In 2013 the Denver Nuggets went 38-3 at home.
It was a remarkable feat considering they faced an unprecedented 22 of their first 32 games on the road. However, as most of you will remember, that Nuggets team climbed back and roared to life (after treading water for the first 32 games) by a January home schedule that featured 12 of their 15 games at home. The Nuggets tore through the NBA and won an astonishing 40 games from January 1st to April 17th with a home-heavy schedule (32 home games) and a significant handful of those games the Nuggets opponent was on the end of a road trip coming from the west coast to Colorado on the second night of a back to back.
Lets make this perfectly clear. Coaches have hated playing at the end of road trips in Denver since they came into the NBA in 1976. Call this the constant complaint of playing in Denver. Just a fact of life of the Nuggets existence in the NBA.
Yet, the scheduling quirk that happened in 2013 seems to have reverberated through the NBA. The long held frustration and some would say resentment of Denver’s built in advantages in scheduling at altitude, including the dreaded west to east back to back, came to a boil. Since then, things have dramatically changed in Denver. Multiple sources have told Denver Stiffs that this is a deliberate effort to change the Nuggets built-in home court advantage on back to backs. (Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post addressed this last year in a column. Read here.)
So far all it’s done is make the Nuggets schedule much, much worse.
If you haven’t noticed, the Nuggets schedule the last couple years has been very unusual. Last season featured both a 7 game and an 8 game home stand. This year the Nuggets longest home stand is 4 games and they have multiple five game road swings and one six game road trip. In an effort to limit road back to backs from west to east, the NBA has completely thrown the Nuggets scheduling out of whack. This isn’t like the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers Grammy’s road trip. This isn’t like the Rodeo road trips that both the the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs take every year. No. This is deliberate scheduling to mitigate a home court advantage by the league.
There are 16 back to backs in the Nuggets schedule, most of them on the road. The NBA has all but eliminated the west to east back to back in Denver. Add on to that a preseason that saw the Nuggets home only a very small handful of times, and as a result had very view post-training camp practices. The Nuggets also go from Utah to Memphis to play the Grizzlies to start their 6 game road trip. Very, very unusual.
If only the Nuggets hadn’t been located at altitude for their entire 49 year history (40 in the NBA).
It all seems like the Nuggets are being targeted for merely being in Denver. Lets forget the fact that teams on the north Atlantic coast have “road trips” that amount to an hour to two hour long train ride. They have an advantage there. What has the NBA done about that? I’m still waiting for that answer.
When you start targeting one location (and maybe two with the Jazz ... although the affects of altitude in Utah are much less severe than Denver) merely because of where it’s located you open up a can of worms. If I was the Nuggets I would (rightly) point out that the Los Angeles teams and New York teams have either a “road” trip that that amounts to changing uniforms (LA) or taking the subway crosstown (New York). What is the NBA going to do about THAT advantage?
These are the most physically conditioned athletes we have EVER seen. The mitigation the NBA has done to waylay the complainers has made the Nuggets schedule work against them. Gone from eliminating Denver’s back to back advantage to punishing the Nuggets for being located in Denver. While the newly expanded All-Star break has affected scheduling as well, the majority of the Nuggets issues with their schedule has been due to this protracted quest to deny the Nuggets an advantage because of where they are located. The NBA opened up this can of worms, and they need to work out the fairness issue asap.
One thing I will give the complainers in the League is Denver International Airport is way too far outside of Denver. That’s a complaint coming from someone who lives here. It also serves to hinder the perception of Denver as a cow town when you get off the plane in the middle of nowhere and immediately drive to a hotel. No bueno. At least Stapleton was located in the city ... oh well.
You’d hope that the league fixes this as soon as possible. In the meantime I wouldn’t blame the Nuggets if they complained loudly and consistently to the League office.