February 27, 2013

LIAO | Nugget Nation

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I’m a New Orleans Hornets fan; don’t ask. I love their uniforms, their players and generally everything about them. With the Hornets rebuilding, however, and hard to watch at times, this year I’ve adopted another team: the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets have everything it takes to be a team you want to cheer for: they’re a good team, they’re exciting to watch, and most importantly, they have the wackiest players in the NBA.Let’s start with the man, the myth, the JaVale. What’s there not to love? The answer is nothing. Let’s go over some of the reasons I love JaVale McGee. On Inside the NBA, Shaq has a whole segment called “Shaqtin’ a Fool,” pretty much dedicated to mistakes JaVale McGee makes. McGee has a finger mustache tattoo that he uses to celebrate. He’s actually productive; he averages 10 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in just 18 minutes a game. He legitimately tries hard, sometimes failing spectacularly, but the effort is there. His mom won back-to-back women’s NCAA titles, played and coached in the WNBA and may be the most supportive mother in the NBA aside from Flo Allen. Most importantly, JaVale makes me happy and really, that’s all that counts. Never change, JaVale.Other than JaVale, my next favorite player is obviously Andre Miller. At this point in his career, he literally has zero athleticism. Watch him play; he just takes his time, uses his size, shoots ugly, flat mid-range jumpers that go in and makes great lob passes. He can’t blow by anyone, he doesn’t have great handles and he can’t shoot threes, yet he’s an above-average NBA player because he’s so smart and crafty. Go to YouTube and watch the highlights of him scoring 52 points against the Mavericks; it may be the least impressive way to score that many points, ever. It’s really amazing seeing how little pure athleticism is needed to be a good player in the NBA. Miller simply takes what’s given to him by the defense and makes smart decisions to succeed. The biggest reason why I love Miller, however, is his voice. He sounds a little like a mouse, and it’s wonderful. The world would be a better place if we appreciated Andre Miller a little more.We should also appreciate Kenneth Faried, the Manimal. He has a game built entirely on athleticism and energy. Despite being just 6’8” and weighing 221 pounds, he’s averaging 12.1 points and 9.6 rebounds a game, never leaving the paint in the process. Cheering for the underdog is always fun, but the way Faried got to the NBA is even better. He was raised by two lesbian mothers, with his birth-mom suffering from lupus since he was in fourth grade, and has stood up publicly for gay marriage. He doesn’t judge by sexual orientation, wealth or race. He grew up in Newark, where more than half the population is black, then went to school at Morehead State in Kentucky, located in a rural county which is 94 percent white. He simply accepts people for who they are, and the world — sports world especially — really needs more people like him.The wings for the Nuggets are also a bunch of fun. The lanky Corey Brewer — described by head coach George Karl as “a wild wild-card” — might be the most energetic, reckless player in the league. He looks like four flailing limbs with no body, just a mess of arms and legs swirling around endlessly, which fits perfectly into the Nuggets’ breakneck pace. He’s a pesky defender, leaks out on every opportunity he has (which is not always a positive) and is absolutely fearless. Just a joy to watch. Andre Iguodala is not as energetic as Brewer, but his presence is just as important. He has the calm of a wily veteran, despite being just 29, and he does the things necessary to win games. His most important contribution to the team is his great, calculating defense and his countless hours scouting opponents. Every night, he matches up with the best wing on the opposing team, and it’s possible to actually see him take away the thing they want to do. Some defenders play great defense because of their energy and quickness, but Iguodala relies on simply getting in the way of where they want to go. It noticeably bothers the great players in the league.Despite loving all the individual players on the team — and I didn’t even mention its two leading scorers, Danilo ‘The Rooster’ Gallinari and Ty Laswon — the biggest reason why I love the Nuggets is their team dynamic; they have no players who were even close to getting an All-Star nod, yet are 36-22 and sit in fourth place in the ultra-competitive West. They legitimately seem to like each other and have fun goofing around together. There don’t seem to be any rivalries or pouting because players didn’t get enough minutes; they just work their asses off when they’re called upon and let George Karl handle the logistics. The Nuggets’ balance, unselfishness, youth and pure energy make them an exciting team to watch, and everyone should be paying attention.

Original Author: Albert Liao