NBA AM: Nuggets Struggling, But Won’t Panic
The Denver Nuggets have been one of the most successful franchises in the league over the last ten years and currently boast a consecutive playoff appearance streak of nine seasons. Entering the 2012-13 campaign the Nuggets were pegged by many to be one of the top three teams in the Western Conference, but at the quarter point of the season the team sits at .500 and occupies eighth place in the conference standings.
The Nuggets have played a league-high 16 games on the road, going 6-10 away from home, to start the season and even though the team is struggling to live up to expectations forward Danilo Gallinari says the club is learning about its character through the early adversity.
“I think that we have a very good team and we can be very good,” Gallinari said to HOOPSWORLD. “This tough start for us is very good because we are learning about each other and our chemistry is getting better. Our record is a pretty good record considering the schedule we’ve had to play. So this nine game road trip is going to be interesting to see how much improvement we can do.”
Even with the slow start the Nuggets remain just five games behind the third place Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference.
Nuggets forward Corey Brewer says the team isn’t panicking and fully expects the team to live up to its potential before the regular season concludes.
“We’re not going to panic,” Brewer said. “We’re going to turn this around. We’re still right in the hunt, had some bad games and some ups and downs but once we get it started we’re going to be alright.”
The team has had to adjust to the offseason arrival of All-Star forward Andre Iguodala , forward Wilson Chandler’s injury woes and also had to deal with the mini distraction of point guard Ty Lawson’s contract situation early in the campaign.
Despite the struggles, Gallinari says the Nuggets’ front office has continued to give this team a full vote of confidence and notes the re-signing of Lawson back in October as an important confidence booster for the entire roster.
“I think it is very important,” Gallinari said on the re-signing of Ty Lawson. “Especially with a player like Ty who is going to play with the Nuggets for a long time. For all of his career. It was very important for us because he’s a great guy and I thought our front office did a very good move in giving him a long contract.”
The Nuggets have compiled a 3-5 record on the current road trip and finish off the slate against Minnesota on Wednesday.
More Josh Smith Free Agency Talk
You can make the argument that outside of Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul that Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith is the most coveted free agent in the class of 2013.
Smith’s diverse set of on court skills cannot be denied but entering the season there were legitimate questions on whether the forward could be the face of the franchise and keep the team playing at a high level even after shipping six-time All-Star Joe Johnson to Brooklyn.
After struggling out of the gate, Smith was just named Eastern Conference Player of the Week and the Hawks have one of the league’s best records at 12-6.
Rumors have swirled over the past two years on Smith’s long time desire to remain a Hawk, but the veteran maintains that he believes in the team’s current direction and a long term relationship is still in the works.
“I never said one time that I wanted to leave Atlanta,” Smith said to Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports South. “It was always rumors and things. The moves that they made (last summer) and the success that we’re having, I am excited about what is going with this organization and I am considering strongly staying here. I haven’t ever had any thoughts that I wanted to leave.”
Sources close to the situation in Atlanta also maintain that there are no plans to trade Smith and state re-signing the veteran will be the team’s top priority next summer.
Smith will be eligible for a five-year deal close to $100 million from the franchise when free agency opens and the Hawks are expected to have $30 million is salary cap space available for the 2013-14 season.
Memphis Grizzlies, Legit Title Contenders?
One of the most surprising teams in the league this season at the top of the standings is the Memphis Grizzlies. The team owns an impressive 14-4 record and has been equally strong at home (9-2) and on the road (5-2) to start the season.
Although the team has reached the playoffs for the past two seasons, the club is finally starting to get mainstream respect and is now being considered legitimate players for the Western Conference throne.
The transition into the ranks of the league’s elite has been an enjoyable experience up until this point according to point guard Jerryd Bayless.
“It’s great, that’s what you’re supposed to be in the league for,” Bayless told HOOPSWORLD. “You come into this league you’re supposed to be a winner and are supposed to look to win. I’m really looking forward to it and really looking forward to how far we can go as a team.”
The Grizzlies signed Bayless to a two-year $6.1 million deal this past summer to serve as the primary backup to Mike Conley. From the start Bayless has been impressed with his new club’s unselfishness as a unit and overall team chemistry.
“Unselfishness,” Bayless responded to what has driven the Grizzlies success. “I think, guys are really moving the ball together. Everybody gets along, that makes it a lot easier and guys are just out to win. There are not a lot of individual goals going on right now.”
With success comes national attention and raised expectations, however, Bayless says the additional media presence surrounding the team hasn’t led to guys starting to rest on the early success.
“Honestly, to tell you the truth I don’t watch too much basketball outside of it,” Bayless said. “I try to stay away from listening to that stuff, but I’m sure guys are though. I don’t really hear anybody talk about it in the locker room ever. If they do, I don’t know about it.”
The Grizzlies are 9-0 in games they have scored 100+ points and have only allowed an opposing team to cross the century mark one time this season.
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