Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

The Nuggets? Maybe, Just Maybe

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 24, 2009

I have to admit that I am starting to become a believer in the Nuggets for the first time in a really long time, probably dating back to before I was in high school.  Even as they tied a franchise record for wins this season, I remained very skeptical throughout.  Heck, the one Nuggets game I attended at Pepsi Center this season, I watched them get run out of the gym by LeBron James and company to the tune of a 30-point defeat.  For years I had soured big time on the Nuggets, and really the NBA as a whole, for a variety of reasons that I have discussed in past posts.  Frankly, it’s taken until this point, two games into the playoffs, for me to turn the corner on this team.  In a nutshell, I generally find the NBA to be a much more boring version of the college game.  The reason why I might be getting interested again?  Two words: Chauncey Billups.  He has really breathed some fresh air into the Nuggets after coming in a trade for Allen Iverson.  It seems that Billups has really made everyone on the team better, and his performances the last two games against the Hornets in particular (67 points in two games) have been outstanding.  If Billups keeps playing like he has, the Nuggets might actually have a shot to not only win playoff series for the first time since, well before I was in high school, but they might have a shot at going deep in the playoffs.

Billups epitomizes what the Nuggets should be about, and what they haven’t been about for more than a decade prior to this year.  For starters he plays defense.  I mean, real genuine defense, something that has not been present in Denver for a very long time.  Not only does he play defense, he demands that his teammates do the same.  It says a lot about Billups’ character and leadership ability that the other players actually listen to him and follow his example.  In addition to defense, Billups has a reputation from his days with the Pistons that earned him the nickname Mr. Big Shot.  Billups stepped up big time for the Pistons and made seemingly every big shot when they won the NBA title in 2004.  his ability to perform in the clutch gives the Nuggets an ingredient that has been missing in the past five years when they’ve been unceremoniously bounced from the first round each year.  His numbers in the first two playoff games against New Orleans have been terrific, but it’s been the stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score that has really made the difference for the Nuggets.

From what I’ve seen of Carmelo Anthony this season, he really seems to be much more of a team player.  In retrospect, I think his experience in Beijing at the summer Olympics really helped him mature and become more of a team player.  This season he has seemed much less of a selfish player and much more apt to play within a team concept.  Witness his 13 point effort in game one.  Despite the lack of a big scoring game from Anthony, the Nuggets still benefited from a big night on the boards from him, good rhythm within the passing game, and thanks in large part to Billups a stellar effort on defense.  It appears that Anthony may be finally starting to show the maturity of his fellow draft classmates LeBron James and Dwayne Wade.

When the Nuggets gave away Marcus Camby in the offseason, I thought it was a dumb move of epic proportions.  I didn’t see how they were going to be able to replace his shot blocking ability.  Turns out I was really wrong.  Little did I know that the addition of Chris Anderson, who had been out of the league for two years due to major drug issues, would more than solve the shot blocking problem.  Anderson has been in many ways the best hustle player the Nuggets have.  In addition to blocking shots he rebounds, and most of all he plays with such a burst of energy every time he’s on the court it really has a contagious effect on the rest of the team.  I really think he should have won the league’s sixth man of the year award this year.

The other role players on the team have certainly done their parts too.  Kenyon Martin has been much more impressive this year on both ends of the court.  Nene is a much different player now that he’s fully recovered from knee issues.  Guys like Dahntay Jones and Anthony Carter have stepped up big as well.  Considering the Nuggets have won exactly one playoff series in the past 20 years (the 1994 upset of Seattle), it is a very good feeling that they have managed to take a 2-0 lead on a very talented New Orleans team.  I know I’ve said this before, but the Nuggets are trying to win me over again.  If they manage to win this series against the Hornets, and especially if they can keep going beyond that, I might just be a believer again.  Heck, I might even watch their games on a more regular basis.  To be honest, I still don’t think they have the horses to compete with the Lakers or the Cavaliers, but hey, you never know.

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