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Denver Nuggets: Performance Anxiety

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Alphas and Betas and Gammas, oh my!

Really? My picture with this headline?
Really? My picture with this headline?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

"CAUSE YOU'RE MY LAAAAAAAADYYYY.... AND I'M YOUR MAH-ah-AH-AH-ah-AHHNNNNNN"

About four rows back on the bus last night, a gentleman decided it was time for him to give us all a little Celine Dion, but from the man's point of view. He started belting out the chorus, out of the blue.

I discovered two things.

One, he just wasn't very good. Passionate, and enthusiastic, yes. Tonality was, uh... There was some work to do. And still, kudos to you, bus-soloist. I had admittedly left my headphones at home, and was just lamenting a lack of music on the ride. I may make wishes a bit more specifically from here on out.

Two, I could never effing do that in a million years. Partially because I'm not prone to invading others' space unbidden; physically, visually, or aurally. But also because I truly despise singing solos. Years of singing for a living, and I cannot abide being the center of attention on a stage. Karaoke? Shoot me.

Some of that is borne out of not liking to feel singled out. Much of it is strictly rooted in performance anxiety terror. Three decades later, I can get past it to perform, but I struggled with it mightily early in my career. Others are not so lucky. I have seen it be utterly debilitating to people who were exceptional musicians otherwise. To this day, I present to a group at work every two weeks. I dread it and love it all at once, as I'm truly terrified every time. A few friends there kindly tell me it doesn't show.

I actually admire the guy who has the balls to give the bus a tune, even when I would rather not be serenaded in the moment. A tremendous Harvard Business Review article from a couple years back gives me comfort in knowing that I just don't have enough mixed-metaphor-midi-chlorians to be a soloist.

Those guys exist on a basketball court as well. The soloist. The guy who wants to be the one to perform, and the one to take the last shot. Michael Jordan made his name on it. The saddest part of the current injuries to Steph Curry and Chris Paul is in missing two superior soloists out of today's NBA ranks.

The Nuggets have had those players in their history, recently riding several seasons of the last-minute heroics of Carmelo Anthony to a string of playoff appearances. People called ‘Melo an assassin and remarked at the ice water in his veins. My favorite mental picture of Anthony was early on, with him literally (and laughingly) stretching his shorts to accommodate the oversized huevos it took to sink some of those early game-clinching shots. Chauncey Billups wanted the ball as well. Allen Iverson did too. Alex English. The list of capable Nuggets soloists past is reasonably long.

Today's Nuggets have very few soloist-style creators, with Danilo Gallinari and Will Barton amongst the guys at the top of a short-ish list, with others looking to join them in the next couple of years as we see what cream rises to the top. Gallinari had a career year before getting hit by another tough injury, and Barton had some great moments, but also battled inconsistencies in a wildly expanded role. Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic showed flashes of bigger things.  But as the familiar refrain of youth, injury, and change muddied the clear cut view of another season, it seems like the Nuggets still seek an alpha dog of that caliber. I love Barton, but if he's the second name on a list like this, you're going to want to get a few more names slotted in. As much as I am even more enamored of Gallo's game, the same could be said of the team that has him as it's alpha, unless he's got one more decent step forward in him.

Don't need an alpha dog/soloist? Even the few teams who have won a championship and were notable for their lack of a star, or were system-oriented have names that are revered after the fact. Billups deserved the accolades he's seen as his career has had a few years perspective, including his push to nearly get his hometown Nuggets to the Finals.  Tim Duncan may have played inside a successful series of systems, but that only belies his abilities to morph his game and his dedication to his craft as one of the greatest to ever play. His teams have always been star-studded, if only because he's at the center of them. And even in a system, someone's got to be the guy to take that last shot.

That shooter might even have the balls to break into song on a city bus. I was only a little annoyed at first, but late into the evening, Celine is still the earworm in my head. Nowhere else in L.A. do you get a floor show for a buck and a quarter.

What say you, Nuggets Nation? Do we have an alpha dog? Do we need one? Seems tied to the teams with the most success, shockingly.