“Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.”― George Bernard Shaw

The break came 31 days later this year than last year, a marked improvement. It also came about 31 days earlier than anyone had hoped it might, for obvious reasons.

Your Denver Nuggets got the trash bags to clear out their lockers while still smarting from a narrowly missed opportunity, the closest they’ve been to the Western Conference Finals in a decade. Their competition had not cleared that hurdle in even longer, and was rightly celebrating the opportunity to fling themselves in front of the juggernaut they now face. The only flinging the Nuggets were getting to do was sadly into an industrial-strength Hefty.

While All-Star Center Nikola Jokic was as crestfallen as anyone on the team about the season’s end, and tried to bear the brunt of the responsibility for the outcome, he also spoke clearly in his exit interview about what he already sees from his team.

“…everyone is getting better. Everyone is trying to make something happen.”

Jamal Murray spoke of his desire to improve this offseason as well:

To a person, each of the Nuggets players spoke to their desire to improve upon their game, individually and collectively, even a veteran voice like Paul Millsap:

“I gave my all, and there’s still room for improvement. That’s the bright side, even at 34 years old I know I can get better in several areas of my game, and that’s my goal. I’m not one to look at age and say that I’ve peaked.”

Player after player sang this tune. Disappointment in the dissatisfying ending, but excitement and hope for their future. It was very reminiscent of the spirit of their exit interviews last season, when most all spoke of their offseason commitments to improvement and growth, after narrowly missing the playoffs. You may remember how that worked out, when looking at their growth this season, a pattern they have been fostering over the four seasons that have passed since coach Michael Malone walked in the door:

This content is no longer available.

A 21-game improvement in four seasons, each marked by percentage lifts in double digits every frame. This last year may have been the most impressive of all, an eight game lift that vaulted Denver from 9th to 2nd in the Western Conference standings. With another fire in their collective bellies this offseason, it’s exciting to imagine what can come from another leap forward for one of the most exciting and watchable teams in the NBA.

With approximately 150-160 days until the 2019-20 season begins, there’s a wealth of time to unpack what went right and what went wrong in one of the Nuggets shiniest seasons, and no one will be dwelling on it more than Malone, Jokic, and the rest of a Denver squad that has a taste for something more.

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self”

– Ernest Hemingway