The Denver Nuggets roster does not include many household names, but the players in uniform delivered a basketball clinic Tuesday night at the Barclays Center.
Behind Ty Lawson and a multitude of castaways or late first-rounders, the Nuggets ran past the Nets, 111-87. The Nets missed Deron Williams and Paul Pierce, but their appearances would not have swayed this outcome.
The Nuggets’ assembly constitutes the antithesis of the one located in Brooklyn.
Despite a payroll some $35 million less than the Nets, the Nuggets understand how to run a franchise in today’s NBA. The method involves finding a management group with some patience who’s willing to compile a team of young, athletic, and intelligent players. Constructing a team with selfless egos and defensive prowess also helps.
Denver passed that bar with flying colors. The Nets, on the other hand, posed as pyrite to the Nuggets’ gold rush Tuesday night.
“We’re not even giving ourselves a chance,” Joe Johnson said. “That’s the frustrating part.”
At one point, Nate Robinson converted an alley-oop lay-up as the Nets defenders served as uninterested spectators.
The Nets watched the Nuggets deliver all kinds of head-scratching performances. Timofey Mozgov, a throw-in in the Carmelo Anthony trade, erupted for 17 points and 20 rebounds. His 20th rebound sent the Nuggets starters into a frenzy as they cheered on their teammate.
The Nets offered no such animation.
“We’ve got to find some answers as to why we’re going our separate ways instead of staying together as a team,” Kidd said.
The fans showed some life, though, pouring boos onto the players during another 31-15 third quarter rout.
“We’re soul searching here,” Kevin Garnett said. “We’re trying to figure out how to pass this thing up, how to get this thing together... I don’t think anyone in (the locker room) is having fun.”
Maybe the Nuggets will miss the boat come championship time, but at the very least they field a team capable of competing on a nightly basis. The Nuggets, winners of seven straight games, boast only one blemish on their 17-game schedule, a two-point opening-night road loss to the Sacramento Kings. The other six losses came against playoff teams expected to compete heavily in the Western Conference playoffs.
And maybe the Nuggets are keeping this nugget a secret, but they too entered the Nets game missing two starters (Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee). They never complained or made any excuses for their misfortunes. Next man up and away they went.
The Nuggets interestingly follow the Tampa Bay Rays methodology for running a team. When a player approaches a big contract, they move on and promote younger and more able bodies to take their place. Just in the last two years, the Nuggets parted with Anthony and Andre Iguodala, a duo garnishing a combined $34.2 million, or half of the current Nuggets roster.
While Iguodala walked as a free agent, the Nuggets parlayed Anthony into three players on their current roster.
Conversely, the Nets assumed all those big contract, big ego players that teams like the Nuggets hurried to jettison. The result is as one would expect: many losses, no chemistry, and a shredded locker room.
The Nuggets’ as a whole are far greater than the sum of its parts. The league ran away from players like McGee, J.J. Hickson, Nate Robinson, and Randy Foye. Together, they play a respectable brand of team basketball.
The Nets’ parts virtually demolish the whole. A slow, plodding isolation offense with aging and injury-prone players rules the Brooklyn roost. And a coach capable of putting all the puzzle pieces in place? Not a chance.
With Jason Kidd operating on the heels of Cupgate and losing his lead assistant in Lawrence Frank over “basketball-related differences,” the Nets officially constitute a mess.
The Nuggets play like a team not assured of future contracts or success. The Nets play as individuals content walking away with a boatload of money paid for by a mysterious owner.
Maybe the Nets’ tire fire should not come as such a surprise.