The Knicks? Don’t worry about the Knicks. They’re title contenders now. The Nuggets? Oh, well you don’t really have to worry about the Nuggets either. They just beat the Indiana Pacers by 40…without Danilo Gallinari, a key component in the three-team, 13 player trade that sent the Nuggets four time All-star, Carmelo Anthony to Broadway.
Knicks GM Donnie Walsh and Nuggets first year GM Masai Ujiri, sat on opposite sides of the country, table and phone line, trading names and figures, trudging through the rumors and innuendo, for six solid months. Today, they have to be thinking, “What the hell were we waiting for?”
Ujiri insisted the Nuggets “got killed” in the Melo deal. Perhaps giving up Chauncey Billups in the deal was the “killer”, maybe he was lowering expectations, but the truth is the 13 player swap injected some much needed life into the Nuggets. George Karl said he has never coached a deeper team and I believe him. Yes, the Nuggets gave up the best player in the deal, but they received 3 NBA-proven starters, two under the age of 24, plus a young center, draft picks and $3 million. They are at least two deep at every position and can play a variety of styles.
Wanna go uptempo? Let’s go small with Ty Lawson at the point and Raymond Felton at the 2 and maybe Al Harrington at the 4 spot. Since the trade, the Nuggets are averaging 107 points a contest. The pride of Freehold, NJ, J.R. Smith has stepped up his all around game shooting 52% from three and averaging 15.8 pts, 7rbs and 3asts in 27 minutes of action, all while staying out of coach Karl’s doghouse.
Need some defense? Let’s switch Felton to the point, bring in Aaron Afflalo at shooting guard, the Birdman at Center and move Nene to his more natural position at power forward. In the five games since the trade, the Nuggets are giving up 91.8 points a game. In the five games prior to the Melo deal, the Nuggets were giving up 112 points a contest. They’re offense has spiked while they’re defense has clamped down. And, most importantly to coach Karl, the Nuggets are playing as a team. Against the Pacers, the Nugs had 34 assists off of 45 made baskets and 7 players in double figures, with newcomer Wilson Chandler leading the way with only 16 points.
Chants of “Melo Who?” are echoing through the Pepsi Center. Maybe the question the Nuggets faithful should be asking is “Why Did You Wait So Damn Long?” Although 7 words is exorbitantly long for a chant.