“When the flame changes color, the copper is pure.”

A friend of mine is a chemist and metallurgist and swordfighter and pyrotechnician. An interesting dude. He was physically illustrating a phrase to me that I’d brought up in conversation a couple days earlier. A phrase I’d known since childhood, under a number of different contexts. The Refiner’s Fire.

As my friend finished his sentence, the flame turned a bright green, as if on cue. He’d taken copper that was already 98% pure and made it about as pure as you can by putting it into a furnace like nothing I’d ever seen. He’d literally run it through the refiner’s fire. Though this video is not from my personal experience, you can see the color of the flame here:

Whether you know the concept of the Refiner’s Fire from fiction, gaming, self-help books, religion, or any number of other sources, the idea behind the concept is always quite similar. Take an object (or a few) that are reasonably pure and strong in the first place, and apply an immense amount of heat and pressure to make the element or collective elements as strong and pure a version of themselves as possible.

Professional sports teams who end up enjoying success and championships often discuss similar circumstances along their paths. The stumbling blocks and hardships that came along their journey to their ultimate goal, but somehow made them stronger for the test. If you were a fan of the Colorado Avalanche during either of their championship seasons, you’ll remember some of the hardships that came during both of those seasons, let alone some of the issues they ran into in the seasons in between. The Denver Broncos have also seen some peaks and valleys along the paths that carried them to their numerous championships. If your team in any sport won a championship, you’ll remember a moment or two along the way that they hit tough times along the way. You may also see how those trials strengthened them and helped get them back to their winning ways.

But every team in every sport endures their share of ups and downs in a season, correct? If the Refiner’s Fire were to always work, wouldn’t every team get stronger after they hit those trials and tribulations? I asked the same of my friend as we watched copper burn. He’d actually come close to being an Olympian in fencing along the path of his life, and said he’d seen refining his art very similarly, and how well refined you needed to be before you could take that level of heat or pressure. Just as there’s a reason they use the level of copper they do in the refining he was showing me. That copper has already seen some processing and clarification of its own. If you put something with more weakness or crud into a fire so hot, you’re going to create some ugly issues with how much of it burns up as you go.

These Denver Nuggets have shown themselves to be made of some pretty refined stuff these days, if only because of the depths of their roster they’ve had to explore due to a lot of early season injuries to key players. That they’ve been able to do so at the top of their conference says a lot about the quality of the squad’s depth and leadership. But this group looks to be back at full strength in the near future, and will be bringing all of these elements back up to temperature during one of their hottest runs of the season. January is a refining furnace of its own, with almost a fifth of the Nuggets season (16 games) taking place during the month, including three back-to-backs. By the time the month is through, Denver will be 50 games in and hopefully a couple weeks shy of Nikola Jokic’s first All-Star Game appearance.

How these already-refined pieces are able to come together under the heat of a new year should tell a lot about what they could be made of by season’s end or in the closest seasons to come. These are rare opportunities for any team, let alone your Denver Nuggets. Just keep watching that flame, Nuggets Nation.

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