#NuggLife. It’s been our mantra for about 4 years now. It’s been our way of fandom from the moment we adopted the team with the silly little miner and cartoon mountain lion. We wear it with a badge of honor, a statement. I’ve been here for Vincent Yarborough and Junior Harrington. I remember the fact that the Denver Nuggets actually lost that game where Rodney Rodgers scored 9 points in 9 seconds. I remember losing game 7 to the Utah Jazz in 1994 just as much as I remember beating the Seattle Supersonics a round earlier and, yes, I remember a limp Rocky being lowered to the court on opening night. Don’t tell us about how it’s different, we’ve been here too many times before.
This mindset is a portion of what contributed to what some might call an outpouring of vitriol on social media following the Nuggets loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. The rest is probably coming from fans who are newer to the Nuggets, riding the excitement of a 4-0 start into a nationally televised contest against the greatest player playing today only to be met with a wave of disappointment following Denver being outperformed by LeBron (sure), Lonzo Ball (okay), Lance Stephenson (what the...) and Javale McGee (#NuggLife). I get it. I get it from both ends in fact. If you were a casual fan who was tired of watching Vance Joseph and the Denver Broncos have “a great week of practice” only to lose embarrassingly on Sunday, if you were a Colorado Rockies fan looking for a new outlet now that the boys over at 20th and Blake have been eliminated then you likely were fairly hyped for Thursday night’s contest. If you are a die-hard like myself, then the 4-0 start being as near perfect as it was likely allowed your guard to slip, even just a tiny bit. You probably even gave yourself permission to be optimistic and if either scenario made you brave enough to dip your toes into the cesspool that is Lakers Twitter then, well, Thursday night probably left you bitter, angry and cursing the Nuggets (under your breath or otherwise).
The problem is that we are actually feeding the NuggLife mentality when we do that. Look, no matter how you feel about the Meme Squad, LeBron James could carry a group of fifth graders to a win in the NBA if he had to. Throw in the fact that it was a national TV game, late tip-off and in Los Angeles and honestly the loss isn’t surprising, in fact it probably should have been expected. Additionally, the Nuggets weren’t going to go 82-0, we know this, they were bound to lose at some point and after reeling off four straight wins that point was bound to come at any moment. It stings more because it’s LA, but its no reason to make an about face on the optimism that has been fueled by the Nuggets fast start. After all, if Jeff Morton is posting Weekly Optimism, there must be something special going on with this team.
In fact, this upcoming week should place far greater weight on how we frame our expectations of this team. The loss to the Lakers was a good reality check. It brought everyone back down to earth whether that be the fans or the national media. MVP chants for Nikola Jokic and topping the power rankings is something the Nuggets hopefully will have to get used to, but the first week of it might have been a bit dizzying. Things will calm down this week from that perspective, at least to begin with. That doesn’t mean the Nuggets competition gets any easier though. The next team on the docket, the New Orleans Pelicans, are just as much of a darling in the eyes of NBA fandom as the Nuggets are right now and New Orleans can point to their first loss as a consequence of Anthony Davis missing the game. Their roster is formidable and if Davis is a go, they have a superstar that is every bit the player Jokic is and will give him everything he can handle.
Losing to the Lakers was the first slip up of the season and now there’s no better team to test the Nuggets’ ability to bounce back than the Pelicans. A win will likely have Denver and their fans riding high (as they should be) but even that may only be the precursor to the biggest challenge of the week. Beating the Pelicans sets the Nuggets up for what was a classic pitfall for them last season: big win followed by some gimmes on the road. The Nuggets two game Midwest swing against the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers is a blatant “must go 2-0” road trip, it’s also a trip this team overlooks in the past. However, with the Bulls representing a lottery team that is simultaneously the walking wounded and with the Cavs in a full out tailspin, losing just one of these games, despite the fact that they are on a back to back, would be very disheartening because of the way the week unfolds. Those two games are bookended by the matchup with the Pelicans and the Nuggets first contest against a division rival, the Utah Jazz (who are also generally considered the best team in the division). If AD plays tonight then both the Pelicans and Jazz games are coin flips with a slight advantage to the Nuggets as the home team, at best. It’s not hard to see the Nuggets going .500 or under this week if they don’t take care of business on the road and that would justifiably continue to sour the mood of Nuggets Nation.
Shout NuggLife from the rooftops if you must. After all, getting beat by Javale has an extreme NuggLifeyness about it, but I for one will withhold judgement. We are only 6% into the season after all. However, that’s not to say that I don’t hear and understand where the angst is coming from. Trust me, I understand all too well and I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous about this week and how much optimism it has the potential to kill. Consider the flip side though, if Denver goes 4-0 or 3-1 this week then everyone is back on the bandwagon singing John Denver songs with merriment. So, if you’re feeling disappointed about the Lakers loss then that’s ok, but don’t let it ruin your day, we got 94% of this still to go.