As a kid in L.A., it wasn’t odd to experience earthquakes on a somewhat-regular basis, with most of them showing up as tiny temblors. By the time you’d actually figured out why your pencil was rolling across your desk, it had stopped and all of the “action” was over. Nine out of ten earthquakes were processed by my young brain more as possible ghost story than cataclysm.

But every now and again, you’d have something a little bigger roll on through. The kind of earthquake where objects fall off of shelves, sidewalks crack, and there was an audible rumble coming from someplace unidentifiable. For those monstrosities, you were huddled under something (often the same desk) and waiting out the extra 30-60 seconds it lasted, which felt like an eon. By the time the shaking/bumping/shimmying was done, you had no idea what you were going to come back up to.

But the biggest earthquake of my first dozen years was one I didn’t even feel. A month or so shy of my twelfth birthday – and a thousand miles north of L.A. – a nasty little earthquake hit the north side of Mount Saint Helens in the state of Washington. The earthquake triggered a landslide of proportions previously unseen in recorded human history, along with a volcanic eruption that impacted the near surroundings catastrophically, and heavily impacted 11 neighboring states with ash and dust. For those nearby, it was earth-shattering in every sense of the words. 57 people lost their lives, along with thousands of animals nearby. Hundreds of square miles were reduced to a virtual wasteland, with impacts as earth-shifting as mudslides occurring as far as 50 miles away. While my sixth-grade butt spent the next couple weeks taking recess indoors, the residents of southwest Washington awoke on May 19th to an entirely different landscape than the one that had been outside their window the day before.

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Sometimes, even when you’re sitting next to an active volcano, you forget just how much the earth can move in a day.

Over a few days this last week, and with another force of nature, the landscape of the 2018-2019 NBA changed pretty dramatically. LeBron James brings his three championship rings to a team who has a few trophies of their own. More important to Denver Nuggets fans, yet another team improves in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. While it’s tough to imagine LBJ taking his current squad to a ninth consecutive title bid, it’s equally (or even more) difficult to imagine him missing the playoffs for the second time in his career. James’ Cavaliers squad missed the playoffs in his rookie season, when the Denver Nuggets Carmelo Anthony was instrumental in lifting his team to their first playoff appearance in nine seasons. LeBron has not missed another since, and is now amongst the pantheon of players who have made consecutive Finals appearances. Hysterically, one of the other names on that list is there simply by following James throughout his career. Odds seem reasonably high that LeBron and Co will be in the playoffs no matter which name is stitched onto the front of his jersey, or which conference he’s associated with. That playoff entry hurdle is obviously also the bar your Nuggets are trying to clear, and there will apparently still only be eight spots awarded yet again this season, unless I can finally get that external suggestion box installed at Adam Silver’s house. Rejection (and tasers) sting, Mr. Commissioner.

LeBron’s somewhat-expected move to the Lakers is not the only upheaval or complexity thrown into the Nuggets path this upcoming season, with Boogie Cousins somehow possibly improving both the Warriors and Pelicans with his surprise move, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony sticking with the Thunder, and Trevor Ariza oddly shoring up another Western Conference team that’s been on the outside looking in with the Suns. Oh, and James is not the only shift for the Lakers, with Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and JaVale McGee now on board and Clint Capela possibly on their radar. Maybe Stephenson got his invite by blowing in somebody’s ear…

Denver also sees smaller-but-important shifts of their own in the departure of Wilson Chandler to the Sixers, and the decent possibility of an offense-rich, defense-challenged Nuggets starting five with newly-inked Will Barton probably sliding into the small forward role. With Barton and Nikola Jokic both committing to contracts for starter’s money in the last week, Denver seems to know the general hand they’re dealt next season, barring any surprises up Tim Connelly’s sleeve. It’s not as if things are complete all around us, though.

Just like that eon under my desk, the rumblings are certainly not done. The contract moratorium ends tomorrow, and though several key pieces have already declared their upcoming plans, there is always room for surprises in that mix, with numerous key cogs still looking for a decent spot to fill. The landscape will continue shifting for the near term, and the Nuggets already find themselves looking at an even-tougher wild West.

With another year under their belts but a very different road to traverse, will Denver finally get to the playoffs this year, Nuggets Nation? How tough will the West be by the time the dust settles on this Free Agency landslide?

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