Don’t look now, but your Denver Nuggets are close to becoming a six seed. Two weeks ago there was speculation that they could catch the Clippers and move up into the third spot in the Western Conference. Now Memphis, Golden State, Utah, Houston and even the Lakers threaten to box the Nuggets out.
Denver currently sits in the fifth spot in the conference, having allowed the Grizzlies to slip past them. Denver has lost four of its last five games. The Nuggets now trail Oklahoma City, San Antonio, the Clippers and the Grizzlies. They are 11-19 on the road and they account for 1/8 of the Washington Wizards’ 16 wins.
The optimism that surrounded the club after their historically successful January campaign has faded. The trade deadline has passed. The Nuggets stood pat and proclaimed themselves not to be contenders for a title. They’re only going through the motions, according to their General Manager. It’s difficult enough to explain why fans would stick around until the end; what is motivating the players at this point is even more difficult to grasp.
What difference does it make if the Nuggets enter the post-season as the fourth seed, the sixth or the eighth if they’re not playing to win it all? Why bother even making the playoffs, aside from having the opportunity to stuff Pepsi Center full of people three or four more times before the end of the year? Typically there is a perception that if a team makes it to the playoffs that it can go all the way. That is not considered realistic in Denver. It’s got to be as discouraging to the guys on the floor as it is to fans.
Is the idea that the Nuggets can’t win not a reflection on the players? For the organization to assert that it doesn’t have the right tools to beat the best teams in the West has to be difficult for professionals to swallow. No individual Nugget is going to look at himself and say that he’s the weak link. Instead, they look around the locker room and wonder who else must be dispatched or replaced in order for the Nuggets to become more competitive in the future.
Certain players have no desire to play for the Denver Nuggets at all. Now that it’s clear that those players are stuck here until the end of the season, team chemistry will suffer. The lack of moves might have been in the team’s best interest in the long run, but for now it means that not every player in blue and yellow is buying what George Karl is selling.
It’s all very deflating. The Nuggets are losing ground but who can blame them? They’ve been told that they’re not good enough and that the 2013 campaign is doomed to be an exercise is futility.