It’s hard to watch my beloved Nuggets

My first love was the Denver Rockets.

I had season tickets, one of a select few, and I knew them intimately long before I met my wife.

Spencer Haywood, the Rocket star, lived on Monaco Street in east Denver, and many of us groupies would cruise by to see if Spence would come out and play a bit of one-on-one in his driveway.

I graduated to becoming a Denver Nugget fan when David Thompson lived in a southeast Denver apartment with his little point guard buddy Monte Towe. The fan base grew as Carmelo Anthony lived with his girlfriend in a downtown Denver high-rise and expanded as Allen Iverson arrived to see if it was possible to play with two basketballs at one time.

There was magic in last season’s 57 wins in coach George Karl’s final season.

I’ve lost sleep watching West Coast games late at night, hoping for a win over the hated Los Angeles Lakers, Clippers or Portland Trail Blazers, and I’ve skipped happy hours as they battled on the East Coast against LeBron and his Cavs or LeBron and his Heat, praying for divine intervention.

The tide has turned. Now, going totally against the grain, I find myself smirking as they stumble to another defeat.

Losses are en vogue.

Tanking is a dirty word in NBA circles.

The league has gone so far as to hold a draft lottery, using ping-pong balls picked out of a hopper to select the team that annually selects No. 1 in the draft.

The team with the worst record in the league has a 25 percent chance of gaining the top pick. The 14 worst teams in the league are entered in the lottery, but the 14th-worst team has only a 0.5 percent chance of gaining the first pick.

I’m not saying the Denver Nuggets are tanking after their 0-3 start, with two of those being home losses. But if they aren’t tanking, they should be.

The Nuggets have a new general manager in Tim Connelly. They have a new coach in Brian Shaw. Both are young, energetic and doing their level best to make sure the Nuggets young roster improves through the season.

But there is the problem: that roster.

It’s no good.

Two of the three best Nuggets are not playing, small forwards Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler.

Their shooting guards, Randy Foye and Evan Fournier, are shooting just 37 and 14 percent, respectively.

Starting center JaVale McGee is playing less than 15 minutes a game because of mistakes and foul trouble.

And the best player on the team, point guard Ty Lawson, is playing more than 36 minutes a game. He will be toast by Christmas.

Connelly and Shaw have a vision of turning this team that sprinted to 57 wins — and yet another first-round playoff ouster — into a half-court team that can grind out wins in the playoffs.

It’s not going to happen with this bunch, not even when Gallinari and Chandler return.

What about a trade, you ask?

OK, I’ll give you Lawson and Gallinari for LeBron. After all, King James is going to be a free agent after this season.

King James in Denver?

Uh, no.

How about Gallinari, Chandler and Timofey Mozgov for Carmelo Anthony, another free-agent-to-be.

Didn’t we see that earlier? And didn’t Carmelo desperately want out of LoDo?

Folks, there aren’t many players out there who would turn Denver around without the Nuggets giving up virtually everything they have. Not Kevin Love, who is now happy in Minnesota. Not DeMarcus Cousins, who is the new savior in Sacramento. Not Omer Asik, who is coexisting with Dwight Howard in Houston.

So, let’s tank.

Looking at the NBA standings midweek, there were four winless teams: Denver, Utah, Washington and Boston. Another five teams had one win.

Those teams have the jump on what is being called the best draft since 1984 (Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley and John Stockton) or 1996 (Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson and Ray Allen).

Andrew Wiggins is the freshman at Kansas who is being compared to LeBron and is the likely top pick. He can play any position on the floor other than center and is thought to be capable of turning a team around immediately.

He’s not the only one.

Julius Randle at Kentucky is a power forward who could be picked before Wiggins.

Others who have NBA execs salivating include 7-foot center Joel Embiid of Kansas, small forward Jabari Parker of Duke, shooting guard Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and point guard Dante Exum of Australia, at 18 already one of the top point guards in the world based on international play.

This draft is said to go 15 players deep in terms of immediate NBA starters.

Just tank, baby.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher.


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