“life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of 80 and gradually approach 18.”
A wise man once said. That wise man being non-other than Mark Twain. He was speaking of youth, and how highly we as humans regard it. The fountain of youth is a tale of a magical fountain that restores its consumer with vitalizing youth dissipating that thing western culture dreads the most….old age.
There’s no argument that the Nuggets have a fountain of youth of their own, brewing from the depths of the Rocky Mountains, spewing out of the Pepsi Center. As well as youth, the nuggets are deep in both talent and inexperience in multiple positions, including coaching staff. So the question is how much youth is too much youth?
We’ve seen Coach struggle to find a rhythm in this Nicholas Sparks themed season, over flavored with heartbreak at the turn of every page. We’ve also seen the struggles to close out close games, 24% of our games have been losses by 5 points or fewer, play calling, and on court personnel choice over and over again. The nuggets have blown so many close games it hurts. One of the most deflating things to watch is a professional team, none the less YOUR favorite professional team in the Denver Nuggets inability to even inbound the ball during some of those close games, when it matters. It’s mind-blowing really. And unfortunately there’s not any one singular scapegoat you can point to. Yes you can say that Mudiay over threw Jokic in that game against Portland, that Jokic had his man sealed and just needed a descent pass that a Helen Keller could’ve made to get the job done. Or that Father time himself, Mike Miller, completely overthrew Jokic during that bleeder of a game in Memphis. Orrr you may possibly even experienced flash backs to those feelings as a child on Christmas day expecting to open the best Christmas present of all time, only to be gifted socks and some underwear by ol’ Aunt Julie again when Jameer seemed to close his eyes, give the ball a toss and hope for the best in that amazing, but highly unnecessary, comeback game in Brooklyn. But more than any individual, I see a recurring theme happening with these plays, and to be honest the entire Nuggets narrative this season. As I watch highlights of those Bad News Bears-esque plays, I see three fatal errors. Execution, Youth, and lack of synergy amongst the guys on the court.
Some of the complaints on Malone’s coaching do contain truths to them. We haven’t able to get in any type of rhythm and the rotations he chooses to throw together at times are questionable at best. Play calling in tight situations, concerning inbound plays, with lackluster movement (mainly from blown assignments) the decision on who’s getting the shot, and who’s inbounding, the closing core, all questionable… and It might be at this time that you ask yourself, who is this guy to be calling out Malone on his coaching decisions, the answer? Five time arm chair coach of the year recipient, three time all rewinding remote champion, and one time fantasy basketball runner up. But mostly because I have an opinion, a keyboard, and on good days I can read, even write occasionally. Back to my point. When guys are still trying to adjust to the game from being fresh out of diapers combined with getting acquainted with one another on the court, its only expected that high pressure moments like these can have a tendency to collapse. Assignments seem foggy at best, the first option often falling apart due lazy screens, or guys looking like they saw that one hot chic in a short dress eyeing them on the sideline (there’s always one at the games) and completely forgetting what they were supposed to do during the play. And when you have to rely on the second and third options that often require a skill of “knowing” your teammate, in a high stake’s inbound play with guys who barely know how to play together? Your going to find yourself mulling these columns over at 1 o’ clock in the morning trying to find the person responsible for these implosions. And the answer is…no one, and everyone at the same time (really padding the odds here, I got a 50/50 shot on being right, don’t fail me now)
But in all seriousness it’s everything converging at once that’s lead to these moments and the current state of the Nuggets season In general. It is the fact that were still without having had a completely healthy roster once this season, and that the guys that are fresh off that injury report are either still just trying to get in shape or still aren’t 100% healthy, it is the fact that guys haven’t had enough playing time together and have a hard time finding a rhythm or being able to read one another due to coaching selection, and its defiantly the fact that half of our crew still has a curfew and school in the morning, seriously…. there really young. What makes it even worse is that two out of the three paramount inbounding blunders have been widely attributed to our resident AARP members and vets on the team, Mike Miller and Jameer Neslon.
The fact is that we are too deep and too inexperienced. The Nuggets are built like a team that’s meant to break the status quo, certainly as of late, and get the job done (contending for a playoff spot) without any one superstar. And instead attack the NBA with one of the deepest roster constructions I can think of in recent times, currently 2nd in the league in points off the bench at 43.6 per game per NBA.com. A young ,high flying, high pace (currently 7th in pace per NBA.com) punch 1-12 roster spots coming at you with a flurry of unthinkable, un-containable, roster combinations that is certain to withstand almost any line up in the league, sounds legit right? There’s just one problem, we haven’t found the combination to that lock yet. I have high belief in this team’s ability, the coaching staff’s understanding of the game, and our potential, because when they click it’s amazing. We saw this in our last win, when we dominated the Magic with 64 total points in the paint, and a total of 53 rebounds (currently 1st in the league in rebounds at 49.3 per NBA.com) ! Were fortunate enough to have vets that contain the know-how, combined with these young kids that have that spark, and high ceiling potential. And with the most recent win over the Magic, it’s evident that coach can figure out his lineup’s that work, we just need to see it more consistently, and against better teams. But with us heading into Dallas next, it should be an opportune time for Malone, and the Nuggets, to see if we can continue to veer this ship in the right direction.
The last remaining die-hard Nuggets fan’s have to face the facts. Even though we had the most optimism in what feels like ages about this new core of guys, and the direction were heading in, and even though this season is still very salvageable. It’s just going to take both trial and error before we get this machine tuned just right. Rest assured…some more blunders are sure to pop up again at some point. Don’t turn your backs just yet though Nuggets fans, because if you squint hard enough and place your head at just the right angle, at the right time of day…there seems to be something shiny and bright just at the edge of the horizon.