The year was 1998 and the Denver Nuggets were coming off a league-worst and also a franchise-worst 11-71 season. It was a season in which they had a 23-game losing streak, which made Nuggets fans eager for the NBA Lockout.
The cash-strapped Nuggets were one of those teams that was getting left behind because they didn’t have money to spend. They were forced to let Dikembe Mutombo to walk in 1995 without anything in return. Then two seasons later they were forced to trade Antonio McDyess because they couldn’t afford to pay him when he became financially.
The Nuggets made it a point to right their wrongs going into the Lockout. They just hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Bill Hanzlik as head coach, drafted Raef Lafrentz with the third pick in the draft and traded first-round bust Tony Battie for All-Star Nick Van Exel. The Nuggets were back!
But the fans didn’t see the end result until seven months later when the owners and the players finally came to an agreement in late January and immediately the Nuggets were dealing again.
- They traded Bobby Jackson, Dean Garrett and their 1999 pick (luckily enough the pick ended up being Jonathan Bender, who was drafted with the fifth pick. But that 1999 draft had numerous players that could have helped the Nuggets later) in a three-way trade for Chauncey Billups.
- They traded their 2000 pick (which ended up being Keyon Dooling) for Keon Clark and Johnny Taylor.
- They also brought back Antonio McDyess after trading him the year before due to financial difficulty. However, McDyess resigning didn’t come with some controversy. It is well documented that McDyess had a verbal agreement with the Nuggets, but had second thoughts and invited Jason Kidd, Rex Chapman and George McCloud of the Phoenix Suns to an Avalanche game at the Pepsi Center to talk about the decision. However, Dan Issel got wind of it and told security not to let the three players in the arena. In the end McDyess signed with the Nuggets.
- The Nuggets also added future New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams before the season.
The Nuggets did do better in the shortened season and finished with a 14-36 record (over 82 games it would have been 24-58 – better, but still bad). McDyess put up All-Star numbers, averaging 21.2 points and 10.7 rebounds. Van Exel and Billups formed a pretty dynamic backcourt. The duo combined to average more than 30 points and 10 assists a game. LaFrentz was solid during his rookie debut with 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds and Danny Fortson was a force on the glass with 11.6 rebounds.
However, with a new coach and five new players to the rotation the Nuggets struggled to get in rhythm, starting the season by losing four in a row and ending it on a seven-game losing streak. In the end, D’Antoni was fired and general manager Dan Issel took over for the 1999 season.
Tags: Antonio McDyess Bill Hanzlik Bobby Jackson Chris Andersen Colorado Avalanche Dan Issel Danny Fortson Dean Garrett Dikembe Mutombo George McCloud Jason Kidd Johnny Taylor Jonathan Bender Keon Clark Keyon Dooling Mike D'Antoni NBA Lockout New Orleans Hornets Nick Van Exel Phoenix Suns Raef Lafrentz Rex Chapman Tony Battie