The 2011-12 NBA schedules were released early Tuesday morning in the event that an NBA season does in fact transpire next year. The Nuggets, as usual, will open up on the road against a heated division rival (Portland) on national TV. Two weeks later, Carmelo Anthony will return to Denver in a non-Nuggets uniform on November 16. The crowd reaction that night will likely be the best gauge to date of how the Nuggets fan-base feels in regards to Anthony’s departure from Denver. Would you boo? Would you cheer? Would you — as I would — sit in silence, counterbalanced by an equal amount of appreciation and disappointment? Or would you simply, and nonchalantly, clap slowly just as you would any other player?
First, the schedule.
Obviously it’s nice looking at a potential 2012 NBA schedule, but if CBA negotiations are as stagnant as the reports suggest, this is really irrelevant, and it’s too bad. That game in the middle of November would be a must-see for any Nuggets fan living close to the Denver-metropolitan area. I suspect more than a large number of begrudgingly drunken Boston/New York/Philadelphia-like die-hard Nuggets fans will flood the Pepsi Center for that one moment where they can sublimely crawl out of their seats, wobble back and fourth after letting a few beer-burps erupt deep from their throats and let out a Chewbacca-like shrill to the tune of, “Fffffff*******!!!!!!!kkkk yyyoooooouuuuu Mmeeeeeeellllllooooooooo!!!!!!!!!……(Belch).” There’s a good chance — depending on how many beers I’ve had — that I too would be a member of this disheveled mob. Conversely, there should be a copious amount of Melo supporters there to muffle the hecklers with boisterous cheer.
When I really think about it, under normal circumstances, I don’t know what I’d do when Melo’s name echoed over the loudspeakers. If I were with a group of friends (i.e., the casual fan) I could easily see myself booing somewhat half-heartedly due to the whole “guilty by association” spell, but if I were with some of my family (excluding my sister since she hates Melo and would probably kick my ass for not booing him) or a staunch Nuggets follower, I don’t think I could muster up much will-power to say anything that negative.
This is just me. I’m easily persuaded, try and see all sides of the equation and never sway too far from middle ground. Melo gave us some awesome years in Denver, and that can’t be denied. Though I quibble with those who claim he was the sole reason for this most recent stretch of Nuggets success, I don’t discount the fact that he was one of the most important pieces — if not the most important. But to me, Melo always had one hell of a supporting cast around him, which made his desire to jump ship last season all the more befuddling.
Leaving a franchise after seven years of service is one thing — one totally reasonable, excusable, understandable thing; but demanding a trade in the midst of your fourth consecutive 50-win season, after coming off a fairly recent Western Conference Finals appearance, with a stacked team full of All Stars (and potential future All Stars), Finals MVPs, Sixth Man of the Year candidates, etc., just didn’t make much sense to me.
Melo claimed he was worried about our future, then signs a franchise-crippling extension with a new, financially decadent CBA on the horizon to pair with Amare Stoudemire’s cumbersome $18 million per year contract and in the process demands a trade that jettisons three of his new team’s best four players. Melo said it was all about winning, then demanded a trade to what very well might be the worst franchise in the entire NBA over the last decade. Melo promised he was comfortable with the idea of being a Nugget for life, yet seemed to show no signs of hesitancy when it came to exiting the city of Denver and shedding a Nuggets uniform in the process.
As far as I could tell, Melo just didn’t want to play basketball in Denver any longer, no matter what the circumstances were. To him, it was never about winning, it was about winning in the right spot. Success alone just wasn’t enough for Melo, it had to be achieved with style, in front of celebrities, millionaires, important people; it had to be under the bright lights in New York City.
I don’t hold anything against Melo, but I do look at him differently now. I see him more as a celebrity basketball player than I do simply a really good one. But hey, some people just need to feel important in order to be happy. Some people lust for the spotlight in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. This is Melo, and although I have no problem with it, it’s unfortunate it had to come at the expense of the Nuggets fan base.
So, as I said, I will likely try to obtain tickets to the game when the Knicks return to Denver. I will anticipate the moment Carmelo Anthony’s name is blasted through the arena, and I will (depending on alcohol intake) silently, yet sheepishly, enjoy the towering amount of boos he’ll receive. If this makes me any less of a person, say on the level of one Carmelo Anthony, then so be it. I think I can live that. Because though he might voraciously crave attention, Carmelo Anthony is not a bad person.
November should be an important month — too bad we likely won’t see it. During the second to last month of the year, the Nuggets have only four road games as opposed to nine at home. December sees our first big road trip, which is a five-game stand against the Nets, Sixers, Bucks, Mavs and Grizzlies (not too bad) and seems to be a relatively kind month in terms of overall competition. The new year looks to be much more harsh though, as the Nuggets are scheduled to play nine games on the road (complete with separate three and four-game road trips), yet the longest stretch of home games is only two.
February — the likely starting point of the 2012 season — is pretty balanced, with six games on the road and seven at home. But March, to me, is where the Nuggets season is likely going to be either won or lost. Including the final three games of February and the first half of March, the Nuggets will see a stretch of 10 games at home to only three on the road; after that, is a season-long eight-game road trip which initiates the final run of the season where the Nuggets play 10 of the last 15 games on the road. Granted the last five of seven will be at home, but the fact remains, that the second half of March and the entirety of April will be tough.
The overwhelming sentiment I gather from looking at the Nuggets’ schedule for 2011-12 is this: If we’re able to re-sign Nene and possibly either J.R. Smith or Kenyon Martin (and Afflalo and Chandler of course), I don’t see a lot of teams out there giving us much trouble. The Heat, Bulls, Mavericks (who we always play well against), Lakers and Thunder are about the only teams I can definitively point to and say, “They’re better than us.” Other than that, I think the Nuggets are just as good as any team in the league. If however, we lose any decent-sized combination of the names mentioned above, we could be in for a long season — or, short-long season depending on how many games the lockout erases.
Only time will tell how much, if any, of the 2011-12 season the Nuggets will be able to play. Though we all obviously hope this lockout gets resolved in a timely fashion, after glancing at the Nuggets’ schedule, I think it’s fair to say that we should be praying even harder on a resolution considering November is likely our most gracious month of the entire season.