42-40 (Tom), 48-34 (Gil)
Last Year’s Record
The primary benefit of having George Karl as your coach is that he can accelerate the schedule for young players at a certain level of development 10-12 wins and two to three years ahead of the usual learning curve. The primary downside is that after this precocious leap, his teams stall. The reason they stall isn’t the talent involved but the manner in which they’re used, the tiny margin of error that he affords major contributors in terms of the roles they can play and be effective within his conception of the game. And, since it isn’t the talent, adding more talent really doesn’t help at all. Sorry, Allen Iverson. Sorry, people who like to watch Allen Iverson. As long as he’s paired with Coach Karl, Carmelo Anthony is going to be the only player in NBA history habitually looking forward to leading a team to fifth place in some international competition out there.
Craig Sirkin’s Commentary
Just like last year, the Nuggets season all comes down to the answers they find to their usual questions. How will the Nuggets big men recover from their various injuries? Will Carmelo be aggressive the majority of the time and work to get a good shot or will he settle for jump shot after jump shot? Will Camby stay healthy? Who will be the 2 guard? Oh wait, that one got answered. New question, will AI play the offense like Karl wants or will he dribble out the clock every time down the floor rather than passing off and letting the other guys on the floor help him out? That’s the biggest question this year.
The Nuggets showed last year that they could play with Nene slowly recovering and K-Mart still on the bench. Melo turned into a virtually unstoppable offensive force and would have led the league in scoring if Kobe had any teammates. Camby finally won the Defensive Player Of The Year award he deserved the year before. And the Nuggets actually made dramatic changes in their roster in an attempt to win, losing them Andre Miller but bringing in Iverson in the middle of a blizzard. Most of the year the Nuggets 2 stars played on the same floor but didn’t play together. Each time down the floor seemed to be one star’s turn; either AI would dribble dribble dribble or the team would work the ball and eventually Melo or his teammates would get a shot. Still the Nuggets put together an impressive stretch run that landed them in the playoffs against the champion Spurs again.
I’m an optimist, I think that AI and Melo will learn to play together leading to more than 10 assists per game for AI and 30 points per game for Melo who will take Isiah Thomas’s advice this time around helping him avoid another excessive suspension from David Stern. Nene will work himself back into shape a little faster than last year while Camby will again stay healthy and lead the league in blocks. K-Mart continues his recovery and though rusty provide the Nuggs with 20 minutes of fierce expressions and a couple of dunks. The team averages 107 ppg, gives up 101 and finishes 52-30 with a 4 seed.
Craig’s Bonus Question
Will South Philly Cheesesteaks here in Denver update the mural on their wall to put Iverson in the white and power blue or leave him in a ‘Sixers jersey? I say he stays in black.
Rejoinder From Gil
I just read that there’s a character on “Gossip Girl” named Nate Archibald. I wonder which contemporary NBA players will be name-checked on dumb soap-operas 20 years from now.
Oh, and this team’s going to stay lower-playoff-tier, and get beat in the first round, unless the other team loses a major player to injury in April.
Gratuitous Comics Connection
Coach George Karl looks remarkably like superhero voice actor Sherman Howard.
Gratuitous Pharma Connection
Denver hosted the 2001 conference of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. Since this took place 6 weeks after 9/11 and many AAPS members are of Indian and Pakistani background, it made for some interesting flights.
The Bottom Line
Kenyon Martin will be the first player ever to have microfracture surgery on three knees. –GR