Did you know there once was a time in the NBA where if a player was fouled in the backcourt that player was then awarded 2 free-throws? Which is a testament to defense being a high priority in those days. While it’s not okay that defense in today’s NBA is played with an old school flavor by a select few, what is okay by today’s standards is a team like the Denver Nuggets being made to play 20 of it’s first 31 games (this season) on the road because of the money grubbing, headlining powers that be… who feel as though it’s better for the basketball fan to see… all home games national-lee… played by the front runners down in Mia-mee. More on this subject later. Right now it’s about the Denver Nuggets and why they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the 2013 playoffs.
If I told you the Nuggets have the 2nd best record behind OKC in the Northwest division (30-18), and are 6th best in the NBA overall, suggesting I have my head examined by a medical professional would be good advice if none of what I just were true.
Winners’ of their last 6, these Nuggets’ put some serious lumps on the foreheads of a few 2013 playoff contenders; knocking off the James Harden led Rockets (twice), the Finals repeat shoo-in Thunder (according to many), and the fastly up and coming Warriors’ during that span. This doesn’t mean that the Nuggets’ are completely cured of their bad habit of “stock market-itis”, where one minute they look like the green arrow pointing up, and the next minute looking like the red arrow pointing down. They do however look like a team that if the playoffs started today could knock off the clippers’ in a first round series. Which would be shocking to most of the basketball world except me.
Unlike years’ past, I don’t recall the Nuggets having a player on the roster who plays with the ferocity and relentlessness of a Kenneth “The Manimal” Faried, or an Andre Iguodala who seems to have finally found the place where his type of game can really flourish. Add to that a JaVale McGee who’s skills are over-shadowed by his ” Shaqtin-a-fool” moments, a “Deadly” Galinari from the outside, the blossoming facilitator Ty Lawson, and Corey Brewer with Wilson Chandler, this could be the year These Nuggets’ go into a second round with people actually placing bets in their favor. This team has more depth than in recent years; better team free-throw shooting and team defense- allowing 100.7 per/g- could lead to an upset of grand porportions and their first ever NBA Finals’ appearance
Don’t look now, but the Golden State Warriors’ are comin; exactly where and how far once they get there is the question that remains. Whatever the case may be, it has become abundantly clear the decision to make former NBA great Mark Jackson head coach was not only a great move on the part of ownership and management, but also serves notice to the basketball world that these Warrriors’ are no longer brandishing “toy swords.”
For instance, coach Jackson played in the NBA at time when- as i’ve mentioned before- what’s considered a flagrant 2 in today’s NBA would have been a put a band aid on it and get back out there moment during his day. The toughness and attention to defense that he’s brought to this current group of Warriors’ is somewhat similar to what you see in Chicago with Tommy T and the Bulls. The idea is that all 5 guys must play on a string defensively if there is no one player on the team who can do so individually. On offense the shot selections will be done selective and strategically, not helter skelter; with an emphasis on the overall offensive approach being “inside-out”, and not “outside-in.” This is the approach used by teams’ like the Spurs’, Lakers (before D’Antoni), and Celtics. All of which have won numerous titles throughout their existence. It’s not about building for the all important and ever so elusive one, but instead creating a system and mentality that will produce many. Here today, and still here tomorrow is the mindset Jackson is trying to establish. Who else deserves 75% of the credit for David Lee being an All-Star this season? Lee has been a decent statistical player (for the most part) since his arrival to the NBA, but it’s the attention to defense implored by Jackson that has put Lee in his first All-Star uniform.
Because the NBA over saturates the viewing public with only a select few, most people don’t get a chance to see the Warriors’ and the up and coming formidable roster they have put together.
Stephen Curry has become one the league’s most dangerous shooter’s, who at times looks as though he can shoot from anywhere on the floor now that it seems his ankle issues are (for now) a distant memory. Richard Jefferson apparently took a drink from the fountain of youth, because his play in the Bay area has been far better this season than at any time during his stint with the Spurs. Jarret Jack is a throwback; every NBA team should have one. The Dallas Mavericks’ had one in Deshawn Stevenson. The difference being Jack can score- averages a soild 12.4!! His understanding of game tempo is not on the level of CP3, or Rondo, but the fact he has an idea of what it means is invaluable to the Warriors’ come playoff time. Throw in the high basketball I.Q. and dead-eye shooting Klay Thompson with the better than I expected Harrison Barnes, and the rejuvenated Carl Landry to go with the Tom Izzo coached Draymond Green and thorn in your side Brandon Rush, the Warriors’ will be a playoff problem in the West. In a recent matchup against mainstream favorite OKC, the Warriors’ made Durant and Westbrook look like jackers of all shots and makers of none in a 104-99 victory 1/23/12. A game the Thunder led for 3 1/2 quarters with a double digit lead more than once. A healthy Bogut makes for an interesting out come if these 2 meet in the playoffs.
I’m not saying the Warriors’ will win an NBA title this year because playoff experience is a key ingrediant to winning it all. I am saying any team that faces them better not make the same mistake the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics did losing to the Denver Nuggets in the first round, or the more recent Denver Broncos to the Baltimore Ravens after being heavy favorites.