TURIN, Italy, March 23, 2011—As much as John Denver wanted to leave on a jet plane, Carmelo Anthony wanted out of Denver, desperately. We saw the drama sprawl for months until its roots had a stranglehold on a heap of teams playing right into the coy Anthony’s hand.
At long last, he and fellow beleaguered vet Chauncey Billups were shipped to New York in exchange for half of the residents of the greater Manhattan area. (Unfortunately, though, Howard Stern did not pass his physical.) Melo was in New York City, teamed with Amar’e Stoudemire and basketball’s biggest market. All things were seemingly fulfilled.
Now, hop in the DeLorean and fast forward a month. The drama has not subsided.
A bevy of cantankerous sportswriters—Chris Mannix and Stephen A. Smith to name a few—are boldly claiming that, despite the massive overhaul, nothing’s changed: the Knicks still have much to figure out.
Anthony poured in a whopping six points and zero rebounds against the woeful Detroit Pistons last Friday, looking more indifferent than Ben Affleck. In post-game interviews, Amar’e’s calling out an “unnamed few” who need to get committed. The Knicks still can’t get by the Celtics. And somewhere close to the front office, Isaiah Thomas lurks.
Lost in the overwhelming unrest of the Knicks is the fate of the other team involved in this trade. Indeed, take a close look and you’ll see something that might pique your curiosity: the Denver Nuggets are succeeding.
Teams that lose the face of their franchise—not to mention, one of the league’s most versatile scorers—are not supposed to get better, right? Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler and Danilo Galinari, the former Knicks flipped for Anthony and Billups, say that claim is erroneous.
Teamed with Nene, Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith, the Nuggets have taken flight since the trade. Unlike their counterparts in New York, Denver has found a semblance of defense— actually, more like a newfound commitment.
According to Aaron J. Lopez of Nuggets.com, in five games since completing a three-team, 13-player trade on Feb. 22, the Nuggets have held the opposition to an average of 91.8 points, compared to 105.2 points in 57 games prior to the trade.
“We’re talking [to each other] and just getting after it,” Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin told Nuggets.com. “Defense is all about effort. Guys get it in their mind to defend and that’s what we’re doing.”
The Nuggets have suddenly become stalwart. Guys like Chandler and Aaron Afflalo lock down the perimeter, while Nene, Martin and the legendary Chris “Birdman” Anderson shore up the post. They’ve held stellar teams like Boston to 75 points while rolling through weaker teams like Charlotte by 40 points.
It’s not only the defense. With the addition of the new guys, this team is even faster than John Daly. Throw Lawson and Felton on the court together and you have an unlimited torrent of fast breaks, with Nene, Chandler, Galinari, Smith, Afflalo and Martin sprinting their butts off to get down the court and finish.
This team is Knick’s Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s Christmas wish. Hilarious, because now D’Antoni is stuck with the other end of the deal (and Chauncey Billups’s decrepit knees).
The Nuggets also must surely lead the league in tattoos, including the NBA’s most bizarre tat: Kenyon Martin’s voluptuous pair of lips sitting on his neck, which earns them major street cred throughout the Association. The Nuggets don’t even need uniforms; their skin is covered already.
Now, I’m not saying the Nuggets will overtake the Lakers. They’ve lost to good, championship contending teams like Miami and, to a lesser extent, Orlando. But they’ll make the playoffs. They’ll run with the big hitters. And who knows? They might even run past them.
Irony is cruel, isn’t it?
Read more of Sam Bovard’s work at Balls Without Discretion in the Communities at The Washington Times.
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