The bad news could have been worse. Fortunately the initial diagnosis on Carmelo Anthony’s hand was accurate last night and surgery will not be required. Although even if you get a little excited that he will only miss three to four weeks you then you get hit with the realization that he is going to miss three to four weeks.
In my opinion this stretch becomes the make or break stretch of the Nuggets’ season. For now let’s assume that Melo can return for the Nuggets’ February third home game against the San Antonio Spurs which will go down exactly four weeks from today. If that is the case, he will miss the next 11 games, eight of which are against playoff quality opponents. However, eight of those games are at home.
Even without Melo the Nuggets have the talent to win every one of those 11 games. The additional scoring burden can be shared by Linas Kleiza, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin.
Kleiza has been shooting lights out over his previous 13 appearances. He has made a three in every one of those games and has accumulated a shooting percentage of 51.0% by making 25 of his last 49 three point attempts. He has taken more than twice as many threes (49) as he has two point shots (24) during that time frame.
J.R. has been shooting well over those 13 games also having made 32 of his 79 three point attempts which equates to 40.5%.
Chauncey seemed to get himself out of a brief mental haze in the second half of last night’s game against the Pacers and Kenyon is capable of exploding for big scoring nights every now and then. Nene has picked up his efficiency once again since his 0-2 performance against the Cavs.
However, the most impressive Nugget from an offensive standpoint has been Nene. Nene has produced 162 points from his previous 84 shots. That is almost two points for every shot attempt over a stretch of nine games. That is absolutely astounding.
Denver seems to be more than capable of accounting for absence of Melo’s offense, at least over the short term. The issue over these next 11 games will not be talent or scoring, but how mentally tough they will be. In the past I have argued that this team, from the top down, has used injuries as an excuse. If they choose to lament playing without Melo and decide that the deck is stacked against them until he comes back they are going to play poorly and I could honestly see them losing as many as nine of those eleven games.
On the other hand, if they choose to meet the challenge and collectively demand nothing other than the best effort, mentally and physically, from each other I see no reason why they could not win eight or nine of those 11 games.
I expect them to rally to the challenge and in doing so there may be a silver lining here. Perhaps the Nuggets can use this opportunity to renew their defensive mindset and commitment that they began the season with. Despite the impressive improvement they have experienced offensively from last season, it is their defense that will determine how far they go come April and May. Over the previous three plus weeks their defense has faltered at best and shown signs of collapse at worst.
Regardless, there is never a good time to lose a player like Carmelo Anthony, but with plenty of home games on the schedule, despite the tough opponents, this is probably as good a time as any to go without him. Plus maybe his elbow will finally get back to being 100% and the Nuggets can come through with a successful stretch that will build their confidence and make them a better team.
Samb Trade Details
Chris Tomasson has the nitty gritty on the trade that sent Cheikh Samb to the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets paid what appears to be the prorated portion of Samb’s contract in a cash amount totaling about $420,000. The second round pick was purely a ruse in order to fulfill the stipulations that both teams have to appear to give something up in order for there to be an actual trade. The second round pick is set to be transferred in the 2015 draft, but only if it is in the last five picks of the draft. In other words, the Clippers would have to finish with one of the five best records in the NBA in order for the Nuggets to get the pick.
You can say what you want about the mindset of the Nuggets in trading away a prospect for nothing (though they will get a $711,517 trade exception out of the deal), but I think this deal is more damning of the Clippers organizational mindset. Apparently they seriously doubt that they will be a top five team in 2015. Come on Clippers, plan for success!
Pacers’ Defense on Carmelo
One thing I forgot to add to my game recap from last night’s game was how rarely the pacers threw any hard double team’s at Carmelo. They almost exclusively settled for a soft double where a big man would come over to the block on the strong side when Melo had the ball. Even when Melo had the ball in the post he was basically covered man to man. The fact that Melo ended up with so many good assists without the benefit of a double team to open up more space on the floor is a credit to his passing and vision.
George Karl on Camera
Ryan McNeill over at Hoops Addict had the opportunity to roll video hard drive during George Karl’s pre game press conference before the New Year’s Eve game in Toronto. Thanks to Ryan for the superlative coverage.
Don’t Hold Me to This Standard
Gian over at the Knicks blog Seven Seconds or Mess puts together videos that put mine to shame. Check out his review of the Knicks/Nuggets game from a few days ago below.