Thursday, March 1, 2007

What’s on Tap for the Nuggets?

(Boulder-CO) The Nuggets have a baby on the way, budding chemistry, a playoff race, and a critical home stand on their plate right now and I felt the time was right to put all of it in perspective. This team has been a whirlwind all year and I am expecting a wild finish, but my hope is that by the end of this post my readership will have a much better grasp on where this team is at and headed with the final 26 games remaining.

First on the docket is the due date of Carmelo Anthony’s first child. His fiancee, LaLa Vazquez is due to give birth to a baby boy on Tuesday, March 6th, and Carmelo seems to be very excited. In an article written by Chris Tomasson of The Rocky Mountain News, Carmelo is quoted saying, “I painted it myself. . . . Nautical blue,” when talking about his new son’s bedroom.

Next up is a reflection of the team chemistry that was displayed in last night’s win over the Orlando Magic. I know it is only one game, but the win was solid and it really did feel like the Nuggets were working together on both ends of the floor. With crisp passing, smart decision making, and some movement on offense (not nearly enough, but much more than in previous games), players like Linas Kleiza and Eduardo Najera were much more involved and as a result played much better. Ball movement benefited LK immensely because it freed him up for open looks from around the arch. Kleiza finished 3-6 from downtown last night and when he didn’t launch from deep he had wider lanes to attack the basket. Eduardo Najera benefited from a different aspect of all the ball movement. Najera has a very sneaky way of moving to open space in the painted area shuffle when guys like Carmelo and Iverson attack the rim. As a result Denver’s slashers, (AI, Anthony, and even Camby) had options when the defense collapsed on them and, because of Najera’s sound position, where able to see their assist column blossom. It was basketball the way that Dr. James Naismith had drawn it up. Put your players in positions that highlight their strengths and reap the benefits; minus the peach basket and the jump ball after every scored bucket.

What has me most intrigued right now is how the Nuggets are going to fare in this next stretch of eight games with six of eight at the Pepsi Center. The competition is stiff, (Rockets, Hornets, Warriors, Pistons, Kings, ‘Blazers, Lakers, and the Suns), but the two games on he road are against two very mediocre teams in the Warriors and the Kings. I feel that if the Nuggets can somehow snag at least five wins in this stretch that they can enter the looming 18 games, where only five games are at home, with a stronger sense of confidence and trust in each other. The final 18 games kick-off with a five-game Eastern Conference road trip and include a three game scamper out west to see the Suns, Sonics, and Lakers and another three game jaunt against the Jazz, Hornets, and Grizzlies. They say that teams are solidified on the road, so hopefully after the outlined stretch of games at home; the Nuggets will be ready to have each other’s backs once they embark on the odyssey. Should be very interesting.

So to recap the basketball situation at present in Denver, with the last two wins the Nuggets have moved back into the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoff race and it is not inconceivable that they could catch the Lakers for the sixth seed. The Lakers have lost only three fewer times than the Nuggets and are 33-25 overall. If Denver can continue to build on the things we all saw last night, and with any luck get J.R. Smith back into the line-up sooner rather than later, there is no doubt in my mind that they can go on a winning tear and move up in the playoff situation. Denver even gets to host the Lakers in their home gym once in their next three remaining match-ups and those games are going to be critical if the Nuggets are to take a shot at the sixth seed. Look, there has never been any question that the Nuggets have the talent to be a real threat in the playoffs, but what has been pondered is if and when they were going to figure out everybody’s role and how to use them in harmony with the superstars.

After last night, the impending good omen that the birth of Carmelo’s son brings, and the future return of J.R. Smith I think that the Nuggets are going to get hot in the next few weeks. I know that the schedule is tough after this home stand, but remember, the Nuggets were a team that thrived on the road earlier this season. For some odd reason Denver likes to make things dramatic. And for the fans, that is what makes it fun. Go Nuggets!

1 comment:

Seth said...

Oh...when you said the Nuggets had a baby coming, I assumed George Karl was pregnant.