May 12, 2012. Lakers 96, Nuggets 87. Another first round playoff loss. After coming behind from a 3-1 series deficit, the superstar-less Nuggets bowed out to the superstar-stacked Lakers. It was an expected outcome according to all the pundits. Basketball dogma dictates that the Nuggets shall not beat the Lakers in a playoff series. But as I soaked in the final loss of the season, I looked my beer right in the bottle and smiled.
Do not be mistaken, that game stung. The Nuggets had come back from seemingly insurmountable deficits in the game and the series. They played the game the way you were taught to, with hustle and emphasis on the team. “The wrong team won,” I thought as the Lakers went through their interviews. I prepared for the feeling that most Nuggets fans know after watching their team lose yet again. But instead of the dragging despair that I expected, a feeling of anticipation crept in. That’s right. It was another playoff loss. But there would be a next season. And it was a good, no, great time to be a Nuggets fan.
Much has changed since that night. Gone are Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington, but the Nuggets did not sacrifice two great players for nothing. In their place is Andre Iguodala, one of my favorite players. Iguodala is an athletic and smart swingman who was tailor-made for George Karl’s run and gun system, and hopefully a key cog in putting D back in Denver (Andre please fix the perimeter D, I’m begging you). On October 31, the Nuggets will play their first game of the season. After a long summer, somewhat augmented by the presence of olympic hoops, basketball is back. Tonight the Nuggets face off against one of their partners in what will forever be known as “The Dwight Howard Trade”: The Philadelphia 76ers.
The Nuggets have changed some from the previous year, thanks in part to the Sixers and the serendipitous flight of Dwight Howard to the Lakers (Why, oh why the Lakers?). But much of the team from last year remains. The Nuggets will welcome back the recently extended Ty Lawson (4 years, $48 million) and the ever steady veteran presence of Andre Miller at the point. Expect these two to get plenty of minutes in Coach George Karl’s (in)famous two point guard line up.
In addition, the Nuggets will have a bevy of wings including the former Sixer Andre Iguodala, who will no doubt be well prepared for his return to the city of Brotherly Love. Alongside will be perennial “energy guy” Corey Brewer, Wilson Chander (somewhat recovered form hip surgery), 2nd year swingman Jordan Hamilton, and possibly freshman Frenchman Evan Fournier.
Bigs will include 2nd year forward Kenneth Faried, who expects to follow up on a stellar rookie campaign in which he led all rookies in shooting percentage and rebounding. Along with him will be the enigmatic Anthony Randolph and the trio of seven footers, Javale McGee, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov. The injury report for the Nuggets includes Danilo Gallinari, who will be a game-time decision and Julyan Stone, who is expected to be out until January after hip surgery.
The Nuggets will face up against the 76ers, minus their prized offseason acquisition. Center Andrew Bynum is sidelined with a knee bone bruise and not expected to play. The Sixers are still dangerous with point guard Jrue Holliday and newly signed scorers Nick Young and Jason Richardson. Expect much of the game to rest on Holliday though as he runs Coach Doug Collins’ disciplined system. Holliday had a breakout season last year and will be looking to get off to a great start.
The Sixers will have to try to keep up with the Nuggets if they hope to start the season 1-0. Denver will push the pace and try to run the Sixers into the ground with their depth and athleticism. If the Nuggets can get into the open court and attack the rim, it’s going to be a long night in Philadelphia. If the Sixers can force the Nuggets to settle and control the fast break, this game could come down to the wire. Regardless, it’s going to be a great game and an exciting way to start the season.
At this time, Nugglove would like to send our best wishes and regards to guard Arron Afflalo and forward Al Harrington. Both were beloved in Denver and will be missed as they continue their careers in Orlando. Iguodala is one of those players you can’t turn down, but you hate to see two great players and people leave in the meantime. To our readers, Happy Halloween and go Nuggets!