The distraught Nuggets are in need of a big shot to reach the postseason.
And Mr. Big Shot.
After another devastating defeat in double overtime on the season’s longest trip, the Nuggets, now 38-33, must win at least eight of their 11 remaining games to avoid missing the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
The road continues to be long and winding, as the Beatles asserted – and too hard for the Nuggets. They’ve lost 23 of 34 away from The Can. They still have five more on this perilous Hannibal-like journey, then two more in cities with teams contending for the last Western playoff position.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets’ president, supposedly a basketball enthusiast and expert, is spending three months on sabbatical in London.
If Kroenke The Younger doesn’t care during this critical crunch time, and Kroenke The Elder is in parts unknown, then why should the rest of us?
The Nuggets played with no effort – coach Mike Malone’s description – in a loss to the Memphis Teddy Bears in the expedition’s first game. And on Monday night in a pointfest, the Nuggets scored 141 points, but fell to the Heat by eight.
The Timberwolves lead the Nuggets for the eighth playoff spot by two games, a modest margin, except when the Nuggets’ recent record and upcoming schedule are considered. The Nuggets are playing at .500 pace and confront the Tanking Bulls next. Victory should be easy, but … the cross-country, over-the-border tour also has stops in Washington, Philadelphia, Toronto and Oklahoma City. The Nugs will be fortunate to win any.
And the Raptors, the East’s No. 1 seed in the East, probably will go all-Jurassic Park on the Nuggets. Masai Ujiri isn’t over his bitterness.
Ujiri and Josh Kroenke were the principal executives of the Nuggets when they traded Carmelo Anthony and last made the playoffs. Ujiri received a five-year, $15 million offer from Toronto, and the Nuggets didn’t even counter. The Raptors’ president has made the Nuggets’ president look silly. The Raptors are playoff perennials, while the Nuggets sunk into an annual abyss after George Karl’s firing.
The Nuggets probably will stagger home with a 39-34 mark and be eliminated figuratively. They can beat the Bucks, the Pacers and the Timberwolves at home, but their home finale is with the Trail Blazers, who have blazed to 13 straight triumphs, and knocked the Nuggets out of a playoff opportunity at last season’s conclusion.
Sandwiched around that game the Nuggets must go to Los Angeles (Clippers) and Minneapolis (Timberwolves).
The Nuggets’ chances of earning a spot in the postseason, according to espn.com, have plummeted to 13.1 percent, and they are projected to finish in 10th place with a 43-39 record. They will be eliminated literally.
No wonder Tim Connelly, president of basketball operations, ultimately quit predicting every year that the Nuggets would be in the playoffs. He joined the Nuggets in 2013 a few weeks after Ujiri departed and, since, has been promoted and received a significant raise and a contract extension. For what?
The franchise last was a major NBA player in 2008-2009, pushing the Lakers to six games in the Western Conference finals.
The major player was not Melo, but Chauncey Billups, the hometown kid and former finals MVP (re)acquired by the Nuggets.
Toward the finish of his Hall of Fame career, Chauncey and the Nuggets brass had discussions about him eventually joining the front office. Instead, he was included in the Anthony deal.
Chauncey, the greatest schoolboy legend in Colorado, serves as an NBA analyst for ESPN. He had a proposal from the Cavaliers last year to be GM, but turned it down when the Dan Gilbert short-sheeted him.
Bring Billups back where he belongs.
Chauncey recently told Harrison Wind of BSN Denver that becoming chief executive of an NBA franchise is "still a desire of mine. When it’s time, it will happen.”
It’s time. Make it happen.
Problem is, Josh Kroenke is living in London "fact-finding” the operation of English Premier League club Arsenal – another Stan Kroenke sports property.
Josh apparently didn’t have enough to do with the Nugs, the Avs and the Raps. Perhaps he should stay Over There.
A real professional and proven winner, "Mr. Big Shot,” should assume control of the mediocre mess Here.