The NBA regular season ends on Wednesday. The Denver Nuggets are among the teams planning for the NBA postseason. This past Wednesday Denver tied a franchise record for most wins which is 54 and they have three more games to break it. They’re ahead of the much more ballyhooed LA Clippers and Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post joined Bill Littlefield to discuss Denver’s chances at taking home the Larry O’Brien trophy.
BL: The Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976. Before this season they’d made the conference finals just three times and they’d lost each time. I understand there are many who feel this team could be the one to finally break through to the finals. Do you agree?
CD: For me I’m still holding out a little bit on that but this team has gotten much, much better over the course of the season. They’ve lost Danilo Gallinari for the season. Ty Lawson will be fine for the playoffs, he won’t be 100 percent with the heel injury, but if he can play 80 percent or more, then you’ve got to like the Nuggets in terms of being one of the teams in what I think is a wide-open West in those top-five spots.
BL: Tell me a little bit about how they have survived those losses. This is a team that’s played shorthanded much of the season.
CD: Yeah, it has, and they’re a deep team. If they had all of their guys available, they would play 10 guys, and sometimes 11 in a game. And some of the guys that they bring off the bench are of starting quality. Corey Brewer’s had a great, great season for them. Javale McGee is a guy that’s signed to a big, long-term contract. It’s a unit that has a lot of pride when it comes in. That second unit — a few of those players could start for a lot of teams and I think that’s why they’ve been able to kind of weather the storm. Those guys have been able to fill in very capably and the team hasn’t missed a beat.
BL: Denver fans saw the Broncos win two Super Bowls in the ‘90s, the Avalanche took home the Stanley Cup in ‘96 and again in 2001, and even the Rockies made it to the World Series in 2007. Do Colorado basketball fans feel that an NBA title, or at least a Nuggets’ appearance in the finals, is long overdue?
CD: Yeah they do. In 2009, that team advanced to the Western Conference Finals before losing to the Lakers in that series, and it appeared as if the team returning that following season would be able to kind of break through that and get to the NBA finals. You know, I think fans around here feel like it was within their grasp, and maybe now [is] by far their best chance since that 2009 team. And I think the one thing fans really like about this team as well is it just plays a very fun brand of basketball. It’s open court and they play just a very up-and-down style of basketball, really take advantage of the altitude here and get out on the fast break. And it’s because on the defensive end they get a lot of deflections, they get a lot of steals, and they are three, four seconds from rim to rim.