In Praise of the Denver Nuggets

God bless the Denver Nuggets. While the NBA is careening towards yet another Lakers vs. Celtics finals matchup, of which there have been approximately 800 of in my lifetime and which we do not need ever, ever, ever, ever, again, the Nuggets are a port in the storm of this misbegotten NBA season.

Yes, they are probably going to lose to the Lakers in the WCF, but at least they are keeping things interesting for as long as they will. It was almost Lakers vs. Clippers in the WCF. The Clippers will be beneath my contempt as long as they employ this Ohio boy's sworn enemy. Or it could have been the Jazz, whose fans I find insufferable. Instead, Denver beat back-to-back 3-1 deficits in each series to slay bad-guy teams.

You may be wondering why I am not extending similar blessings to the Heat. While I would certainly prefer a Heat championship to a Lakers or Celtics one, they are less than 10 years removed from their own championships, and Denver seems like a team made for me to like them.

Denver is a team that everyone seems to think is never as good as their record indicates. For all the star power the Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Blazers, Warriors, and Rockets have had this year and last, it was Denver who finished second in the West last year and third this year. Against, y'know, a Western Conference schedule. Still, no one gave them a chance to make noise in the playoffs. Their haters were vindicated when they failed to make it out of the Western Conference semis, last year, losing in 7 games to No. 3 Portland.

I would say even that is nothing to sneeze at, but sneeze people did, and sneezed harder when they followed up their 2nd-place Western Conference finish with a slip to 3rd this year.

But instead, they are now the No. 3 seeds to knock off the No. 2 seeds in the Western Conference semis, and became the first team to come back from 3-1 series deficits in back-to-back series in so doing.

Between those comebacks, and the fact that it took them 7 games to shake off the No. 7-seed Spurs last year in the Western Conference quarterfinals, is part of the reason I think they get no respect. People seem to think great teams can't fall behind 3-1 in a series, but if you are going to debit them for falling behind 3-1, don't you have to credit them for coming all the way back and winning? Doesn't that speak to the incredible heart and guts they have? As far as the Spurs go, let's not forget they are coached by perhaps the greatest basketball coach of all-time.

The other reason I think Denver can't get a lot of traction is, again, they have less star power than the Lakers (LeBron and A.D.), Warriors (Steph and Klay), Blazers (Lillard and maybe McCollum), Rockets (Westbrook and Harden), Thunder (Chris Paul,) and the Clippers (Kawhi and Paul George).

But that may be changing. Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Junior are both under 24 and are looking more and more like a part of the next generation of superstars in every game. Then there's Bol Bol, son of Manute, who the basketball experts on Twitter I follow are skeptical of, but is certainly an interesting talent at 7'2" and 20-years-old.

In the middle of it all is their core and their soul, Nikola Jokic, their 7-foot center who himself is only 25. His quiet leadership from the center position reminds me a lot of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, as does his ridiculous overhead jumper that is the spirit animal of Kareem's skyhook, and just as accurate.

Finally, how can you not like a team with such a colorful logo history?

The Denver Nuggets. Appreciate them now. Avoid the rush.

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