Are The Denver Nuggets Really Thugs? Or Are They Just Heavily Tattooed?
It seemed a little weird to me because, let's be honest, these entire playoffs have been quite physical, and I don't necessarily remember saying to myself, you know those Nuggets really go the extra mile in terms of physical play.
But the term is already out there, and some of the Nuggets were asked about it. Here's what Carmelo Anthony said:
"I don't know where that comes from. I mean, we just play basketball. We play hard, we have fun out there on the court. Maybe it's because we've got tattoos. Everybody has tattoos on our team, so maybe that's what it is."
And you know what, he may be dead on. Don't worry, I'm not pulling out the race card, because as I'll make clear later, this really has nothing to do with race.
But back to the Nuggets and their thuggery. Typically a basketball thug is much like a hockey thug. They're an enforcer who plays outside of the rules a bit, takes cheap shots at people, etc. Problem is, when I go by that definition, I really can't think of anyone on the Nuggets who fits that description aside from Kenyon Martin. And even Martin isn't all that bad. He uses intimidation and physical play to give himself an advantage. Only about 8000 other NBA players have ever done that.
And let's be real here. K-Mart is about 1/10th as bad a Bill Laimbeer ever was.
Also, when you look at teams who have, how shall I say this, gotten chippy during these playoffs, the Celtics come instantly to mind. Rajon Rondo's cheap foul on Brad Miller, Rondo hucking Hinrich into the scorer's table, Kevin Garnett barking like a rabid dog on the sideline at opponents, Kendrick Perkins delivering elbows of fury. Yet, can you remember anyone calling the Celtics thugs? I don't. Instead you hear "it's playoff basketball."
So why are the Nuggets getting the short end of the stick? Beats the hell out of me. Maybe it had to do with the tiff between K-Mart and Cuban, but K-Mart does not a whole team make. These Nuggets are no where close to the old Detroit Bad Boys.
I really do think there's some truth to what 'Melo said, even if he meant it jokingly. Some people just see a guy like JR Smith or Chris Andersen covered in tats and think, man, that dude's a thug. But, as they say, you can't judge a book by its cover. And if you ask me, the reason why the Nuggets are going to beat whoever faces them in the Western Conference Finals isn't because of anything to do with thuggery at all, it's because these guys play and win as a true team - regardless of what's tattooed on their necks.
What makes an NBA team thuggish? [The Baseline]