… I found myself rooting for the Denver Nuggets.
Consider the fact that I had hated the franchise since they were the cause of one of the more traumatic moments of my youth. It hurts too much to talk about it, so I’ll present the moments that I see in my nightmares:
Nevertheless, it happened. Sitting there, watching Denver battle Boston, I started getting into it. Of course, any time the Celtics take the floor, it bodes well for the opposition (more specifically, my support of the opposition). However, something was different…
… and it was all the result of this Carmelo Anthony shit.
To me, everything about the trade that FINALLY HAPPENED had confused me and pissed me off. For starters, the several-month distraction that was that situation had me sick every time I heard the name Carmelo Anthony or that clever-for-a-second phrase, “Melo-drama.” All of the nonsense and rumors regarding some trade or an extension with Denver (please) were simply wastes of time. Additionally, the talk of Anthony’s professionalism in dealing with the situation irked me, as well. There was a lot of evasion or “I just want to go out there and play…” rhetoric, and it bothered me. The best way to do it is either:
a) Make your intentions perfectly clear, or
b) Shut up
The latter would have probably been the best move, publically. The former would have been the most respectful, behind-the-scenes move that Anthony could have made towards the Nuggets organization.
Of course, the whole thing labored on until the trade finally happened, and the specifics of that just turned me off. Yes, the Knicks got their man and Anthony’s status as a superstar is the only justification that most need in regard to it being a “good trade.” I get that. The problem I have concerns what it took.
You all know the details. The Knicks went and effectively gutted their roster to get Melo (and Chauncey Billups). I’m not going to claim that any of the pieces are close to what they got in return, but there’s something inherently off-putting about taking a bunch of guys who contribute to a team and its chemistry and shipping them out for a big name. That’s just how it is. Furthermore – and take it from a guy who knows a little about it – it always pains me to see a smaller-market team lose a marquee name to the fucking city of New York.
The most baffling thing about this is that Melo was going to sign with the Knicks. You’ll never convince me otherwise. He wasn’t going to New Jersey/Brooklyn, the most likely alternative. It’s fairly well-known that the Nuggets and the Nets had a deal done, one that was agreed to by both sides that would send Melo over for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and some other shit (basically, the eventual Deron Williams trade). It didn’t happen because Melo nixed it (or “Knicks’d it? No? Alright, sorry). He wouldn’t sign the extension needed for the trade to happen. Chicago wasn’t getting him. Los Angeles wasn’t getting him. New York could have just been patient, gotten him eventually, and saved themselves the effort of trying to re-build cohesiveness in the middle of a season. Also, they would have had far more flexibility to try and sign a big free agent, such as Chris Paul or the aforementioned Williams, down the road. Instead, they severely restricted themselves in the $$$ department and turned themselves into a top-heavy, shell of a team. Way to make it difficult on yourselves.
You might very well disagree, b
ut I don’t care and it really doesn’t matter. That’s not the reason for this piece, anyhow.
Sick of the “I LOVE NEW YORK” gremlins coming out of the woodwork, and the public blowing of Melo and the Knicks by the likes of Kenny Smith, I chose to focus my energy towards Denver and how they were dealing with the fallout. I was immediately impressed by Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri, the team’s President and VP of Basketball Operations, respectively. They spoke of the stress of the situation and how, because parting ways with Melo was the only realistic conclusion, they had done the best they could to get something meaningful in return (which they did). They also lamented over losing Billups with a refreshing sincerity. I couldn’t help but think that, if I were a member of the Denver fanbase, I’d be pretty proud and satisfied with those two and the entire front office.
More importantly, I checked out the actual product that Denver was putting on the court, and I was intrigued. Gone was the snail-paced, extremely-talented but often-tiresome frame of Anthony that I never found too appealing to watch. Instead, I saw a team without a traditional superstar, but loaded with an interesting mix of athletic and eager guys, 1 through 5. Seriously, this team is now at least two deep at every position and can bring maximum effort for 48 minutes, every night, because of it. Are they going to go on some magical run or even win a playoff series this year? Highly unlikely. However, they’ve got something to build on and will force their opponent to bring their best if they expect a win. Ask teams like Boston or Portland about facing off against these new-look Nuggets. You’ll either get beat, or you’ll have to fight hard to win.
Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler, and Ray Felton are all quality players. All have holes in their game(s), but all have decent-to-big upsides and the ability to improve. Who knows if they’ll stick around for a long time, but I hope they do. I hope they play with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders and with something to prove. In a way, I think they landed in a promising situation because they can focus on playing basketball and learning from a tremendous coach like George Karl. Plus, don’t think that the Denver fans aren’t ready to fully embrace anybody who wants to play there and contribute. They’re ready to get on with this, as well.
The recent events will also open up the opportunity for guys like Aaron Afflalo and J.R. Smith to step into more prominent roles and take their games to another level. Hell, I even found myself getting into a Kenyon Martin dunk the other night, and I’m not exactly his number one fan. I’ve had more fun watching Denver in the past 4 days than I have in the past 20 years. Go figure.
The point is that the Nuggets may have lost their star, but the result is something I can get behind. Carmelo can “go home” and shine a spotlight on Madison Square Garden and all that, but that squad is, for now, built on hollow ground. Oh, and for all of that star power, they still just lost to the Cavs.
– Acquire the ideas of Wes Lilliman at firstname.lastname@example.org. He’ll sign the god-damned extension.