Are Nuggets Just Starting To Take Off?

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HOUSTON — There were just a few ticks more than 30 seconds left in the third quarter when the ball and a thunderclap of inspiration came to JaVale McGee on the right elbow.

He took a step toward the basket, ducked under the outstretched arm of the Rockets’ Omer Asik and, well, what the heck, flipped the ball high off the glass, then climbed a ladder in the sky to grab it with one hand and blasted it through the rim.

Ground control to Major Tom.

“When I first got the ball I was thinking dunk,” McGee said. “Then I thought if I didn’t dunk it, I was going to get taken out of the game.”

Too late for those kinds of worries. The Nuggets had already taken the Rockets completely out of the game with a 4-1/2 minute stretch that was out of this world. Wilson Chandler off the bench with steals and jumpers. Ty Lawson with drives to the hoop. Andre Iguodala with all little things that he does.

It was a night for milestones that could have touched off an inter-generational rumble in the Nuggets’ locker room. Coach George Karl, who won the 1,100th game of his career, walked up to the locker stall of Iguodala, who scored his 10,000th career point and cracked: “I’m taking the game ball. You’re on your own.”

No worries. The way things are going, there could be plenty of other occasions to remember if the Nuggets keep up at this rate. The team that lived out of a suitcase through the end of 2012 with 22 of its first 32 games on the road, is now 9-3 since the start of the new year.

It’s more than just home cooking that had turned things around. It’s this delicious combination of all-around athletes that has simmered long enough in Karl’s pot to become a quite tasty dish.

The grueling season-opening forged toughness and togetherness that could pay off for the Nuggets down the road. Karl recently said that he is tired of scrambling down the stretch of the regular season to latch onto one of the final playoff spots in the rugged Western Conference. He has his sights set on battling with the Grizzlies and Warriors for the 4-5 spots. The Nuggets are currently sixth, just 2 1/2 games behind No. 4 Memphis.

“I still think we’re 20 games away from really establishing ourselves as a team that’s got to be reckoned with,” Karl told Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post.

That should be a shot across the bow of the Western Conference elite Thunder, Clippers and Warriors, who have already been taken down by the Nuggets since Jan. 1.

Here is Iguodala, finally free to just play his all-around game and fit in at both ends of the floor, reaching a significant career plateau and being unaware.

“I wasn’t predicted to be here, so it’s a dream come true to be in the NBA,” he said.

Here is Karl, now the seventh-winningest NBA coach of all time, with the miles and the scars on his resume, just watching the odometer flip over again.

“I’ll probably have a ball signed by the players to put in my trophy case, drink a few beers, some day remembering,” he said.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m at the stage in my career where fortunately I still love the game and still have the privilege to coach a good basketball team. The accolades are because of so many other people more than me. But I put a lot of losses on my belt, so maybe I’ll take some accolades every once in a while too.”

And as long as his team puts in the effort on defense, he’ll even smile at the same time he cringes while looking at the replays of McGee’s showboating dunk.

“It doesn’t fall under the fundamental area of basketball, but it worked and I’m glad it worked,” Karl said. “I hope he doesn’t try it a lot in the future.”

Because from the looks of things, the Nuggets might have too much serious ball to play.

21 Comments

  1. Bob M says:

    I agree with Karl. A team has to gel and stay hungry. The coach has a lot to do with that, but the players have to buy in. I really like their talent in all the different skill areas.
    As for the Warriors, enjoy them now. They are too young to win a playoff series. They are playing great ball, but Festus Ezeli and Rusty Bogut will not anchor the post in a hard fought playoff series. History has taught that you have to learn by going to a few playoff series. This will be the first in a long time. If the Warriors can keep it together and develop their team chemistry (like the Thunder have done), they will be a real nice team in the future.

  2. Game Time says:

    People make fun of McGee, but the guy does have some talent. We just don’t recognize it as much because of his past blunders.

  3. Dwade says:

    nuggets is just a rag in heat… nothing but trash….

    • big cat says:

      your trash , at least none of there players are sellouts who form ” superteams” cough dwade recruiting bosh and LeBron, that TRASHED the nba

  4. Shawn Kemp No. 1 says:

    “When I first got the ball I was thinking dunk,” McGee said. “Then I thought if I didn’t dunk it, I was going to get taken out of the game.”

    LOL

  5. willie says:

    unfortunately, no other team is better than the nuggets …. in losing in the 1st round…ha! :)

    • dgarcia1206 says:

      You’re stupid, get off this post if you are just going to hate… the Lakers barely beat us last year, and now with Iguodala on the team.. we are so deadly defensivley, we are the best offensive rebounding team, something we have never had before.

      This is a whole different animal.

  6. abchome says:

    They are always very good home team, winning over 30 home games nearly every year. They would be making real progress if they could win half or more road games.

  7. HoustonFan says:

    The nuggets certainly look scary. Javale McGee has come into his own and seems to have finally gotten over the hump of immaturity. Igoudala has always been a solid player but now with help in the post and from Lawson he can pretty much do as he pleases. Even though I’m a Rockets fan til the end this will be a fun team to watch closing out the season.

    Whoever faces them in the first round of the playoffs is in trouble.

  8. Mo1988 says:

    With all the changes in Nuggets’ roster, George Karl always successes in making the team look better and make the playoffs. Even after Melo leaving the Nuggets and the changes that came after that, he still finds a way to make the team better.

    I consider him to be the top coach in the NBA right now! The guy knows what he is doing and we are very proud to have him coach the Denver Nuggets. Congratulations coach!

  9. delucks says:

    Come On George, just let JaVale do his thing on the court. He’s your second type of all-around baller like Iggy :D

  10. Bstarr says:

    Well George Karl did a nice job in Seattle with guys like Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. Good to see him perform so well with the Nuggets despite the lost of Melo. Strong team with a lot of energy and almost unbeatable at home. But still no match for OKC to take the west.

  11. Common Sense says:

    No, but the Warriors are! Thanks to the Clippers the Warriors have a spring board to jump off of and now that they beat the Thunder they are on fire! Although I’m a Clipper fan, it’s going to be a tough race to see who gets the division banner. I know the clips want it bad since they’ve never won it, but I definitely think it will be a tight race.

    • idietreviews says:

      I agree, The Warriors are doing better than anyone could’ve predicted. I’m actually wondering why they aren’t getting much mention here at HangTime (show some love Sekou). Also, I think the Warriors fans should make a heartfelt apology to the GSW owner Joe Lacob after how they treated him during Chris Mullin’s ceremony. I’ve never seen a more dedicated owner (maybe other than Mark Cuban) as Mr. Lacob and Mr. Guber and GSW fans are lucky to have them. Com’on GSW fans, put up some “We’re sorry we booed you Joe, we love you” signs up there and show some appreciation for your team and management.

      • slider821 says:

        I agree. I think a lot of Ws fans want Lacob to take the floor again some point this season so we can show how we appreciate what he’s done. Remember, most casual Ws fans thought Ellis was our savior and only hope and you’ve got to admit the owners were blue balling us for the decade. Finally Lacob is ready to win and I agreed with getting rid of Ellis, everyone else just needed to see what would come from that trade.

      • idietreviews says:

        That’s why I love you Sekou, thank you very much for giving GSW some props for their hard work. Much appreciated!

        P.S. I’m a Miami fan, but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. GSW is really the surprise team of this year.

  12. Silence I'll Kill You says:

    Javale’s Dunk was Cute.. He still look so funny. :)

  13. big cat says:

    yea there a pretty good squad , top five power forward in Kenneth faried, best one on one defender in the nba in iggy hops, future all star in Lawson, best pure shooter in the nba in danillo gallinari , most underrated point guard of all time in andre miller, not to mention quality bench pieces like corey brewer , 7 ’2 tim mozgov, Wilson chandler , and the freak javale McGee, he’s a goof ball but in time he’ll be the best center in the nba, look out people this team could surprise some people this yr, my darkhorse team in the west , my darkhorse in the east is Indianapolis .

  14. googergieger says:

    Depends. Denver has a team that can be scary good. Both defensively and offensively. If Karl uses his depth to his advantage and plays the hot hand and puts a line up out there that can actually defend, then this team can do wonders. If instead he chooses to play Ty Lawson and Andre Miller together big minutes and Faried at center, this team is going to win some games against small teams and lose some games against big teams. Also he needs to start holding all players accountable for the things he only holds McGee accountable for. Miller can’t be allowed to leave shooters wide open and Ty can’t be allowed to go under screens. Also if it isn’t Chandler, Iguodala, or Gallo, no switching should occur.

    Also Denver needs to start playing with some attitude and aggression. That OKC game where OKC was allowed to stay in a game they had no business being in, they played angry. They played like they were disrespected and like no team or officiating was going to take that win away from them. They need to start treating every game like that. They need to start getting angry when they don’t win. Then start getting angry if they don’t win by ten. Then if they don’t win by twenty. Then get angry that you don’t win every game like that. Karl himself needs to bring that attitude and mindset to the table as well. Also please go ahead and make Gallo the “go to guy”. He clearly wants that responsibility and is our best chance for getting a shot up. Much more start running more plays for him and get him more touches. He should be a twenty point scorer this year rather easily.

    Sigh. Done for now. Hopefully they won’t drop another game to a bad team in the Kings this Saturday. They can easily end the rest of this month undefeated if they play like they give a damn and Karl doesn’t put line ups out there that can’t possibly do anything.