Von Miller was in the house. Before catching a flight to Miami for the next defeat in the Broncos’ never-ending losing streak, Miller spent Thursday evening at the Pepsi Center, just to see what a playoff team looks like.
In what has been an upsetting and difficult fall in Broncos Country, maybe here’s the biggest upset of the season: In the rankings of local pro sports franchises, the Broncos have fallen to last place.
So I humbly ask: Are you going to sit on your sofa and mope like Paxton Lynch about our sad state of football, or discover there can be happiness in the realization this is more than a one-horse town?
“That was fun,” said Nuggets coach Michael Malone, breathing a deep sigh of relief after his team’s furious rally was just good enough to beat Chicago 111-110.
It’s true that nobody mistakes these Bulls, whose record dropped to 3-17, for the team made world-famous by Michael Jordan. And it was far from easy for the Nuggets, who trailed by 18 points in the first quarter and needed a bucket by Will Barton in the final seconds to escape with a victory.
The Nuggets, however, made their comeback without three starters. Paul Millsap, the $30 million man, is on the mend from wrist surgery. Wilson Chandler, struggling with a sore back, did not suit up against Chicago.
And center Nikola Jokic went down in pain during the second quarter, clutching his left ankle. Right there in front of Miller, Rockies manager Bud Black and 15,154 other witnesses in the arena, the Nuggets’ playoff dreams flashed before our eyes. Although Jokic did not return to the game, the X-rays were negative (which is always a positive thing).
“We’re not going to be a team that’s woe-is-me, this guy’s out, that guy’s out,” Malone said. “Screw that.”
The last time our local NBA team qualified for the playoffs, Peyton Manning was getting ready to unleash 55 touchdown passes for the Broncos in 2013. Seems like forever ago, doesn’t it?
My, how times have changed. It’s strange but true: Among the Big Four professional sports franchises in town, the Broncos are the worst. And it’s not close.
Here are my current rankings of our local pro teams. Any argument from you?
No. 1: Rockies – In Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, they have two MVP candidates. And, to think, the Broncos can’t settle on one starting quarterback.
No. 2: Nuggets – Jokic is to dropping dimes what Miller is to sacking quarterbacks. Simply the best.
No. 3: Avalanche – Jared Bednar is no longer the most clueless coach in Denver. What can we say? Well, at least Vance Joseph runs a great practice. Just ask him.
No. 4: Broncos – Remember when we made fun of Dick and Charlie Monfort as miserly baseball owners and cursed the Kroenke family for caring more about construction of a $2 billion stadium in Los Angeles than building winning franchises in Colorado? Where have you gone, Pat Bowlen? Without Mr. B around, is there anybody at Dove Valley headquarters that dares to challenge John Elway’s authority, much less hold him accountable for this mess?
OK, let me offer a quick apology for not including the Rapids in these rankings. But, in the grand tradition of soccer relegation, until the Rapids again start acting like a major-league franchise, we will treat them as a minor diversion.
The reason the Nuggets won: Will Barton. After Denver fell behind 26-8 in the opening quarter, he was Will the Thrill. Barton finished with 37 points, including the game-winner on a relentless drive to the cup on the Nuggets’ final possession.
“A win is a win is a win,” said Malone, as he walked to the locker room.
The Broncos only wish they knew the feeling.