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Kyle Freeland and the Colorado Rockies rally around the Denver Nuggets first trip to the NBA Finals

Patrick Lyons Avatar
May 26, 2023

In 2022, the city of Denver rallied around the Colorado Avalanche as they won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 21 years. This year, it’s the Denver Nuggets receiving the support as they charge toward the first NBA Championship in franchise history.

Count the Colorado Rockies among the millions in the region who want the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy to visit Coors Field on a tour through the state capital this summer.  

“Everyone was excited to watch the last three minutes of that game,” Kyle Freeland said of Game Four of the Western Conference Finals.” Whether they were Nuggets fans or not, we’re here to support the other professional sports here in Colorado.”

Freeland, who rebounded from his previous start in Texas by going five innings and giving up two earned runs during Thursday’s wild 7-6 win over the Miami Marlins, led the rallying cry this time last year when the Avs were the center of attention.

A jersey of Jamal Murray hangs in his locker now, similar to the Nikola Jokić model manager Bud Black has sported at the ballpark.

On Monday, the Nuggets-Lakers game was scheduled to start at 6:30 MT, a full 10 minutes before the Rockies game. By the time Chase Anderson tossed out the first pitch at Coors Field at 6:42 MT, the NBA’s typical pomp and circumstance for television prolonged the tip-off to about the same time.

MLB’s new pitch clock rules has produced much quicker games than we’ve seen in the past and the 5-3 win over the Marlins on Monday lasted a brisk 2:14. This allowed Colorado to celebrate on the field and get back into the clubhouse with enough time to see the final few minutes of the Nuggets victory.

Connor Seabold, who lived in Castle Rock for five years as a teenager, was visiting with guests behind home plate at the time when he heard multiple celebrations emanating from various parts around the ballpark once the play clock reached double-zeros. One of those eruptions came from the Rockies’ clubhouse. 

“After our game, we were all just sitting around watching the Nuggets, going nuts. We had a couple of Laker fans in here from L.A. But we prevailed, so we got to wear them out for it,” closer Pierce Johnson joked.

Los Angeles County native Mike Moustakas was bummed, as was Alan Trejo. The clubhouse also contains three different players who attended school at UCLA. All received some light razzing from teammates after LeBron James and company were bounced from the playoffs. 

Hardcourt Hardcores

Earlier in the day, former Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony announced his retirement following 19 seasons in the NBA. 

“I was definitely a Carmelo guy,” Freeland shared. “His entire career was just awesome to watch. Being able to watch him, especially in those throwback baby blue Nuggets uniforms with the baggy pants, baggy jerseys. Loved watching Melo.”


A few lockers down from the pride of Thomas Jefferson HS was another Colorado native, Lucas Gilbreath, who seconded the love for Carmelo, albeit with a Chris “Birdman” Andersen jersey draped over the back of his chair. Johnson made a point to talk about Denver native and CU-Boulder alum Chauncey Billups as one of the better Nuggets players from his childhood. 

“I was actually at the game when we traded for Allen Iverson,” Johnson recounted. “It was a super snowy night. Nobody was in the stadium because there was so much snow and I remember Allen Iverson. That was probably my best memory.”

Purple Predictions

With the first game of the NBA Finals set for Thursday, June 1, the Nuggets will have a lot of down time that could impede their momentum. 

“We talked about that,” Gilbreath said of the clubhouse chatter. “It’s definitely not something that’s ideal for those guys, but I think they’re so focused and I think that they’re so well coached. I don’t think it’s gonna be a big issue.”

If the Miami Heat had wrapped up the Eastern Conference by now after jumping out to a 3-0 lead on the Boston Celtics, then both teams would have essentially be in the same boat. Now, the potential exists for the Nuggets having a similar path to what the Rockies had in 2007: waiting nine days for Game 1 of the World Series while their opponents in Boston wait just three. Should the Celtics finish off a historic comeback, we’ll be on the precipice of another Boston vs. Colorado/Denver scenario. 

“I think they’re just so focused and they’re such a good team right now,” Gilbreath said of the 2022-23 Nuggets. “It’d be hard for me to think that anybody could compete with that. They just have so much going on right now.”

Johnson thought about taking the Nuggs in six games before realizing that could mean winning it all on the road against the Heat, who still lead the series.  “Can’t have that. Would it be home in five? Yeah, let’s make it home in five. That would be sweet. I love that.”

Colorado is hoping the good vibes and positive energy throughout the city can translate into more wins for their franchise. Considering they’re 3-1 since Monday, there may something to it.

“I feel like the energy is hot right now,” Seabold said. “I know (Freeland) is stoked. And few other guys are in there are really stoked, so I can see it swinging some momentum in our direction too.” 

“We obviously got a lot of Colorado guys in here who are very fortunate to be able to witness what happened last year with the Avs and now what’s going on this year with the Nuggets,” Freeland explained. “That’s exactly where we’re trying to get to as well. That way, when that time comes, the Nuggets and Avs and the Broncos are there to support us when we’re going through playoffs.”


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