23 Years a Fan

Erlingur Einarsson is a new contributor to Roundball Mining Company. He is excited to join our team and honored to be an active part of something he cares so deeply about. This is the story of his relationship with the Denver Nuggets for the last 23 years…

1992.

I‘m raised on a farm in Iceland. This farm has one TV station, the state-run one. The only sports it shows with any regular frequency are football – sorry, soccer – and the two national delicacies of handball (a fascinating amalgam of the layout of a distorted hockey court, the physicality of rugby and the speed of basketball) and Icelandic wrestling. Not the cool kind of wrestling, I‘m afraid. From time to time, there are athletics. And every once in a blue moon (or about once a year, in June), glimpses of a fascinating sports from across the Atlantic Ocean. Basketball. My ten-year-old mind takes a mini somersault every time I glimpse it.

There are a couple of other TV stations in Iceland at that time. And during a visit to friends of my parents, I get to watch “the other station.” And on that particular visit, there’s a broadcast on from a game the night before. It’s showing a game between the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers. I have heard of the stars before, like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but not much more than that. I watch the game, and thanks to the absence of the Internet, I have no idea how the game went. I am instantly transfixed. Chicago wins 99-94 and advances to the Finals. I’m hooked on this sport for life.

1993.

I read the box scores from the NBA in the newspaper every day. My birth mother has now lived in Denver for years, so I get sent a box of basketball cards one day. It’s full of players from the Denver Nuggets. One is Chris Jackson, or Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf; it’s a bit confusing. He used to be called Chris but changed his name. I find out that in a nearby town, one shop sells basketball cards. Every time we go, I either buy a packet myself or manage to beg one out of my parents. Soon, I have a whole bunch of them. I watch taped games whenever I can, and my parents’ friend even agrees to record them on his VCR whenever he remembers. Dikembe Mutombo appears before my eyes on TV for the first time. He’s even more impressive than the stats on my card say.

1994.

I break the 100-card barrier. I’m now a huge David Robinson and Clyde Drexler fan. Nowhere in Iceland can you buy NBA jerseys. I hate being on this rock in the middle of nowhere. Everyone around me is a Bulls fan, but doesn’t even know my Nuggets cap logo is for an actual NBA team. Stupid bandwagoners. This spring I watch highlights from the Western Conference’s First Round upset between Denver and Seattle. I decide to never support another team after seeing Dikembe spread out on the floor, clutching the ball in ecstasy.

1995.

I break the 500-card barrier. You don’t know who Bryant Stith and LaPhonso Ellis are? You’re not worthy of my time. Why can’t we get Channel 2? They show, like, five games a year. It’s definitely worth it, mom.

1996.

I go abroad for the first time. And it’s to Denver. It’s in August, so unfortunately there are no games on, but I still manage to get myself an Antonio McDyess autograph at an event and buy both a Mutombo and Abdul-Rauf jersey.

At this time, I’m becoming more versed in the goings-on in the NBA, and know the team pretty well. Jalen Rose and Antonio McDyess are two young guys with immense potential; Dale Ellis is a veteran presence; Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis and Abdul-Rauf have now played together for a few years. However, injury news pile up, the team disappoints with only 35 wins and Mutombo leaves for nothing in the summer. I am positively distraught.

1997.

I read about loss after loss in the box-score columns. The team is in complete disarray and makes inexplicable decisions like trading Abdul-Rauf away for Sarunas Marciulionis and a pair of used socks, trading Mark Jackson away mid-season after having thrown Jalen Rose away for him and the ghost of Ricky Pierce, and letting Ervin Johnson go after having been the only one getting any rebounds that season — in exchange for Danny Fortson. I can’t even…

1998.

I can’t even…

1999.

I just cannot…

2000.

Even…

2001.

The Web has now been thoroughly established. I frequent NBA.com and their Denver Nuggets website. McDyess, who came back a year after being traded away for five draft picks and a packet of biscuits, has his best season yet. I drool over box scores, but find myself gutted at seeing the Nugs miss out on the playoffs yet again. But hey, the future is bright. Right?

2002.

Not so much.

2003.

After watching Vincent Yarborough, Junior Harrington and Nikoloz Tskitishvili actually start games for my beloved but embattled Denver Nuggets, I vow that they better get someone worthwhile in the draft or I’m personally traveling to the States to kick every one of their front-office staff members in the shin. Oh, hi Melo.

2004.

The Countdown To The Inevitable Title begins. Melo struggles as a rookie expected to be a superstar, “but hey, this Nene guy is surely poised to break out and become a star as well,” I think every time I see him for the next eight years. And the playoffs are back. They go out in the first round, but I’m so happy at the progress that from now on I’m assigning the first-person plural to every conversation I have about the Nuggets, be it to my mates, my dad, my girlfriend or my cat, the last of which only appears to have any interest in what I’m talking about.

2005.

New additions Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby fill me with even more hope. And after Bzdelik is fired, the legendary George Karl comes in and the team barnstorms the second half of the season. Another first-round exit follows, but that’s because of the subpar first half of the season putting us – I mean them! – into a hole. Next season, just you wait.

2006.

Champions, baby! Well, only the Northwest Division — but still. When Camby and K-Mart are hobbled all season long and the best support outside of Professor Miller is Voshon Lenard, you gotta take what you can get. Improve the supporting squad, and next season it’s on!

2007.

The Answer is here. Put the Title Countdown Clock to five minutes to midnight, please. Damn Spurs, though. They just keep getting in the Nuggets’ way. Still, it’s Melo and Iverson’s first season together, Kenyon Martin just missed the whole season, or just about, and Nene is just one season away from really blooming. Next season, with AI, Melo, K-Mart, a more mature JR Smith, and a blossoming Nene, they’ll definitely go all the way. I’m sure of it.

2008.

By the time the Lakers finish off the Nuggets 4-0 in the first round I’ve realized I’m probably a glass-half-full type of guy. The first season with Melo and a full supporting cast not hamstrung by multiple injuries across the squad ends in 50 wins and some high hopes. The Lakers this year are just too strong, though. Bad matchup. We’ll figure them out next year. Don’t you worry ‘bout that.

2009.

This is the year I most hope/fear that the promise to myself to buy a plane ticket and go see the Nuggets make their first NBA Finals appearance — even if it makes me skint — will have to be fulfilled. However, Anthony Carter and a botched in-bounds play prevents that. I’m gonna have to make plans for next year, though, because that Billups trade has really helped the team and made a maturing Melo an even better player. NBA Finals 2010, here we come.

2010.

Nevermind that.

Still, in the summer, I have my closest personal encounter with the Nuggets, when I go on a massive journey to drive across the USA. In Las Vegas, I see a Summer League game with the Nuggets and my lack of comprehending Ty Lawson’s speed is only matched by the lack of comprehending the size of the Grand Canyon three days earlier. Next season — with Billups starting and Lawson supporting — is gonna be epic. Melodrama looms over everything, though. Let’s hope they get someone good for him if he leaves.

2011.

I’m more torn up about Billups leaving than Melo, because him leading that deep, deep squad would have gotten them further than the first round. Still, it’s early days with this team. Let’s see how next season goes. It’s hard to beat a team that can keep coming at you from the bench.

2012.

Again, circumstances force the Nuggets to put my dream of seeing them in the Finals on hold once more. Sigh, next season, I guess.

2013.

Nevermind.

2014.

After the first losing season in 11 years for the Nuggets, and one that brought perhaps the greatest change to the team and the air around it in a long time, I join the ranks of writers for Roundball Mining Company. The team stands at a crossroads. For the first time in a decade I’m not absolutely convinced they’ll be better than the previous season. Injuries decimated the team yet again, perhaps worse than ever since I started following them. There’s uncertainty about the coach. Is he the real deal or not? I’m not sure. But in a way, I’m still more excited about that than knowing exactly what I’ll get from a George Karl-coached team, which is an overachieving regular season followed by a first-round exit and a shimmering illusion on the horizon that somehow it will all fall into place next year.

It won’t all fall into place next year. But I’ve been through much worse as a Nuggets fan than the transitional 2013-14 season. I’m absolutely convinced that we fans won’t see a regression to the long desert walk of 1996-2003, which came after a similar period of unfulfilled promise and ultimately broken dreams of glory as we see setting beyond the mountains now.

And now I am for the first time in a position to write about my single favorite team in all of sports. It’s the one I have felt the most emotional link to for the last 23 years of my life, and I know it may not be to follow an immediate title chase. But I have faith in my Nuggets. They’ll do something bold. They regularly have, taking flyers on future Hall-of-Famers (Tim Hardaway, Allen Iverson) and crippling busts (Tskitishvili, Raef LaFrentz) alike, getting big names aboard, seemingly against all so-called “big-market” logic and generally being that crazy, unpredictable Rocky Mountain wildling of the NBA. And I have no reason to believe they’ll stop doing that next season. Just you wait and see.

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Kalen Deremo

Kalen was born in Durango, CO, in 1988 and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2013 with a degree in journalism. He's now an itinerant hoping to travel as much as possible before eventually succumbing to the "real world." Aside from writing Kalen likes movies, music, spicy food and the great outdoors. Edward Abbey is his current idol.
  • Josh Chin

    Welcome Erlingur, hope you have some great insight and opinions for “our” Nuggets team

    • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

      Thank you. I hope so too. I will have opinions. Whether they’re great remains to be seen. :)

  • pgwarner

    After having seen the Icelandic female Olympic athletes who would have time for basketball? Just saying… Welcome.

    • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

      Hahah! Thank you. Still, google “Icelandic handball” and prepare to have your mind blown.

  • heykyleinsf

    wow does that feel good to know we have such cool international love!
    And hopefully scouting.. welcome!!

    • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

      Thank you kindly. I might post a slam poetry video special sometime this year. Who knows.

      • heykyleinsf

        Hey .. if you ever want to collab…

  • heykyleinsf

    it’s impossible to not consider..
    the schizophrenia of the Pacers
    without considering coaching.

    What’s different between this year and last year??

    YEP.

    • LBJ

      This year they won 7 more games and were the #1 seed (#3 seed last year). Yes, getting rid of Shaw helped the Pacers.

      • mike gomez

        are you sure about that?? because after the star break they broke apart like no other. here something i found “Players gravitated to Shaw because of his knowledge of playing and coaching on championship teams. George and Stephenson, the team’s two most talented players, were Shaw’s pupils. He was one of the few who could keep Stephenson in line, and Shaw often went fishing with George, when they would spend hours together just talking about basketball and lifeThe team has missed having that sounding board this season,especially when things got rough. Pacers coach Frank Vogel has developed a persona where he is often a voice of positivity and reinforcement. Though he is not afraid to get after players, especially during film sessions, Shaw often acted as the bad cop to Vogel’s good cop. Facing issues this season the Pacers had not previously encountered — especially with George and Stephenson — not having Shaw there to pull them into a corner and re-focus them was missed during the season.”

        • LBJ

          Lance really stepped up his game this year. Perhaps the assistant coach that replaced Shaw spent more time working on basketball than fishing?

          • mike gomez

            whatever shaw did with them, it work because pacers never had problem with Shaw like they do now. now you got paul getting castfish, lance fighting his teammates and roy losing all his confidants. dont forget pg and lance credit shaw for their improvement.

            • LBJ

              Problems like winning 7 more games than when Shaw was there?

              • mike gomez

                i guess if you dont care about the postseason and you didn’t pay attention of the meltdown they had in the second half of the season, because they were playing like team dealing with alot issues and played like trash.

              • LBJ

                Their postseason ended in the same place both years.

              • mike gomez

                yes it ended in the same place but the way they were playing this year, it could of ended in the first round. they were just lucky they were facing no experience teams. last year team looked way dangerous this years because everybody way playing together and didn’t hear about lock rooom issue last year.

              • LBJ

                I provided the real postseason results – and you counter with a “what if.” Ask the Spurs, trophies aren’t handed out for “what ifs.”

                FYI – the Pacers played the Hawks in the first round the last 2 years.

              • mike gomez

                you provided nothing, i said that lockeroom miss shaw leadership because he kept all their ego in check. towards the end of the season they weren’t playing like they did in the beginning. they were trashing each other and dealing with off the court issues and carried towards the playoffs. last year team payed like a true contender compare to this team. they might off had a bettter record but they weren’t the same team towards the end. even former pacer player jones they miss brian shaw.

                .

              • LBJ

                Facts: 1 seed versus 3 seed, 56 wins versus 49 wins and Lance significantly improves from 8.8/3.9/2.9 to 13.8/7.2/4.6

                Your “evidence”: Shaw fishing, a “what if” first round loss and Hibbert’s confidants leaving (you forgot to say where they went and what this has to do with Shaw).

                Better throw something else up against the wall.

              • mike gomez

                again you provide nothing for second half collapses. and you fail to read anything i wrote. you would know about his confidants leaving if you read what i said. with out shaw they had no leadership, and with it you had those problems. for example pg off the court issues some involved hibbert. then you had lance playing selfish and just playing for stats and fighting teammates

              • LBJ

                A second half “collapse” into a #1 seed – and then win 2 playoff series. I wish Shaw could collapse the nuggets like that.

              • mike gomez

                smh!! i guess you really didn’t pay attention to the pacers huh??

              • LBJ

                See facts above.

                I see Bird is bringing back Vogel – he must not have seen a collapse either.

              • mike gomez

                who said vogel was bad coach, the knock on him he is too nice of a guy to set his player straight just how i said, shaw was the person who kept players in check. your not going to tell me i am wrong when you got former player saying it shaw was huge for them

              • LBJ

                Facts are facts. You are wrong. The Pacers were better in 2014 without Shaw.

              • mike gomez

                don’t be scare to say you are wrong because all you stated was they won more games but fail to explain and ignore everything that when on with the pacers. just because they won more game dont mean they are better team, you should know that because we experience that with karl. winning alot games and collapsing in the postseason because of lack of coaching.

              • LBJ

                Once again, there was no postseason “collapse” – the Pacers lost in the same round as 2013.

                The Shaw difference – Pacers improve by 7 games and Nuggets decline by 21.

                Facts are facts. Better throw something new up against the wall.

              • mike gomez

                smh!! whatever then, because all that matter you is that pacers won 7 more games, and something matter what happen in those game. just how you guy prematurely judge shaw as bad coach because of the record but ignore everything else that happen.

              • LBJ

                Yes, results matter to me. I could care less about fishing and locker room kumbaya.

              • gimpcom187

                See below. The end of seasons were very similar. Atlanta was a tougher matchup this year because of coacing and 3 pt bigs. Still team played the exact same total playoff games. The difference in seasons was narrative. The heat crushed the pacers in 3 games last year and in 3 games this year. They were an above average team that would have been 50/50 to get out of round 1 in the west in both seasons. The media and hot start allowed for hope they were a real contender they werent and are not without a few upgrades.

              • mike gomez

                yes but look at the different form last to this year. last year they played like unit and you didnt hear about out drama or players trashing teammates for selfish player. while this years you had games were they just look out of sink and did not look comfortable playing with each other.

              • gimpcom187

                I’m assuming you didn’t read below. That is more about media narrative. If anything you can say the main difference is that Stephenson started to become unhinged around the all star break because of disappointment of not making it. Obviously that is a preposterous notion at this point. You’re making very subjective assumptions based not on any factual information. The facts don’t support a significant difference. Only narrative. Suggesting the narrative is due mostly or anything beyond minorly due to shawis silly. I’m done with the topic so don’t expec a reply. No offense. I just wanted to relate that the facts were not suggesting this was a reasonable argument.

              • mike gomez

                they were if you read, also has former player who was in that lockeroom come out and say shaw was missed. and you could tell they was issues going on not just by the media how they played. for example when roy when to go pick up lace on one of the games lance just push him off. you just cant denied shaw had impact in that lockeroom when all the clue are right their in your face for everybody to see

              • heykyleinsf

                technically Mike.. they went 7 games last year compared to this year’s 6.. but more than that.. it was the way they fell apart.. those turnovers and sloppy play in general.. they wouldn’t have beat anyone..

                Another thing is.. they lost their composure mentally..
                flopping, blowing in LaBron’s ear..
                just a sad team that unravelled in a very unbecoming way.
                A sudden decomposition in character, composure, confidence, self-belief..
                something disturbing was cooking with that team.
                It would seem leadership was missing.

              • gimpcom187

                This is kindof a silly discussion. The pacers lost their last 3 games by combined 49 PTs this year (all 10 plus implying there were overmatched when Miami came to play). Last year lost last 3 by 52 (all 10 plus). Records after march 1 this year 11-13, last year 12-10. Very minor difference. This year went 7,6,6 in series. Last year 6,6,7. There was a minor difference at most in these series with lots of blowouts. The main difference is that the pacers went into last year with minimal expectations and this year especially with the hot start high expectations. Hibbert played much worse in playoffs this season. Stephenson and George played better this season. There really isn’t anything to take away from this. Certainly a post implying shaw is the reason things “fell apart” is unwarranted as this is just a narrative

              • heykyleinsf

                it’s all silly and unwarranted..

                when it doesn’t support your opinion,.

                that’s what the truth is here.

              • gimpcom187

                I had no opinion other than suggesting the pacers season was significantly different was incorrect as the facts bear out. Thanks for your version of admitting you were wrong though by not arguing. Looking forward to you deciding to forget the facts obj and I put together for you and randomly bringing up this non-topic in a few weeks.

              • heykyleinsf

                Wrong by not arguing?
                I just get tired of it with you.
                Ok?
                God .. do you like it all the time?
                I don’t
                Let’s just not..
                how about that.. ok?
                I could go on ..
                but really..
                I think they are trying to tell us to stop this.

              • gimpcom187

                Yeah same. You were the one who put this silly conversation in a post that had nothing to do with shaw. You were thumbing yourr nose in the original post. Dont pretend youre above the fray now.

                YEP

              • heykyleinsf

                I’m done with you dude.
                You’re just bitter and nasty.
                I don’t want to argue with you..
                and now I’m just done.

                If you carry this much hate around for someone on a
                basketball thread.. I can only imagine the joy you
                spread around for things that really matter.

                Goodbye dude.

              • gimpcom187

                I dont hate you at all. You come in with anegative attitude and I give it right back. I havent ever said anything personal about you on this. I keep it to the topic.

                Lots of people come on here with positive attitudes and I have positive interactions with them. I disagree with them reasonably. I see my responses with you as a natural consequence that you have earned. You dont seem to see how negative you are. On the rare occassions I agree with your statements I respond kindly. I dont think ive ever seen you do that with someone you had previously disagreed with.

      • heykyleinsf

        I said nothing about wins and losses.
        Dude you never want to read what I’m saying.
        You just want to argue.
        You’re seriously incessantly trolling me.
        what ever.

        I said schizophrenic,.. meaning split …
        they fall completely apart..
        the did this year and they did the last few games.

        The Pacers threw the ball out of bounds on four consecutive
        possessions in game four. Just fell completely apart.

        DUDE… you do not have to take everything I post as an invitation
        to pick a fight.
        holy cow. OMG. get a new hobby, yeah?

        • LBJ

          You are the one that introduced this nonsensical topic under this article. I was just adding a little perspective.

          I’m sorry, I forgot you don’t care about wins and losses or improving our talent level

          • Cory

            heykyleinsf is my favorite poster here. He keeps it positive and knows what he is talking about. Shaw made a Difference in IND and made a difference in DEN this year improving Faried’s game and making Lawson better as well although he relied on him heavily. Keep up the cool posts heykyleinsf. #DraftLaVine

  • Poz303

    Welcome Erlingur! Good time to join, the only way is up for the Nuggets and comments should be much more pleasant :)

    • Erlingur Grétar Einarsson

      Thank you! Yeah, I’m certainly not a bandwagoner. Been through highs and lows. And I’m convinced this low won’t be as low or as long as 1996.