Denver, the Riveting Hydra

I don’t know if this has hit critical mass yet, like the official word from the internet or whatever, but if the Miami Heat are the team that everybody seems to enjoy watch losing (see: their last three games; in particular, the epic blown lead of Thursday’s Orlando game and Chris Bosh’s ball-smashing temper tantrum, then Friday’s face-melting defeat to the league’s best team), then the Denver Nuggets are their very distinct inverse: an unexpected, deep-rotation motherfucker of a squad, playing fast, organized ruckus, led by Kenyon Martin despite the odds, featuring an injured Gallinari (out two weeks to let requisite neck tat jokes heal completely), Wilson “Looks More Natural in a Nuggets Jersey and You Know It” Chandler, and revitalized sundries who have survived the solar flares caused by Carmelo flaming out into the abyss of America’s largest media market.
If you’re a sportswriter and you still think this trade didn’t work out for everybody (especially the Nuggets), you’re blind to the truth, still living in the rational world that no longer exists. As for New York, I could definitely see a first round exit in their future if they have to play Orlando or Chicago in the quarterfinals. On the other hand, the Nuggets are playing against the rules of self-interest and ego. But I digress back into my previous point; the playoffs are far enough away to not need to fantasize about match-ups yet.
The Nuggets, however, are an ill vision of the future come to present, of a team with so many qualified dudes that when a competitor (Shawn Marion, for example) lops one off with the swing of a broadsword, three fully-formed heads pop up in its place and then produce 1. a lob pass leading into a dunk 2. an opponent’s turnover, leading into a break-driven three-pointer. They succeed in almost every way that their deep-rotation counterparts in the Eastern Conference, the Pistons, fail disastrously at; their motions are fluid, their bodies are strong, fast and capable, and their coach is a remarkable being of consistency and perseverance.
A little more on the Pistons and this analogy of inversions: in previous writings, I have been exceedingly critical of the Pistons and their coach (who I still believe is kind of terrible, even though now I feel equally empathetic). Although I initially supported the recent blowup and subsequent workers’ strike of some of their veteran players regarding this dummy’s style or attitude or whatever (workers unite, etc.), the more I considered their perspective, the more I realized how babyish and disappointing they ultimately were. Even if they believed more in their own talent than their coach's abilities, this was a weird way of dealing with it. I realized the problem with the Pistons wasn’t the “rotational clusterfuck” causing all of these dummies to get jealous of Greg Monroe's playing time, but the rebuilding chasm the team still does not allow themselves to get over with. The fault is more systematic than anything else.
Much more importantly, a "bad coach" like Kuester was trying to accomplish in Detroit what George Karl did when his front office traded Carmelo Anthony, but unlike Pistons management's inability to trade the old guard that had declined into ruin (but without giving away their swag from the now-ancient title season), slashing away at the skull of the Nuggets’ Hydra allowed it to sprout a thousand heads who don’t need the ball in their hands for thirty shot attempts per game and forty minutes a game. So far, this is better. They keep winning games, and if they win against the Clippers tonight, that will be one more statement.
There is parity amongst the players on the Nuggets that I don’t know I’ve ever seen before. I believe any of them – even guys like Gary Forbes who haven’t really played since the trade, or goofs like Kenyon who have assumed a senior leadership role – all have the kind of potential to win for this team. Despite their fuckups, any of them could be starters. They could attack in waves, similar to European warfare before the advent of machine guns and airplanes. The word "starter" doesn't even seem to mean the same thing on this team anymore. Whether or not Denver will allow themselves to envelope themselves in their socialistic destiny is up to the players, Karl and management. Either way, in this limited trial period, it has led the Nuggets to unquestionably become the most riveting team in the entire league.
Negative Dunkalectics co-founder Chris Sampson can be found on Twitter, as well as his occasionally updated but completely weird podcast, and also loving both the Celtics and the Denver Nuggets.
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David Hill said...

Joe Dumars never said that Kuester was a long-term solution in Detroit. In fact, he explicitly said the opposite, that Kuester was there to fill the gap while they rebuild. I don't envy Kuester being put in that position. But given the lack of confidence Dumars showed, one can hardly blame the players for not wanting to put up with any of his bullshit. And Rip Hamilton has had to endure more than his fair share of bullshit.

The public wants to believe that the older, wiser, and often whiter coach is the leader of the team. The truth is much different. Coaches have a tough time gaining the confidence of their players. In the NBA the game is played very much in the moment. On-the-fly decision making and in-the-moment planning are what is required of modern players. Coaches can write up gameplans and draw up plays during timeouts, but like the best laid plans of mice and men, they do often go astray.

The reality is that players look to other players for leadership more often than they look to the coaches. The makeup of players dictates the vibe on the team, and the coach needs to try to adapt and fit in to that. If he does, he stands a better chance at being respected and being successful. If he doesn't, or if he buts up against it or directly challenges it, he's in for a tough road.

You seem to question why Kenyon Martin is the leader of the Knuggets, and assume it must be seniority. Perhaps you're right. But leadership, in the NBA as in other walks of life, isn't always about being an all-star or putting up triple doubles. Leadership is about attitude, sincerity, integrity. Players are going to gravitate to the players who bring the gravitas.

A friend of mine who works for the Denver Post once told me that Kenyon Martin was BFF with Bill Clinton, that they supposedly talk on the phone a lot. If that's true, perhaps that speaks volumes about why Kenyon Martin is now the de-facto leader of this team, or maybe how he always was.

Chris said...

Honestly, I'm not surprised that it's Martin who is stepping up into a leadership position, given his tenure with the team and trust by his fellow players. And come on -- he is charismatic. However, I am surprised that he has been able to parlay the Carmelo trade into both playing that role as well as an increase in performance. Until the trade, he was playing miserably. Now? It's like a veil has been lifted and he's playing as well as he was before he got hurt.

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