belief: If we stay the course, we're going to win a championship, I promise you. I don't care what anyone says. I just want to be a part of an organization that's heading in that direction.
There have been a number of rough moments along the trail of the past couple of seasons, and if you think this next season will see a Nuggets playoff team... well, you're one of my favorite optimists. But there are reasons for threads of optimism. Threads of hope and commitment running through some key characters of this Nuggets team. Each of the gents quoted above, and most of the rest of the crew have their weaknesses, no doubt. But also multiple exciting strengths. And they all seem to have a singular goal for this team.
Coincidentally, all of the guys quoted above also will be some of the most directly responsible for the Nuggets successes and failures in the near future. Admittedly, a few current players may not be with the team by season's start, but even those changes may be the beginnings of a culture shift in the Mile High City.
Lastly, all of the guys above (even Mudiay, in my opinion) are pro's pros, who desire to spend every day getting better and finding ways to win, even being flexible in where and how you focus your team. Common goals often find common methods of achieving them. The first step in making those goals happen across the Nuggets organization is in changing the words, actions, and attitudes shown by every last employee in wanting to win. A culture shift.
And I'd like to join that club.
P.S. Ty, get better. Please.
P.P.S. Happy Birthday to Stiffs own Jeff Morton and MHR's Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann!