As the players made their exits after a hard fought seven game series, there was a definitely a sense of disappointment. The Denver Nuggets outplayed the Los Angeles Lakers in almost every game in the series. They out-hustled, out-rebounded and earned the respect of the Kings of NBA Class in a seven game series they could have won. Through all of that though, they were mostly happy with the progress made in the season with their friends.
It’s an overlooked message in the NBA among all of the star power pumped into the league through Nike and Gatorade endorsements. Team basketball and team culture can create great things in the league. The best example of the culture the Nuggets are trying to create can be found in San Antonio, where the Spurs have four championships with the Tim Duncan and Coach Greg Popovich tandem. In San Antonio the team winning championships, playing a certain style of basketball and buying into a team culture trumps egos. There’s never infighting between Duncan and Tony Parker. Manu Ginobli has never threatened to take his talents to the big lights. They may be overlooked, but they have four championships and only two other teams have done that in the past 20 years – the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nuggets have planted the seeds of this cultural transformation with young talented players who may develop into great ones. They have unloaded the egos that included Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Nene, to make room for more team guys. The transformation saw the likes of Al Harrington even buying into the philosophy. George Karl’s team basketball concept saw explosive play from this team the last month of the season, and really gave the Lakers a run for their money.
As Danilo Gallinari left the Nuggets locker room for the off-season he noted that he hopes they have the same team next year. Ty Lawson wants to help out some of the young guys during summer league. Javale McGee loves Denver and really blossomed under the system. Even all of the rookies on the team have been accepted and are excited for the future of the Nuggets.
Whether there are stars on this team remains to be seen. The Nuggets may leave the roster intact and hope it grows over the summer, or they may decide to make a trade. Executives have decisions to make including the fate of a crop of players, three draft picks and a plenty of cap space to spend. This is truly a new Nuggets team, with everyone ready to contribute.