Thanks to the Denver Nuggets’ ownership and front office, the Nuggets now boast sole possession for the best odds at the eighth pick in the 2015 NBA draft. Thanks to the Denver Nuggets’ ownership and front office, the Memphis Grizzlies (everyone’s second-favorite team) are finally off the schneid in their attempts to secure the West’s second playoff seed. Thanks to the Denver Nuggets’ ownership and front office, several oft-injured Nuggets players are rested and healthy as the team gears for a nationally televised Thursday showdown against a championship contender from Houston.
So what’s the big problem, guys?
The Denver Nuggets’ ownership and front office, against the wishes of its player and coaches, decided to sit three key starters and give the Nuggets every chance they could to lose a road contest against the Grizzlies. The Nuggets had been playing exceedingly well in the eight games prior to Monday’s contest, winning six, and those three starters were far from happy at being asked to sit.
To be clear: #Nuggets Interim head coach Melvin Hunt & his staff aren't choosing to rest players. Nor are players asking to be rested.
— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) March 16, 2015
Some mostly-silent fuming, via PBT, followed on Monday evening:
#Nuggets F Kenneth Faried asked about resting: "No comment."
— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) March 17, 2015
Chris Dempsey, at the Denver Post, spoke with forward Wilson Chandler following his 13-point, eight-rebound contribution to the loss. A healthy Chandler, along with Randy Foye and Darrell Arthur, were asked to sit out of Sunday’s double-overtime win over the New Orleans Pelicans:
“I have no idea what they are going to do," Chandler said. "Whoever is on the court just has to keep playing. It's the nature of the business. I'm not a GM; I don't know what's going on. It's tough when you're fighting together but you're getting set up for failure.”
Nuggets interim head coach Melvin Hunt, owner of a 6-3 lifetime coaching record that is only somewhat addled by the front office directive, gave Nuggets fans a bit of history regarding his will to win:
"If I'm playing marbles or jacks, I'm trying to win," Hunt said. "If I'm playing checkers, Candy Crush, I want to win. There's just something about it. When you have integrity and you're doing the right thing, no matter who's watching, no matter what the situation is, I think good things happen."
On Monday evening, however, Hunt was forced to straddle the line when discussing both his frustration at sitting three healthy players that didn’t want to sit, and the Nuggets’ franchise hopes of acquiring even better odds at a top flight draft pick:
It's part of the game," he said. "It's part of the league. We're no different. We have to have great vision. We have to be nearsighted and farsighted, and this is just part of that vision."
Asked if he had ever been part of a non-playoff team that suddenly employed a rest rotation as the Nuggets have done, Hunt said: "Yeah, but we're in a very unique situation here, having come off what we did last year with so many injuries. We had players with ACL injuries; our owner's dog had an ACL injury. We had a little bit of everything going on. We have to be very, very careful. We have to be really wise, given the situation that we are in."
This is the situation the team’s front office is putting its players and coaches in. While the ownership group and general managers hide from the media, both players and an interim coach who is fighting for his first head coaching job have had to answer questions about their competitive spirit. The interim coach even had to reach for an anecdote regarding his owner’s dog’s anterior cruciate ligament as a way to describe just how bad the Nuggets have been bit by the injury bug, and the lengths they need to go to protect their players.
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Danilo Gallinari, who not unlike the owner’s dog also suffered an ACL tear that Nugget doctors may have botched in repairing, had not looked the same until only recently in his return from that injury. Ty Lawson has battled ankle injuries for years, and Darrell Arthur is also working through ankle woes.
Make no mistake, though. The Nuggets aren’t thinking about the long term health of their players when they sit them down. They’re trying to limit the team’s ability to win games in hopes of improving lottery odds.
This would be a bit more passable if we were discussing any team besides the Nuggets, but this franchise’s parsimony and reported incompetence have long been a poorly-kept secret around the NBA. Weirdly, the front office decided to give this roster one more go in the summer of 2013 despite the departures of coach George Karl, general manager Masai Ujiri and Andre Iguodala, and the results have been pitiful.
It’s not even as if the Nuggets are in the running for the top pick in the NBA draft, either. The team “ahead” of them in the lottery rankings, the Detroit Pistons, have lost ten straight. The squad is 12 games up on the New York Knicks, who have the NBA’s worst record. The Nuggets did well to grab Memphis’ first-round pick earlier this season for Timofey Mozgov, and just as well in dealing Arron Afflalo for Portland’s pick this season, but it also sent a future potential first-round pick to Philadelphia so that the Sixers would have to pay JaVale McGee this year and next.
It’s just fine if the Denver Nuggets don’t feel like embracing their current roster. Kenneth Faried is not a star merely because he could out-jump international competition last summer, Ty Lawson has dealt with myriad embarrassing off-court incidents, and Gallinari is a shell of his former self at over $22 million combined this season and next. Chandler is not part of the plans moving forward, and it’s OK if a mid-March grumble has no lasting ramifications on whatever variance of roster puts the Denver Nuggets back in the playoffs however many years from now. Especially if the team bucks the odds and shoots from eighth to first in the draft.
Still, you can’t say the Nuggets’ silent front office has handled this deftly. This all seems very Nugget-like, unfortunately.
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