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Schrödinger’s Nuggets

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Question: Is this Denver Nuggets team a 9-1 squad or an 0-4 squad? Answer: Yes.

The Denver Nuggets first ten games were the cat’s meow, but their last four games have been something closer to cat-astrophic.
The Denver Nuggets first ten games were the cat’s meow, but their last four games have been something closer to cat-astrophic.

To me(ow), or not to me(ow). Cat is the question.

- Erwin Schrödinger

OK, lying to you is probably a bad place to start. To be fair, neither Schrödinger nor Shakespeare actually said the above quote. But it does get to the point dear old Erwin was trying to drive home way back in 1935. The 48-year old Austrian was a prominent physicist, and was trying to wrap people’s heads around the idea of quantum mechanics and superposition. His thought experiment was meant to apply the realities of quantum physics to everyday objects, to help demonstrate how amazing what reality actually is at the quantum level.

I’ll let you read more via the link above, should you decide you need a little more physics with your basketball, but suffice it to say that Schrödinger was trying to show how wave mechanics allow a quantum-level object to occupy more than one state and/or place at the same time. To illustrate this in everyday terms, he put an imaginary cat in an imaginary box and imaginarily killed it 50% of the time. His thought experiment had you picturing that because you didn’t know which state your feline was in before you opened the box, kitty was both simultaneously alive and dead until you opened the box and knew for certain. Zombie cat, as it were. It’s way more complex than that. Here are a couple of questions a person who makes up jokes to hide his less-ample intellect never got to pose to Mr. Schrödinger...

  • Can I shake the box? I think I can answer your alive-or-dead question before opening it.
  • What do you have against poor imaginary kitties?

Fortunately, one of the fathers of quantum mechanics didn’t have to deal with my juvenile B.S. the way you just did, and instead coined the very appropriate phrase “quantum entanglement” to describe just how complex the idea behind this is. This dual-state nature is actually what allows the device you’re reading this on right now to exist and share this inanity with you. It can be more than a little confusing, as what you witness at a molecular level is neither one thing or the other, but both. If you ever want to understand it a million times better, check out this great (and short) TED Ed on the topic.

Speaking of zombie cats and confusing things that seem to exist in two unique states, my mind keeps wandering back to your Denver Nuggets. Eight days ago, this team was 9-1, and playing a tough-but-winnable game against the Memphis Grizzlies to take over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference, and to tie the best start in team history. Today, the Nuggets are 9-5 and tied for third with the suddenly-hot Oklahoma City Thunder (9-1 in their last 10 games).

So which team is real? Which is right? Well, obviously they both are, as both of those things are now historical fact. But Nuggets Nation is wondering if this defense is the top-ten-new-car-smell version that rolled out of the gates, or the cellar dwellers of the last few games. The supercharged offense of the last two seasons blinks on and off like a fluorescent bulb in a horror movie. It’s understandable to be flummoxed, as the team seems to be searching for answers as well. Here are a few possibilities that may be a part or whole of what is up (and down) with Mile High City Basketball.

The Scatter Plot theory

This theory would posit that we’re normalizing. Out the 14 games the Nuggets have played thus far, only a handful have been decided by double digits, with most of the play being pretty close throughout. The points of data along whatever curve the Nuggets follow throughout this season are just starting to fill in the picture of the 10,000 foot view, and the team was neither great nor putrid at any point. You just so happened to flip a coin and come up heads nine out of the first ten times.

The Poor Chemistry Theory

Q: What do you do with a sick chemist?

A: If you can’t helium, and you can’t curium, then you might as well barium.

I’m so sorry. That was completely unnecessary.

There is a groundswell of voices talking about some trouble behind the scenes that is still somewhat undefined. Adam Mares had a great take on this in yesterday’s Locked On Nuggets podcast. Adam talks at length about conversations that need to happen in the near future, and posits some great possibilities about next steps. Seriously. Subscribe. You’re missing out.

If this is the case, the good news is that you’ve got a group of guys who have shown themselves to be close currently and in the past, and are just needing to figure out how to come to some common plans and understanding.

The Punch/Counterpunch Theory

This one’s pretty plain and simple. The Nuggets came out of the gates hot, and teams are just finally figuring out how to neutralize their early success. The book is out. Now, how does Denver throw their counterpunch in return?

The Youth Movement Theory

The Nuggets (almost) all have ample play under their belts to now be considered veteran players, but they are still the second-youngest team in the league. This can be a hot-button issue for a lot of Nuggets Nation, as many are tired of hearing about how young the team is. They can’t be both veteran and young, can they? Schrödinger would like a word.

The Not-Yet-Normal Theory

None of the Nuggets starters have been playing at their career-normal levels statistically. This theory posits that if/when most of those numbers normalize, Denver will be sitting pretty.

Those are simply the first five theories I saw in quantity, Nuggets Nation. Whether it’s your quantums, your kitties, or your kiddies that are entangled, the Denver Nuggets have some figuring to do. But depending upon the angle from which you’re observing our atoms, we seem to be rising and falling at the same time. Are we in trouble or succeeding wildly? Maybe both are true, and we’re just finding our new normal. Cat is the question.

Poll

Which of the following is most true about this Denver Nuggets season?

This poll is closed

  • 11%
    Scatter plot. This is about where we should be, it just happened in a weird order.
    (34 votes)
  • 14%
    Poor chemistry. Something is amiss amongst the primary performers.
    (43 votes)
  • 6%
    Counterpunch. Teams are figuring us out.
    (20 votes)
  • 8%
    Kiddies. The second-youngest team in the league is going to have some highs and lows.
    (24 votes)
  • 20%
    Still to normalize. A tough spot, but we’ve still not seen how good this team will be when everything gets back to normal.
    (59 votes)
  • 11%
    All of the above.
    (34 votes)
  • 23%
    More than one of the above.
    (67 votes)
  • 2%
    None of the above.
    (6 votes)
287 votes total Vote Now