The Denver Nuggets have made it out of the first round of the playoffs. I am pleased with the progress and the way they dominated the Hornets, but if this is where it ends I am not going to be satisfied. This is not the destination.
Chauncey Billups summed it up best in his postgame comments (which I painstakingly transcribed thanks to my DVR and pause button):
“Even though I have not lost in the first round in a long time, being around here all year man, it’s like, you know everybody’s putting all the emphasis on the first round. I shoot higher than that, you know that’s just the first step.”
Imagine how silly it sounds to a player like Chauncey, who has been to the finals twice, won it all once and played in the conference finals six straight times, that this franchise was obsessed with winning one playoff series. At this point the Nuggets players are saying all the right things about how they want more and they are still hungry, but up until they prove on the court that those things are true, shouldn’t we be a little worried how they will react to removing the monkey off their back?
Honestly, I think the players do want more. I expect them to play great against the Mavs and win the series. On the other hand I would be lying though if I did not admit that the thought of Denver coming out flat because of their “accomplishments” this season does not worry me a little.
As Chauncey said, everyone in this organization, and even a large portion of the fan base, has put all the emphasis on getting out of the first round. Just because it has been 15 seasons since Denver has been this far in the postseason does not automatically establish playing in the semifinals as an exceptional achievement.
You can say whatever you want about me that I am unrealistic or a killjoy, but I take little solace in accomplishing things that any self respecting organization views as commonplace. If any franchise truly takes itself seriously they do not revel in making it out of the first round because they do not suffer through a drought of 15 years between series victories. Championship caliber franchises do not mark 50 win seasons as a major feat or feel a sense of triumph in bettering the preseason prognostications made by journalists who do not even watch the team play on a regular basis.
I am not saying Nugget fans should not enjoy the fact that their squad is experiencing the most success in 15 seasons. Even Lakers fans, Cavs fans and Celtics fans stand up and cheer on their team when they advance. However, any organization that views this as a monumental time in franchise history is not worth their weight in sawdust. The rarity of an accomplishment does not in and of itself make reaching it a milestone.
Yes, the win last night was a step in the right direction and typically winning the NBA championship is a process that takes several years, but anything less than a championship should not be looked at as success. Until the Nuggets start thinking that way, nights like last night will be the biggest event we ever experience as Nuggets fans.
Celebrate the step Denver has taken, but make sure you want and demand more from this franchise.