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As the NBA playoffs slip into full throttle a certain team from the mountain timezone shows why they'll never win a chamionship while the currest cast of characters remains.
Let us illustrate this with a mnemonic device...
D -stands for the obvious…Defense, that lost art that the current Denver Nuggets seemingly refuse to acknowledge exists so why try.
E -stands for Education, as in what is needed to improve the basketball IQ of what may collectively be the most talented while at the same time the most intellectually retarded bunch of star caliber players ever assembled. Talent combined with idiocy yields Derek Coleman and Ron Artest.
N -stands for Nowledge, or how this group spells this tantalizingly elusive concept…see above.
V -stands for Vendetta, that level of animus slowly building amongst Nugget faithful as they watch in bemused frustration a team with enough talent to beat ANYONE plod their way to another futile first round exit from a derby they should be playing in well into May.
E -stands for Echo, the sound made by a Nugget team from circa 1985 that had half the talent but made it to a Western Conference Finals match-up against one of the greatest teams in NBA history, a Los Angeles Lakers team that won 62 games and beat the Boston Celtics 4-2 in the finals. Another echo resounds from a 1990-92 Nuggets incarnation under Paul Westhead that cared even less about defense than the current collection of matadors. The Nuggets have the dubious honor of fielding perhaps the two worst defensive teams in league history.
R -stands for Rebound, as in box out and stop looking to Marcus Camby to sweep up all the garbage.
N -stands for Natt, as in Calvin Natt, that impossibly muscular and fierce competitor that had no quit and whose influence could wake up this slumbering franchise. And a shout out to T.R. Dunn. God how I wish we could clone T.R. and Calvin, the 1985 versions, so they could infuse attention to defense and some toughness into a lineup where 1/12 th of the players even pay remote attention to the non-glamorous yet all important half of the game where Dunn’s & Natt’s grit would pay off.
U -stands for Ubiquitous, the nature of questions regarding the future direction of this franchise and how they’ll swirl around during another off season fraught with disappointment and revisionist history.
GG -stands for Grit/Grind, two concepts the Nuggets of the 1980’s had but which the current version, Allen Iverson and Camby being the only exceptions, is without. Soft is an apropos adjective to describe this cabal.
E -stands for Excuses, of which the players, coaches, brain trust, and fans have a million and one with which to exonerate this dysfunctional lot and their underachieving ways.
T -stands for Team and Twelve. Team, as in a concept/style of play that is foreign to this bunch and why teams like the New Orleans Hornets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Detroit Pistons, etc. will advance further in the playoffs despite not being able to put out as talented a lineup as the Nuggets can parade before a national TV audience. This brings us to the number 12, or the number of limos this group will take home from a supposed team function. The Nuggets don't think as a team, play as a team, speak as a team, or act as a team. They are bound only by uniform and employer, not by any sense of comradery and selflessness that is a halmark of champions past.
S -stands for Stop/Start, as in stop standing around on offense while Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, and/or J.R. Smith flail around trying to create their own shot. And start, as in J.R. Smith for pity’s sake, George Karl you freakin’ moron.
Now I realize posting such a scathing indictment of a team and organization who has made the playoffs four years in a row is a bit reactionary but hear me out. This collection of players, never to be referred to as a team as they are unaware of the concept, and their coach have had ample time to prove they are headed in the right direction. Three first round outs, and a soon-to-be forth, for the second or third most expensive roster in the NBA is not a palatable result. George Karl has also proven his demeanor and style does not mesh well with his players. Change is in order.
So here is a proposal…change the very face and identity of the team. First thing you change is the coaching staff, get rid of George Karl. It is clear his teams have never been defensively inclined, be they the Sonics, Cavaliers, and Bucks teams of the past or the Nuggets squad of the present. Karl inspires no confidence from the fans, he has unfathomable substitution patterns, and he reaches his ceiling of franchise development within three years. Nothing on his resume suggests he’ll ever win a title as coach. So the marriage should be dissolved.
Now here’s the really radical portion of the retooling plan…offer up trade bait. Look at this roster and ask, will they ever win a championship with the current cast. If not a purge is in order. Leave no stone unturned and leave no player as untouchable. This means Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby, etc. are all expendable. Offer up Melo to the Miami Heat or Milwaukee Bucks straight up for a #1, offer J.R. and a package of future picks for a #1, offer A.I. and picks for a #1, package Melo & A.I. for Dwayne Wade and a #1, make a splash and deal away the players with character issues. Yes Melo is only 23 but he’s been in the league long enough and been to the playoffs enough times you would think he might have developed an appreciation for the importance of the moment. But his DUI arrest on the eve of the playoffs suggests he hasn’t clue one about priorities. Admittedly Iverson has been a model citizen here in Denver so seeing his Energizer Bunny act leave would be a sad moment but is he going to will this team to a conference title as he did in Philly.
Have no doubt, the Nuggets are on the verge of disarray, and will Stan Kroenke sit idly by as Rome burns. Or will he risk public derision and alter the face of the franchise. It remains to be seen as the off season draws near.