With an emphatic win over the Miami Heat on Tuesday, the darlings of the Pepsi Center appear to be the Denver Nuggets.
But with expectations of making a deep postseason run comes a lot of pressure.
This week, 104.3 The Fan talked with Fan Nuggets Insider Matt Moore — senior NBA writer with The Action Network and co-host of The Locked On Nuggets Podcast — to chat about if the team can actually make a push for a title and how much support they’ll get from Denver at large.
104.3 The Fan digital content producer Johnny Hart: Reading up on one of your online bios, it said you’ve been described as a “maniac” in your approach to covering the NBA and that you often dish a “heavy dose of sarcasm.” What’s an instance that’s gotten you in trouble and/or it actually didn’t and you thought it might?
Fan Nuggets Insider Matt Moore: I once wrote in my first season covering the Nuggets that the 2012-‘13 Nuggets were “weird as hell,” and George Karl caught it in the clips and called me out for it.
“What does that mean?!” he yelled at me in the hallway. “You start a guard at power forward and a forward at center and you have like 19 wings! It’s weird!”
Hart: Who has been your favorite subject to cover over the years?
Moore: Watching Gary Harris’ career has been pretty incredible. From a guy who couldn’t get time for Brian Shaw to one of the best complimentary wings in the league, Harris has earned everything he’s gotten. He’s a really quiet guy, and seeing him come into his own in interviews has been cool to see. He’s also a player who appreciates how far the team has come when Pepsi Center was empty to being a serious contender in the West.
Hart: Is Denver a basketball town? Is Colorado a basketball state? Tim Connelly (may have been Michael Malone) shamed free agents a few years ago for not giving Denver and the Nuggets its proper respect. How can the club, city, fans, etc. change that narrative?
Moore: It’s not a basketball town or state. It’s not even really a football town or state. It’s a Broncos town and state. (In related news, the best Broncos opinions never stop on 104.3 The Fan!) I think there’s clearly an enthusiasm gap. It’s part of what’s led to the Nuggets changing their free agency approach, realizing that they have to grow and keep their own talent.
Long-term relationships with several key free agents never paid off this summer despite Denver landing No. 2 in the West and a game short of the conference finals. Until the fans really buy in and create an excitement, not much is going to change there, and the fans’ position won’t change until the Nuggets prove they’re a championship organization, because of the bar the Broncos have set.
It’s a chicken or the egg problem.
Hart: The Nuggets have never made an NBA Finals. They’ve never won a championship, going back to the ABA days. Why do you think this season is different, and can this current model make Denver a perennial championship contender?
Moore: I think this team can make a run. It’s the best chance I’ve seen in their history since I’ve been covering them, and I think even better than the 2009 team. They have depth, a real superstar who stepped up big time in the playoffs in Jokic, young talent, veterans, athleticism, the depth to survive injuries and a great homecourt advantage.
The West is open and for every team they’ll struggle to match up against (Houston) there are teams they should be able to counter (the Clippers). The door is open, if they can capitalize.
Hart: What’s your favorite Nuggets logo/color scheme/jersey?
Moore: I’m partial to the new scheme. I like the darker blue with gold a lot, even If I wish they’d switch to silver instead. And I mean … who doesn’t love the rainbow skylines?
In the bonus
Hart: You have one game for all the marbles on “NBA Jam,” the original version. What duo do you pick?
Moore: Kemp and Schrempf, Sonics. Upset by the Nuggets notwithstanding, that team was incredible. Getting Schrempf’s mid-ranger in transition and how fast Kemp would get to the rim and then soar for the hand-over-eyes tomahawk was incredibly satisfying.
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