Point at the coach that’s done more this season.
Denver coach Michael Malone knows what the problem is and selected 13 plays on Monday to demonstrate the lack of effort displayed by his Nuggets squad since the All-Star break. In fairness, the Nuggets are faced with a lofty position and teams hunting for them every night that is a huge hurdle for such a young team.
The Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder have had similar woes during this stretch, this is why the Nuggets hold on second place is solid, if not insurmountable. Only the Houston Rockets seem immune to the late-season malaise, they got theirs out of the way to begin the season.
One has to look no farther than Russell Westbrook‘s crankiness to know that the dog days of an NBA season are difficult for everyone.
NBA coaches are not immune to the pressures of the NBA season grind. Michael Malone has taken fair criticism for his rotations during the Nuggets rough patch, sticking too long with the bench when it is underperforming, returning to the starters when it isn’t. His process seems to be to re-insert Denver’s starting unit at about the 8-minute mark of the fourth and he seems to rigidly adhere to that. While it may drive fans nuts, there’s a definite method to his madness. Malone has the ten-thousand foot view, he knows that in an injury-plagued season, stability and routine are paramount to the Nuggets playoff success.
See, Malone has to look past the regular season, with the Nuggets all but assured of not only a playoff spot but at least a first-round home court advantage, they have to get into a playoff routine.
The bench is about to shorten, Malone needs to know who his eight are going to be. Can Malik Beasley and Monte Morris be relied upon to take bigger minutes? Can Thomas get up-to-speed in time to contribute, will Lyles be available? With the starters intact, the Nuggets playoff future depends on who and how coach Malone works out his playoff team. Denver is unlikely to finish in the top spot just as they are unlikely to drop below the third seed. This is precisely the time that players need to show their coach what they will bring to a playoff setting.
Things have changed, the last two seasons ending a game short of the playoffs are in the rear-view. The idea of just making the playoffs has been obliterated by the success of this squad, so it’s up to the coaching staff to prepare for a long playoff grind. This is part of it.
Still, it’s going to be important going forward to acknowledge that this isn’t a championship year for the Nuggets: