By Daniel Paiz
Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Will Barton, Isaiah Thomas. All names one might point to in terms of who might have a big season for the Denver Nuggets this year. Unfortunately this is just the top of the injury list, a list that seems to be growing weekly.
The Nuggets are returning back to Denver Monday night (12/10) to take on the Memphis Grizzlies after a 3-2 road trip that started out with quality wins against the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Toronto Raptors, and ended with narrow losses to a solid Charlotte Hornets team and a reeling Atlanta Hawks squad.
Why is this not as big of a deal as it might seem? Simple. Because the Nuggets are only 26 games into the season.
Look at it this way: for example, Gary Harris’ hip injury has him out for 3-4 weeks due to rehab time. That means just after New Year’s, about a month before the All-Star Game, the squad gets back a very helpful piece to the larger Nuggets puzzle.
Factor in how promising this bench of Monte Morris, Trey Lyles, Malik Beasley, and Mason Plumlee can be behind the play of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray? The panic button should still be dusty and forgotten.
Plus there’s some other player having a really good season, averaging nearly a triple-double or something like that (16.7 ppg, 9.7 rpg, 7.7 apg). It might just get him an All-Star nomination. Nikola Jokic is one of those constants that will likely help the Nuggets weather the storm.
Dealing with adversity is part of the game that’s immeasurable statistically. It’s that resiliency that’s learned earlier in the season, and can be referenced later on in the latter part of the season when it matter most. This valuable experience will make those March and April games not carry as much weight as they might have in previous seasons. Ideally, coach Mike Malone instills grit and toughness into this young squad.
Injuries happen to every team, and hopefully the Nuggets are getting that out of the way early, so their six year postseason hiatus comes to an end and the playoffs returns to the Mile High City. Just imagine what a healthy squad and solid team chemistry could do for this group of players.