What do the Nuggets want to be?
“You want the real answer? ” Nikola Jokic said.
“Michael Jordan,” Jokic said. “That’s who I need to be. ”
Hey, we all can dream. But I suggested Jokic may need to jump a bit higher to be like Mike.
“No, I need to be Michael Jordan at this time,” insisted Jokic, whose fantasy is to have the life and the $1.9 billion net worth Jordan enjoys right now, at age 56.
He’s always the Joker, especially in a season full of grins and giggles. Basketball is a hoot again in Denver. So is that adequate? Or is this team tough enough to be the Western Conference’s No. 1 seed?
Coach Michael Malone stood early Tuesday evening in a Pepsi Center hallway, feeling the coming storm in his bones, and issued a warning.
“Watch out for this particular cyclone bomb,” Malone said.
Cyclone bomb? Is that what the Nuggets were fixing to fall on Minnesota in a 133-107 victory?
“No, it’s not. It’s when it (the barometric pressure) drops 24 millibars in 24 hours. We call that a cyclone bomb,” said Malone, pausing a beat to set up his punch line. “I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night. ”
Malone is not merely a strong candidate for NBA coach of the year, he dreams of becoming a excellent meteorologist, even if his terminology could use a little tweaking.
“I do all of it,” said Malone, who figures forecasting a blizzard has to be easier than winning basketball games. “Hey, if you’re a weatherman and get it 50 percent right, you’re a Hall of Fame weatherman. ”
So tell us, Mr. Weatherman. Which way is the wind blowing with this team?
If the Nuggets take care of business from upcoming home games against Dallas and Indiana, they might be sitting atop the conference standings by week’s ending, with a little luck, and of course assists from Houston and Oklahoma City, demanding stops on the road ahead for the Golden State Warriors.
But it takes more than being quick on the draw with three-point shots to survive in the wild West. While scuffling into a 9-7 record since Feb. 1, with each foe aiming for them, the Nuggets have found they need is to be tougher sons of a gun.
Does this Denver team have the faith it has what’s required to stare down James Harden or Russell Westbrook, much less Kevin Durant, in the playoffs, where the timid get chewed up and spit out?
Who do the Nuggets want to be?
The firepower in Golden State’s arsenal can’t be matched by any challenger. But every sports dynasty starts to rot from within. The Warriors look bored and ready for a rest until the playoffs start. Rather than trying to hold off the Rockets and Thunder for the No. 2 seed in the West, Denver’s lone goal in the final 16 games of the regular season should be to chase and catch the Warriors.
“That’s one of my questions to our team: Who do we want to be? ” Malone said. “Do we would like to chase the No. 1 seed? Do you need home-court advantage? Do you just need to sneak into the playoffs? Who do we want to be? ”
We’re on the verge of the NBA’s mean season, once the elbows grow sharper. Are these Nuggets prepared to jump in the gutter for playoff brawls? I trust Malone won’t back down from a fight, and the time has come for the trainer to do what’s best for the team, even if it means telling a proud athlete to take a seat.
“Try to find a rhythm and spinning that I feel will give us the best opportunity to win now and into the playoffs,” said Malone, describing his tough task at hand.
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Jokic was his usual triple-double threat against the Timberwolves, but what was most notable about this match is Malone seems to have settled on an eight-man turning as Denver heads into the stretch run.
The starting five, which we’ve all been waiting all season to see at full health, is Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap and Jokic. This group dropped 69 points on Minnesota while jointly shooting 54 percent from the field. Now that’s a cyclone bomb.
Malik Beasley has established himself as the instant offense and relentless energy off the bench. Monte Morris runs the stage with efficiency and proficiency when Murray needs a blow. Mason Plumlee gets the minutes that Millsap or Jokic can’t handle in the front court.
So Malone has his eight men with which the Nuggets will live and die. And where does that leave everyone else on the team? Torrey Craig, who injured his left arm in the fourth quarter, can catch sprinkled minutes as a defensive specialist.
And Isaiah Thomas? He’s exactly where he belongs, at the end of the bench.
“I know it’s not easy for him,” Malone said.
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