Thursday, October 29, 2009
All My Friends Are Funeral Singers: An NBA Experiment Vol. 1.3
Editor's Note: The idea of team love is something that gets a lot of support throughout sportswriting. There's ESPN Philly and Boston and Chicago and all that shit. But there is seldom a writer that gets to expose their bias as completely as they want to (mostly because fans of other teams have no interest in hearing from us for too long). This got us to thinking. And thinking hard. So, throughout the NBA season, Pretzeltown is going to be an experiment: four contending teams (Boston, Denver, LAL and Cleveland) will be represented by four different writers sharing their thoughts on the process and progress. Now some Nuggets, uh, nuggets from Mr. Phony.
What is the idea of perfection? Some may a snowflake, or a circle, or a sunrise. Others may say Akira Kurosawa's oeuvre, a Jeff Tweedy lyric, or a rocking chair handcrafted in a backyard shed over many months, reeking of sweat and passion and love. Others - namely most NBA writers - would also add the Denver Nuggets' 2008-2009 season.
There's only one problem: they didn't fucking win anything.
Sure, they won the NW (but only via tiebreaker with the younger and not-quite-as-talented Trailblazers). They made the conference finals for the first time since 1985 (but beat two banged-up teams, the Hornets and Mavericks, to get there). They played the Lakers well in said conference finals (but posted an unforgivable no-show at home in Game 6). Call me crazy, but this sequence of but-fueled events doesn't sound "perfect" to me.
The logic was this: Denver was able to get rid of one thing they didn't need (A.I., a me-first shooter who didn't really make his teammates better) and get the thing they did need (Chauncey Billups, a floor general who would preach punchless George Karl's defensive mindset whilst simultaneously knocking down clutch shots; also, he's from Denver!). That this happened without a gigantic blow to their limited cap room was seen as quite the haul. The problem with this is that they were unable to persuade former Nugget Antonio McDyess to come with Billups, thus adding another veteran frontcourt body who could alleviate the rebounding-and-low-post-defending-the-pick-and-roll burden on Nene and Kenyon Martin. But, still, perfect, right?
Speaking of K-Mart and The Brazilian Hilarious one, that was the other part of the equation: Martin's knees didn't blow up like a suicide bomber in a crowded cafe, and Nene still has one testicle (that we're aware of). Apparently these two being healthy for two years straight is an unlikely scenario, but the Spurs staying healthy and possibly winning a title, with an average age of just under 47, is not.
And that's why nobody likes the Nuggets. Whenever prognosticators talk about who's going to win the title, it's always the same five teams: Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, LAL, and San Antonio. It's the whole "lightning can't strike twice" theory. But what is lightning? An athletic, talented team playing a bit of defense for the first time in forever, gelling at the right time in a down-year for the conference? And what is striking? That they started beating the teams they were supposed to beat, and eventually lost to a team that was superior to them?
It's true that the Nuggets didn't make any MAJOR moves in the off-season; signing Aaron Afflalo and letting Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones walk aren't big moves by any stretch of the imagination. It's true that they failed to land what they really need: a true center, like former Nugget Marcus Camby, or maybe Chris Kaman, aka someone who could allow Nene to move to PF, where he truly belongs and would likely dominate.
But it's true that they added something they lacked: a speedster guard (Ty Lawson) who would take crucial minutes away from the abonimable Anthony Carter, while at the same time saving Chauncey's aging legs. This made up for not taking DeJuan Blair in the second round. Almost.
Are the Nuggets the best team in the Western Conference? No. Are they the second-best? Probably not. Will they finish anywhere from 3-5, and again have a chance to reach the conference finals? You bet your signed Fat Lever rookie card. Sure, certain things have to happen - they avoid big injuries, Melo plays at a near-MVP level, JR Smith continues to mature and even show those playmaking skills he awesomely broke out in the playoffs, Birdman continues to be a defensive presence off the bench, Karl doesn't majorly jack shit up - but that is every team. This is the NBA, son - a marathon, a grind, a beast of a bitch with a mind to smack your whiny ass DOWN.
Lightning does strike twice. Mother Nature fucks Father Time without protection everywhere, around the clock. And Denver has a damn good team that is playoff-bound again. If you're a Nuggets fan, that's as close to perfect as you're ever gonna get.