Denver got shoved into the grind house by Memphis once again like Steve Buscemi in a wood-chipper. Grades will be up shortly.
The Nuggets have had to deal with the disheartening reality that they’ve not been a playoff team this year for the better part of the last couple months. While we tend to not think of them as such, NBA players and coaches are professionals whose job is essentially to attempt to get into the playoffs and beyond. Even the worse of teams go into the season with this goal (or at least the illusion of this goal)* and when its attainability is mathematically eradicated, lethargy sets in.
*Everyone except for the Sixers this year, who made no attempt to disguise their intent. Which is probably the biggest reason why tanking has all of a sudden become such a big talking point this season.
Players are still playing for job security, future earnings, and pride but, for about half the league, this is the time of the season where the learning curve tapers off. These teams are who they are this year. Brian Shaw and the Nuggets understand this so, in an attempt to make use of the otherwise meaningless games left on the schedule, they’ve turned these few weeks into an experiment. Might as well start asking questions and seeing what turns up.
Faried’s blossoming post game:
Matt had a great write-up on Faried’s improvements but I thought it was worth reiterating it a bit here. Faried began the year a player adrift. The GM who coveted him when so many others had passed and the coach whose up and down offensive style seemed designed to maximize his athletic ability while minimizing his half court deficiencies were both gone. Trade rumors swirled around him and Brian Shaw seemed dead set on forcing him to go to work on offense with his back to the basket. Faried’s subsequent failures started costing him minutes.
And yet, something weird happened. Despite what seemed like irrevocable differences between play style and offensive capability between player and coach, Faried did the thing that Brian Shaw was always purported to be able to do to players, one of the core reasons he was hired. Faried got better.
A thoroughly entertaining Sunday afternoon game ends with a solid, albeit unnecessarily dragged out, Nuggets win.
Denver gets a hard-fought win.
Ty’s back! And that was a legitimately fun game, so there’s something.
Messes, such as the one in Denver right now, are not wrought solely by poor decisions or by poor luck but by an ugly amalgam of the two. You don’t just need a roster ill-fit to play under its rookie head coach, you need the talent on that roster to be decimated by injury. You don’t just need a team in the latter stages of an identity crisis, you need a first year head coach still in the midsts of his own. This is how bad teams become terrible, how a roster full of youthful athleticism wanes into exasperating lethargy.
Kind of a perfect loss, if one such exists. Denver showed the heart and effort that’s been sorely lacking the last few games and they kept their tank train going at full speed. Everybody wins! Grades will be up soon
Andre Miller has always been polarizing in his own unique way, he’s dichotomy personified. His favorable perception around the league, fed by a grouchy likability, stood in stark contrast to Nuggets fans constant exasperation with the veteran. To the layman, Miller is a fun, lob-throwing anecdote. To the basketball junkie he’s the embodiment of “old man” game, lauded for an evergreen post game imbued with doctoral ingenuity and a grumpy personality that old age tends to make endearing. But to the Nuggets fan, Dre was the point guard who perpetually took the ball out of Ty Lawson’s hands, never gave a damn on defense, and highjacked the offense for possessions on end whenever he felt like it. It didn’t help that the amount of slack on George Karl’s leash around him could’ve tied a bow around the globe.
The amount of control a coach has on defensive possessions is finite. He can scheme and plan to his heart’s desire, but in the end, the duty of execution rests on the players. The key to such precise execution, and therefore positioning, is communication.
“The veteran teams that you see, like Miami and Boston with KG, they emphasized talking a lot,” Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur said. “It’s all about communication out there.”
Arthur is the second unit, at times even the first unit’s coxswain.
Well the Bucks seem to be the cure for the common losing streak as Denver handled them with relative ease.
Take a mediocre team, remove its best player, add a dash of All star weekend on the horizon, a pinch of road game, a dollop of blowout fatigue, a sprinkle of “what’s the point, we’re not making the playoffs anyway” malaise, and BOOM, you’ve got yourself a 30-point loss to a sub-.500 team.
Shaw versus Karl:
It’s no secret that there’s been an internal struggle between Brain Shaw’s Nuggets and and the ghosts of George Karl’s. Despite being fifty games into his era, and equipped with a (slightly) different roster, Shaw has found himself battling not only with his own inexperience, but the shadow of the coach he replaced. Karl’s basketball sensibilities still seem imbued in this team, and his championing of shots at the rim above all else has Shaw frustrated with what, to him, appears to be his team passing up easier shots in favor of driving at the rim. Here’s exactly what Shaw said after Wednesday’s game vs Milwaukee (taken from audio on 102.3 ESPN Radio):
I’m still on our guys about, if you’re open and you have space, shoot the ball. And I’ve never been around a group of guys that, a coach has had to encourage guys to shoot the ball when they’re open. A big part of it is, when talking with the guys last year, with George Karl everything was to the rim, to the rim, to the rim. And I think that, you know, sometimes you can do that but when your have a rim-protector like Larry Sanders, unless you going to take it all the way to his chest, its gonna be hard to finish over him inside…that’s why you have to take the open shots when you have it. You always think you can get something better but the best shot is the one where you have enough space to shoot it within the rhythm of the offense.”
It’s getting tiring, folks.