On the Denver Nuggets’ 70th NBA anniversary, this team indubitably has more optimism than the original.
The 2019-20 Nuggets begin their positive, poised pursuit of the franchise’s first professional basketball championship Wednesday night in Portland.
The 1949-50 Nuggets weren’t quite as confident when they opened the season in Moline, Ill., in October against the Tri-Cities Blackhawks and coach Red Auerbach.
Those Nuggets — with three Wyoming players and coach/player Jimmy Darden, who also had played at Wyoming, then the University of Denver — lost their first 15 games before winning at the old Auditorium Arena.
In the inaugural season of the NBA (an amalgamation of the National Basketball League and the Basketball Association of America), the Nuggets finished 11-51 and in last place in the Western Division. They promptly quit the league, but returned in 1975 in the ABA absorption by the NBA.
The Nuggets have won eight division titles, but never reached the NBA Finals.
The franchise and its fanatics are at a frenetic all-time Mile High over the prospects of success this season.
This is it.
An outlier among the 20 ESPN “experts’’ picked the Nuggets to win the championship. Bobby Marks, who has been an analyst and a league executive for decades, was the only one who predicted Tuesday that the Nuggets would defeat the Clippers and the Bucks.
The overwhelming consensus is that Kawhi Leonard will win a successive NBA championship — his first with the Clippers, who also acquired Paul George.
The Bucks and the 76ers are the prime selections in the East, and, in a survey of general managers, the Nuggets were ranked second in the West between the Clippers and the Lakers. An “I Love L.A.’’ attitude exists because the Lakers now possess Anthony Davis with LeBron James.
Las Vegas odds place the Nuggets tied (with the Jazz) for seventh overall at 16-1 to claim the championship.
The Nuggets have more than a puncher’s chance. They are among the heavyweight contenders, but more so than customary, the West is overloaded with the Clippers, the Lakers, the Rockets, the Nuggets, the Jazz, the Spurs and even the declining Warriors.
The Nuggets, in a reversal of their forefathers from 70 years ago, could win their first 15, and absolutely will end up with more than the 54 victories of the past regular season.
Seven of their last 10 are at home; 14 are against riffraff from the East, and they will win at least 35 at The Can.
Considering how the Avalanche have started (7-1-1), Denver’s hockey and basketball franchises will produce the loftiest combination triumph total ever, and both will go deep.
And they might not be seen on local television, unless viewers pirate telecasts or until Altitude Sports blinks first, realizing the serious consequences of competing against Comcast, Direct TV and Dish Network (whose national headquarters are in a Denver suburb).
Everybody should get to view Nikola Jokic again. He has become the most prolific triple-double center since Wilt Chamberlain. Pleasant company. Per 100 possessions, in his four-year NBA career, Nikola is averaging 28.4 points, 16.7 rebounds and 11.4 assists. At 23, he averaged 25.1, 13 and 8.4 in 14 playoff games.
He certainly is worth the $148 million contract. Jamal Murray must prove his $170 mil pact is just as valuable. The 2018-19 numbers were impressive, but his consistency was not.
Murray can’t go seven, 26, three points as he did at the outset of last season or disappear for a playoff game with six.
The Nuggets didn’t get any of the super-duperstars, but the acquisition of Jerami Grant, who can play every position and probably four musical instruments, and the re-signing of veteran Paul Millsap were smart moves.
But, who will be the dominant small forward; wither though goest, Will Barton; will Gary Harris score more than 13 and shoot better than 42 percent, and does Michael Porter Jr. have some role other than a bit part?
Coach Michael Malone says Porter isn’t guaranteed to get off the bench in the opener against those dastardly Trail Blazers who knocked off the Nuggets in the second round.
Bol Bol, we’ll look out for you in a couple of years.
The Nuggets still are young, “but grown from that experience’’ in the postseason.
This is the deepest team I’ve seen in 45 years of covering the Nuggets, but is it the best over 1974-75, ‘84-’85 or ‘08-’09? Will Bobby Marks be right?