In the moment, nothing in the world is more annoying than a mosquito deciding you’re next. First, you get a warning buzz in your ear. You swat. Approximately 30 seconds later, it flies by again with another buzz that sounds just a bit too much like maniacal laughter. You swat again. Then, after one-minute passes – just enough time to think you’re in the clear – SLAP! He got you. Loser.
The Denver Nuggets have proven to be the NBA’s mosquito, while the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz, well, they’re the rest of us.
For some reason, the freakin’ Nuggets will just not go away. They’ve been the epitome of a pesky competitor in the playoffs, fighting back after being down 3-1 to force a Game 7 in both their first and second-round series.
Unlike a mosquito, though, I respect this team’s bite.
Whether it’s a 124-81 loss to the Jazz or a 120-97 loss to the Clippers, this team has demonstrated a pretty remarkable ability to bounce back. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray continue to play best with their backs against the wall, and this never-give-up mindset that appears to be embedded inside the Nuggets organization – something Bulls fans should watch closely.
To preface what I’m about to say, I know the Bulls aren’t going to magically transform into the Nuggets. The success they’ve seen in Denver is not only due to the work of Arturas Karnisovas but from a handful of well-respected NBA executives (and, of course, players executing to the best of their abilities). With that said, when discussing the future of the Chicago Bulls, we have to draw on the new front office’s experience. After all, they were hired to lead this franchise precisely because of the promise they’ve shown elsewhere.
The fact of the matter is Karnisovas deserves a ton of praise for what we’ve seen Denver do in the playoffs, and it’s not only because of his roster building. We all know he found Jokic in the second-round and built a deep roster. We all know he helped decide that Mike Malone was the right guy to turn a 33-win team into one that can win over 50 games. What he deserves more recognition for right now – especially from Bulls fans – is the culture he helped create.
Despite being one of the youngest teams in the league, Denver has shown some of the best chemistry and continuity. Players are not focused on their minute totals but rather simply winning ballgames. In an article by the Denver Post in January of this year, we learned about a preseason presentation by the president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, in which the front office’s message to the players was clear …
“You can be on a losing team and average 15 points, or you can be on a winning team and average eight points,” Malone said, recalling the presentation. “And throughout the history … the player on a winning team that’s averaging eight points is going to be valued more than a player coming from a losing team. You know why? Because teams want, organizations want, players that have been a part of winning cultures.
“They want players that can come in there and help build something special, and not just be about, ‘I’m getting mine on the court.’ And there’s a big difference.”
Arturas Karnisovas has made it very clear that the Bulls will be a players-first organization. The message shared above shows at least one way his previous organization tried to accomplish that – being honest with players about one of the best ways to build sustained individual success in this league. While Karnisovas may not have been the one to give the presentation, that’s representative of the mantra he’s espoused for the last seven seasons. The Nuggets have established a culture that’s built on honesty, accountability, and winning. And, hey, whaddya know … those are three things the Bulls have severely lacked in recent history.