The Playoffs A Daunting Task for Denver
The Denver Nuggets have an added wrinkle in their plans of acquiring a playoff berth by adding Wilson Chandler back into the mix. After returning to the NBA after fulfilling his commitment to his team in China, Chandler still finds himself re-adjusting to the NBA’s style and pace of play.
“It’s crazy,” Chandler told HOOPSWORLD. “I never thought it would be like this. My body is getting used to it and even my mind. The athleticism, the talent and how crazy it is in the NBA, it’s kind of a whirlwind getting back into the mix. I’m just happy to be back. There’s no question the NBA is the best league and I never thought it wasn’t before leaving the country. There is no comparison.”
Chandler returned to a somewhat different Nuggets team, with new faces playing big roles. They were a team in playoff contention without him in the mix, so coming in and finding a way to contribute without disrupting their flow is a challenge.
“I had never seen him play, so I asked Coach and the guys who played with him last year,” Kenneth Faried said. “They were really talking about how good of a player he is overall and a good person, so I just got to know him a little bit. We’re locker mates, so I was talking to him and figuring out who he is as a person. It’s a good feeling to know people rely on you and coaches know you can contribute to the team, so having him back is a pretty good thing. It’s starting to show with the games he’s having, he’s scoring and, defensively, he’s rebounding and that really helps.”
While the Nuggets are in the midst of a slump, losing six of their last ten games, they are still more than confident Chandler will fit in well and make them an even more dangerous team.
“Coming back from China, the NBA is a different game,” Kosta Koufos said. “He’s doing very well, he’s a hard worker and we’re very lucky to be able to add him back to our team. Due to the lockout, it’s a little bit different situation for everyone. He’s transitioning well and is helping us out a lot this year. It’s just practicing, learning each other and it’s going well. We’re gelling and it’s coming together, but it takes a while when adding someone into the mix like Wilson. We’re limited with time, but we do have some games left before the playoffs.”
Scoring in double-figures in each game since his return, Chandler is also helping out in other areas. He is also hitting the boards and moving the ball, trying not to rock the boat.
“Since I came back, I sat out a month negotiating,” said Chandler. “I’m tired a little bit and my conditioning is not up to par, so I’m just trying to get back into the flow. It’s tough and it’s a transition. They have been good so far without me, so I’m just trying to do my part, not try to do too much and just get back into it. Hopefully, down the line, I can help.”
As is the case with nearly every player in the league, Chandler isn’t content with his current skill level. He’s always looking to improve his individual game, but knows now is not the time to push it too much. His current skills are a great addition to Denver’s attack and that is what the Nuggets need from him now as they try to stay in the playoff hunt.
“I need to really work on my ball-handling and shooting, but right now since this season is so short, individual goals are kind of out the window,” said Chandler. “It’s time to get myself back healthy and get myself back into shape for the playoffs. I’m just focusing on the team and our goals this season.”
“We have to learn each other and how we play, what we do and that is the hardest adjustment,” adds Faried. “He’s a cool, he’s very humble and he’s very focused on winning.”
Even though the Nuggets recent losses have them on the outside looking in at a playoff berth, they are right there. Obviously, getting Chandler back into the mix with the rest of the team isn’t the only challenge the team is facing lately. Danilo Gallinari and Rudy Fernandez have missed games recently as well, but the Nuggets aren’t making any excuses.
“It’s tough with guys being out for whatever reason,” Corey Brewer said. “It throws us off, but we have to win. Losses teach us that we can’t come out and play that way and keep pushing. It’s a big challenge. It’s a short season, but he’s a great addition. Wilson is a big addition on the wing guarding guys and getting buckets. We know once we get our pieces back that we’re going to be a tough team to beat. We have enough guys now to win, but we’ll be even better. It starts now.”
Sixteen games remain for the Denver Nuggets before either their season ends or they find themselves in the playoffs. With eleven of those games on the road, Denver will have to find a way to put it all together quickly.
“We all know what needs to be done otherwise we’ll be sitting at home during the playoffs,” Ty Lawson said. “We’re like one game out. It’s not like we’re 23-32 or something like that. We’re maybe one game out depending on who won or lost tonight. There’s no flip we have to turn on. We’re still in our playoff run.”
The question is: With the uphill battle they have to face from this point on, how much longer will the Denver Nuggets be in the race?