I always enjoy the "end of season" columns in the newspaper for any of the teams I follow. . . .even college teams.
I figured I would beat the rush for this Wednesday night, and do my Nuggets thoughts today since they're done. Hey, it's Jody's favorite day of the year, the end of the Nuggets' season. :) There has been alot of sabre-rattling about the Nuggets on this blog, so it's only fitting that I go down with the ship, and I will man up today. (unlike the Nuggets).
I've gone back and forth on the problems/solutions for this Nuggets team, we had basically the same season that we had last year, only without our coach at the end. So, we were playing our worst basketball at the worst time (the end of the year). Matchups are way more important than anyone gives credit for. Last year, we had a lame duck New Orleans team, and an old, tired Dallas team in the playoffs. I'm not sure we're that much "worse" this year. But, we don't have a coach and we have a really tough Utah team in the first round.
The most interesting part of sports for me, and why I watch, is the psychological elements of sports. This is why I don't really get jazzed up about the underdog stories. . . because that's pretty simple. . . .get a bunch of under talented, over achievers to get really mad and play really well for a couple of weeks (or one night) and you have all the psychological answers right there.
What is much more interesting to me is. . . . can a team that is good have enough character and responsibility to stay good? (even if they started as an underdog. . . . count me interested in how Butler does next year, . . not this year). Do they have enough pride to play well when it's Tuesday night in Minnesota and no-one's watching? Are they smart enough to play hard at the end of a blowout and lose by 2 touchdowns instead of 3, because that will matter mentally for them in the next game?
These are the things I"m interested in. And, these are precisely the ways that the Nuggets did not succeed this year.
The Jazz are a superior team to the Nuggets mentally, not physically. Having a coach helps this. . .but having character in your locker room helps as well. Even our team leaders are not "high character" guys. Chauncey Billups is a team leader, but unfortunately, when he's in everyone's ear, as the de-facto coach, he doesn't play very well. Carmelo has flashes of perseverance and leadership, but he's inconsistent. . . and, not-suprisingly, so is our team.
The character guys end right there. We have a few hard workers, Afflalo, and Kmart, and a few "follow the mood" guys. . .Lawson, Birdman, and Nene.
Now, all of this can change. . .people can grow. But, that's where we stand right now.
We need character on our team. Character in basketball is. . . guys who know their role. . .guys who listen to the coach/veteran players. . .and guys who never give up. You can check the roster of the 2010 Cavs for such players. (of course it helps having the best player on the planet to give you confidence).
I think we need to clean house in Denver. Should we keep Carmelo? Yes, if we build the proper team around him. He needs guys to do the dirty work, guys to protect him. . . and guys who will go run through a wall. . . . .since he doesn't do any of those things.
Here are some options: Shane Battier, Udonis Haslem, Kendrick Perkins, Tyler Hansbrough, Kirk Heinrich, Brandon Bass, Marcus Camby (oops), etc. . . . . . . guys who play on Tuesday night.
Can Carmelo be the best player on a championship team? Maybe. I'm not convinced. . . he has to have a very particular group of guys to compliment him as a player. .and as a person. Melo does not give consistent effort throughout the season. He's playing his butt off now, . . but he doesn't understand that his teammates don't know how to react now, because he hasn't been doing that all year.
I think Carmelo might need to go to a team where he can be 2nd banana. Perhaps going to play with DWade in Miami.
For Denver. . .I say we start over with Ty Lawson, Afflalo, Carmelo(for now), and Chauncey. . . and clean house. Especially down low. Suffice it to say, Nene and Kmart are getting killed by two guys named Fesenko and Milsap. Lets raid the D-league. . .do whatever. But, please let's not come back next year with Nene, Kmart, and Birdman down low. It's been a 4 year experiment, it hasn't worked.
Can we please get an appropriately sized/angry big man? That's all I ask.
The character that is inconsistent in our best player(s) must be complimented with other guys. It has worked for other championship teams, there is no blue-print. . . except that you need a player of Carmelo's caliber on your team. I'm not trying to knock on anyone as a person, but we need some different kinds of players in Denver who will let Carmelo have 30 a game, will go get 15 rebounds and hold the other team's best player to 20. That's starts with character.