As Kenyon Martin stood on the scores table after the game celebrating with fans I got chills down my spine. Was this really the same team who used to give up easy baskets, shoot 3's with 20 seconds on the shot clock and let themselves beat themselves?? It was, only this was the new Nuggets who are finally playing to their potential. Talent has never been the question as they have plenty of it from top to bottom. It always came down to the willingness to compete and treat every possession like it was the last.
Much credit will be given to Chauncey Billups, who is after all these years, still the real deal from Park Hill. I remember going to CU games back in the day with the Coors Event Center rocking. This guy brings excitement wherever he goes. After last nights closeout of the Dallas Mavericks in 5 seemingly easy games for the Nuggets, Billups has now been to the Conference Finals 7 years in a row. Lets just name the few others who have accomplished the same feat shall we... Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Michael Cooper, Magic Johnson... That is some pretty elite company and proves Billups status as a floor general and great leader. Magic Johnson calls him the best leader in the game today and he's right. Without Chauncey this year, if the Nuggets still had Allen Iverson, they would've been watching last nights game from their couch. No pun intended on Iverson but lets face it, Billups is a leader and Iverson wasn't.
Besides Chauncey you have to give all the credit to Carmelo Anthony and George Karl. Anthony has broke through at the perfect time and is playing the best basketball of his career. He is passing well out of double teams, hitting his mid-range jumper with ease and getting to the hole easier then an ice cream cone into a fat kids mouth. It is obvious this year more then any other that Melo finally just wants to WIN and win big. He's no longer satisfied with putting up great numbers and losing, and this shows signs of his ever growing maturity.
George Karl also found a way to save his job this season and resurrect his career all at the same time. Not bad for a guy who has 17 straight winning seasons as a head coach and has made the playoffs in 18 of 21 years as a head coach. Pretty good right... Well he's showing he has the smarts and game management abilities to lead the Nuggets to the promise land. Funny story considering these Nuggets upset his Seattle Supersonics in '94 who at that time were the first #1 seed to lose to a #8.
Overall the Nuggets look more mature by the moment. Kenyon Martin is playing stellar defense. Nene is shaping into a great post player. J.R. Smith is playing defense and being smarter with his shot selections as well as passing the ball well. Not too mention the Birdman.
These (our) Nuggets aren't done yet either. Look for them to make some noise in the Conference finals no matter who they face. Either the Lakers/ Rockets must be taking notice. Go Nuggets!!