This is the perfect place for Denver Nuggets fans, or should I say Denver Nuggets optimists. But let's be realistic, we are always seeing on the bright sides, you know.
As what we found out in the denouement of the Dwight Howard soap opera, the Denver Nuggets received all-star, and Olympic gold medalist Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers. As Nuggets fans feel the elation of having Iguodala on the roster, in the end, sadness would take over in the form of a tough goodbye to Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington. Although their Nugget careers lasted for a short time, their departures were just as painful as the departure of Nenê. Like the Brazilian center, Afflalo and Harrington weren’t just good guys on court, but off the court as well; both have been great contributors to the Denver community. To some fans, a Nuggets trade can only be done midseason, so that means this trade to get AI9 just came out of the blue.
Arron Afflalo used to be a player given minutes just to do one thing: play defense. Many might have forgotten that Nuggets’ blowout win over the Los Angeles Lakers, where Afflalo held Kobe Bryant scoreless in the 2nd half after going loose for 19 pts in the first. A player with a great work ethic, Arron did not rest on his laurels; he kept on working hard as his career progresses, and he gets rewarded with improving numbers, and now he has evolved into a someone who can contribute on both ends. He also showed that he can also be someone reliable in the clutch, hitting a game-winning buzzer beater over Shawn Marion, and hitting three free throws against the Sacramento Kings to tie the game with 0.6 seconds remaining. George Karl expressed to the media about his appreciation on Afflalo as a good player and a good leader. Afflalo has so far showed that he is worth the $43 Million contract he just signed, but Ujiri might have given up on Arron after his ice cold performance in last season’s playoffs. He had to spend a lot of energy in guarding Bryant, and that left him too tired to score on offense
Unlike Afflalo, Al Harrington has already established himself as a scoring threat. But in his first season as a Nugget, Al was plagued by foot injuries, making him ineffective, scoring 10.2 points per game (the lowest point average since 2001). But he returned to next season’s training camp in tremendous shape, and he became the important part in Denver’s hot start in the first half of the season. It doesn’t matter if he sometimes plays out of position, Al always gives his all in every game. He was also put in the conversation for the Sixth Man of the Year Award (which was given to James Harden of the Oklahoma City Thunder). Aside from being an integral part on offense, Big Al served as the voice in the Nuggets’ locker room, giving out advice to the young Nuggets. But Harrington started the season healthy, now he is not, and it doesn’t look clear that he will duplicate his performance of last season. Add to the fact that his contract is non-guaranteed in the final two years, that might be the reason why he got traded.
It was very sad to see a tireless worker and a locker room guy go. The Nuggets became the team that helped turn Afflalo into what he is now. And Harrington felt thankful of being that voice in the locker room that kept the teams’ chemistry strong during the good and the bad times. But let’s face the reality: Jordan Hamilton is ready to take the next step next season, Anthony Randolph wants to revitalize his career now that he gets to play in a winning team, Timofey Mozgov wants to finally prove to Nuggets Nation that he is worth the starting center of last season (although he will likely play off the bench next season), and Wilson Chandler can finally play in a full season as a Nugget. That all can be possible after the trade as the 61.1 combined minutes per game left by Afflalo and Harrington gets distributed to all of the remaining Nuggets who beg (and deserve) for more playing time. We, the Nuggets Nation, say the best of wishes to Triple-A and Al Buckets in Orlando.
As what we have learned about Masai Ujiri, he is brave enough to pull the trigger on a trade to make a team better regardless of sacrificing a hard-worker and a locker room leader; thus, no player is safe. Masai wants the Nuggets to stay young, but he wants the Nuggets to reach their utmost potential to become championship contenders. Some say Masai is ruthless because he shipped out guys like Billups, Nenê, Afflalo, and Harrington, but you have to understand that Masai is looking at the current picture right now and that is to take the Nuggets off the mat called mediocrity and onto the door of the elite.