Just think, somewhere in the world there is a young Denver Nuggets fan who has no idea what is like for his favorite basketball team to miss the playoffs, or to even play a meaningless game. The Nuggets have participated in the postseason seven straight seasons, which means the last time there was any talk of mathematic elimination in Denver there was no such thing as blogs.
The Nuggets have vacillated between big wins such as on opening night against the Jazz, where they looked like a contender in postseason form, and more recently against the Lakers, to the embarrassing blowout against the Pacers, and over the previous two games scattershot performances against Phoenix and then New York. In ten games since the tip off of the 2010-11 season the Nuggets have yet to duplicate the performance they put forth against the Jazz to kick off the season.
The Nuggets have played hard every game, save a quarter or two in Indianapolis, yet they have struggled to play well consistently. Effort has not been the issue, focus and passion have. For a team who knows the importance of every game, they are missing that urgency and drive winning teams possess. How many times have you seen anyone show any fire on the court when things are going poorly. The way the players seemed resigned to their fate in Phoenix was shocking. There were no rallying cries or attempts at stemming the tide during the dismal second half. The only emotion the Nuggets show is when things are going well, or if they are frustrated with the officials. The one player I have seen actually yell at his teammates on the court is Al Harrington when he hollered that everyone needed to run back on defense after giving up an offensive rebound on a fast break against New York.
The bottom line is these games seem somewhat meaningless. Regardless of what they say, or do not say to the media, I believe the players know deep down these games are basically meaningless. They appear resigned to the fact the competitive portion of this season will end when Carmelo Anthony is traded. However, due to the apparent inevitability of that trade the competitive portion of the season is actually already over. That makes the outcome of these games somewhat meaningless.
The fans certainly sense it. Whether it is comments on this blog, or the relatively small turnout and tepid support for the team during the Kincks game, Nuggets supporters believe Melo will be traded and Denver will find themselves in the lottery.
It is a strange feeling for the fans, but it must be even more so for the players who expected to be a part of a team that was going to be a factor.
Things seem to have changed after the game one victory over Utah. After that game there was hope that Carmelo would realize how good the Nuggets could be and possibly be swayed to if not sign the extension, declare he wanted to be a Nugget for the duration of the season. What changed? Following that game Melo was quoted by Marc Spears as saying, “If I do nothing now, I’m never going to do anything.”
Denver has never played as well since Anthony uttered those words and the games have not meant as much. In many ways, Denver is already in the post Carmelo era.
Other Odds and Ends
The advanced stats on the right sidebar have been updated to reflect the first 11 games of the season. They should continue to be updated following every game for the remainder of the season.
I was fortunate to be on At the Buzzer with Brian Doolittle once again where we discussed Arron Afflalo, the Nuggets new leadership and of course Carmelo. You can listen to a recording of it here.
If you have watched any of the recent battles between the Knicks and Nuggets at the Pepsi Center, the game on Tuesday followed the typical patter. New York hangs around despite being outplayed and clearly possessing lesser talent, makes a run at the end only to see some heartbreaking play go against them as they lose a close one. Well, the latest installment was much closer than I think any of us realized. In fact, the Knicks managed to do something few other teams have. They dominated every major statistical category and still managed to lose. ESPN Stats and Information has the lowdown. After looking at that, it is pretty remarkable Denver managed to win.
Howard Beck of the New York Times looks at whether or not the Knicks should be pursuing Carmelo Anthony at all, with a little help from your’s truly.
I was part of Daily Dime Live again during the Nuggets win over the Knicks. I implore you to catch the replay and jump on my Steve Nash to the Magic bandwagon.