This is why sportswriters need to be given floor-level “press-row” seats again.
In the hours after a blowout home loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday evening, Denver Post columnist Chris Dempsey dropped this little nugget about the National Basketball Association team that plays in Denver:
A fourth-quarter huddle late in the Nuggets' 104-82 loss to the Utah Jazz on Friday broke with this phrase: "1-2-3 ... six weeks!"
As in six weeks to go until the end of the season. That's 24 games, 46 days and 1,152 minutes away.
Tax day, April 15, is getaway day: the last day of the Nuggets' season. Rest assured, there are players who are already counting.
There are Nuggets fans who are already counting. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’m also looking forward to the day when Nugget games aren’t located just one channel over when I flip around on League Pass from night to night. They are a dreary, dreadful watch.
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Denver has lost 19 of 21 games. The team made a series of trades to bring in future assets this season, and coach Brian Shaw seems like he’s well on his way toward being given the boot following the six weeks that his players can’t stop chanting about. There have been calls to fire Shaw immediately in the wake of this embarrassing post-huddle break, and while that might do some good on the sensational side, there is no real massive benefit in playing hardass with the rest of the roster (presumably the ones who aren’t breaking huddles like that) for the final 22 contests.
It’s not wrong to call for Shaw’s firing if this is true, but is that really going to do much? The Nuggets are a mess. This has to be a low point.
The Nuggets were cobbled together in the hopes of grabbing a lower-rung playoff spot, but the outfit is currently working with the third-worst record in the West. The two teams below Denver, Los Angeles and Minnesota, were designed with the future in mind. These Nuggets? Weirdly, they decided to stick to the remnants of a roster that George Karl took to 57 wins just under two years ago, without recognizing that good health and good luck (not to mention the presence of Karl and Andre Iguodala) had as much to do with that record as anything.
As it stands, the Nuggets are the worst watch of all – a team created to reach 45 wins that will be lucky to manage 25 – pushing the ball and getting nowhere offensively, while barely registering defensively.
One fan and Nuggets writer, Andrew Feinstein at Denver Stiffs, is not enjoying this execrable era of Nuggets basketball:
But while even the most educated of Nuggets fans can tolerate losing as long as it's for a bigger purpose reason, no fan can tolerate the type of losing we're collectively experiencing this season. The Nuggets haven't just lost 19 of 21 games - including 10 straight at home - but they've lost them in the worst fashion possible: blowouts, early blowouts, no effort, no defense, no spark, no entertainment value and so on. And while fans like me secretly root for the losses to pile up knowing that a high value lottery pick could be available at the end of this long, dark tunnel of despair, try explaining that to the person paying thousands of their hard-earned dollars a year towards season tickets.
You can’t watch this team, and Nugget fans aren’t – TV ratings are down 53 percent from last season’s just-as-dull 36-win team, and the squad’s home attendance figures are third-worst in the NBA.
Now that we’ve established the low point – a truly embarrassing and unprofessional low point – where does this team go from here?
The team had to package a future first-rounder that Oklahoma City owed them in order to dump JaVale McGee, and partially as a result, the squad will have cap space this summer. It will also have three players making eight figures a year next year in Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried. This, sadly, will be Denver’s core next year.
Lawson and Faried are certainly tradeable, but they’ve also been revealed a bit. Faried did well to bound over international opponents during last summer’s world championships, but he remains a lacking defender on the NBA level with no true consistent offensive game to turn to when things go sour. Lawson, as is his custom, has turned in some brilliant nights, but to these eyes he still looks like he’s working through that early season ankle injury and his off-court exploits are frightening to say the absolute least.
Lawson is also the guy who took full advantage of the team’s extended All-Star break, stretching things out to the point where one travel derailment (and we’re giving Ty the benefit of the doubt here) made him a no-show for his first post-break Nuggets practice. Gallinari is a lessened version of his former self, overly relying on 3-pointers he’s hitting just 31.8 percent of, never the same following a knee injury the Nuggets may have botched.
Because the Nuggets made repeated attempts to move back into the playoffs following the departure of Karl’s (and Masai Ujiri, who is also on the hook for several poor Nuggets personnel choices), the team hasn’t tanked to a high-end level in 2014-15. The squad was even just two games under .500 after 38 games, and odds have them selecting sixth overall in this year’s draft even after the most recent malaise.
Gobbling up draft picks will help, and the team does have the right to swap first-round picks with the New York Knicks (current holders of the NBA’s worst record, not likely to improve all that much next season even after throwing money around) in 2016, but this is a slow build.
Conditions make it so Denver will probably only get to grab Memphis’ first-rounder in 2017, and while an aging Grizzlies squad may have fallen off by then, the Memphis front office has been planning its post-Zach Randolph turnaround for some time. Denver will also get Portland’s lottery-protected first rounder in 2016 in exchange for Arron Afflalo, a good take, but that pick won’t put anyone over the top.
As it stands, the Nuggets are dreadfully dull, they’re not competing, they’re clearly working with a lame-duck coach in Shaw and there are still some lingering concerns as to how on top of things the franchise’s front office is.
I wouldn’t want to hang around, either. Just 44 more days, everyone.
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