The NBA season is essentially back which means we’re back to musing on Sundays and dropping those thoughts in the middle of Broncos games. The Sunday afternoon slot isn’t glamorous that’s for sure, but it’s honest work. Usually I keep this column pretty Denver Nuggets, and even basketball in general, free but today I thought we’d reflect on the whirlwind that has been the start of free agency and the painful departure of Jerami Grant.
Grant of course blossomed in the playoffs last season, most notably when he proved to be Denver’s go to weapon against Kawhi Leonard in their upset of the Los Angeles Clippers in the Western Conference Semifinals. Grant fully realized the potential the Nuggets saw in him when they surrendered a first round pick the year before to acquire him. A combo forward capable of shutting down big small forwards as well as stretch power forwards while also shooting well above league average from three. Next to Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray on offense Grant was left open plenty of times at the perimeter and he cashed those shots in on the regular. With Michael Porter Jr. seemingly destined to join him in the starting lineup Grant’s biggest weakness as a forward, rebounding, was greatly mitigated while yet another scoring option would practically guarantee he would never see a double team.
Twenty-six years old as well, Grant’s fit into the Nuggets core seemed perfect. He would be expensive to be sure, after what he did in the postseason there was no denying his value, but the Nuggets could bite the bullet. It would be worth it after all to keep such a key piece of the roster in the fold. And then, just like that, Grant was a Detroit Piston. Three years, sixty million dollars and a role where he wouldn’t be looked at as a fourth option like he was in Denver’s plan. It was the metaphorical punch in the gut everyone knew in the back of their head was possible but never thought would actually happen. The Nuggets rebounded quickly, signing JaMychal Green and re-signing Paul Millsap for less money combined than it would have cost them to retain Grant’s services. Neither Millsap nor Green is as great of a fit both in terms of ability and timeline as Grant was but they’re solid forwards who provide a short term solution.
Is it perfect? No, things rarely are. It just is. With the Nuggets adding Isaiah Hartenstein and converting Bol Bol to a fully guaranteed contracts while signing Greg Whittington to a 2-way deal their roster is complete, or at the very least full. It certainly isn’t what most Nuggets fans had in mind when the offseason began and there were dreams of adding Jrue Holiday while Grant came back at an affordable $14 million per season, but again, it just is.
That’s something that we all deal with in all walks of life, dealing with just the way things are. Take for example the pandemic. It’s a terrible thing we are going through, people are losing their loved ones, their livelihoods, their sanity. Every day we wake up hoping for it to be magically over, for a vaccine to not only be developed, but approved and distributed to the masses that day. That’s of course not how it works. All we can do (at least those of use who aren’t actively working on developing a vaccine) is do our best to mitigate the risk while we wait for the process to play out. It sucks, it’s ruined the entire year and many years beyond for many who have lost so much more this year than just social gatherings and normal routines. And yet, it just is.
The Nuggets signed JaMychal Green and Paul Millsap to help them compete next season without Jerami Grant because the game goes on, the days go on. We wear masks, order our groceries through a website and do school on the computer because while there are many ways to slow the spread of coronavirus it won’t just disappear like a miracle and the fact of the matter is the sun still rises and sets every day. The earth keeps on turning, the powers at work that are far larger than human comprehension continue to push the universe forward. It is that backdrop that sets the scene of both the resilience and insignificance of the human race. Of course, it is silly to compare something like a game of basketball to a global pandemic. One far out strips the other in terms of risk, loss and impact, but the point I make is even though they are so different, the ebb and flow of time cares not for either. It is an ever moving, ever persistent force. It just is.
So Jerami will play in a Pistons uniform and the Nuggets roster will be more clunky than anticipated. Denver’s basketball team and it’s fans will have to move on with out him. I hope he finds all the success he is looking for in his new role in Detroit and I hope that Green and Millsap fill his shoes admirably. There is no guarantee of any of that happening though, and Grant may fail in Detroit just as the Nuggets may fail to reach their goals without him. Either way, the games will keep coming, the days will keep passing and the world keeps on moving. It’s just the way things work. It just is.