Upgrade Your Fandom

Join the Ultimate DNVR Sports Community!

Master Key

Mike Olson Avatar
May 19, 2023

master key (noun)
definition – a key that opens several locks, each of which also has its own key.

As someone who may have often been asked to spend a little extra time after school on occasion, possibly due to a little mischief, I often found myself making friends with the school janitors, who were usually hard at work by the time I was wrapping up my, um… extracurriculars. It was always good to be acquainted with the guys who had keys to all of the spaces, as I often tended to leave half of my belongings strung throughout the space.

Those keys, they came in a wad, and one of my favorite gents, George, had a particularly impressive set, as he was in charge of the entire janitorial crew. What was most impressive about George was that he’d never look at the keys when he let you into the math room, the music room, the gym, the library, the stage… He’d simply blindly reach down and grab the correct key out of the masses, every single time. After having seen him do it a few dozen times, I asked him what his secret was. He grinned, leaned in secretively – with no one within perceivable view of us – and said, “It’s my Master Key.”

Your wha-huh? Turns out George, and all of the rest of the cleaning staff, had a master key that let them into the doors of every room. When I asked him what the heck the rest of the wad of keys was all about then, he looked around secretively again, leaned back in…

And then just winked and walked away. Jerk. Hilarious, perfect old jerk.

Turns out the Denver Nuggets may have this season’s master key, the thing that every team needs to make it all the way to a Championship. The thing that has eluded them thus far in every iteration.

When past versions of Nuggets basketball have been fortunate enough to make it to the postseason, they’ve thus far run into a puzzle they couldn’t solve. A lock they couldn’t crack. With all of the Melo Denver teams making it to the playoffs, Carmelo Anthony’s Nuggets were notorious for running into a wall nearly every time in the first round. The exception was when they brought in a Finals MVP in Chauncey Billups, who helped get the team all the way to two wins (against the Lakers) in the Western Conference Finals.

You have to go back another 44 years to find another Nuggets team that was able to solve enough of the puzzles to get them to another Western Conference Finals, and able to pick up two more wins, this time against the Seattle Supersonics, with Nuggets legends on the floor like Dan Issel, David Thompson, and Bobby Jones. Even with that roster of all-timers, and the almost-to-the-Finals-moral-victory, Denver only needed to make it past a single round in ’77-’78 to get that far.

And in some ways, that’s it. That’s as much as this team has ever “solved” for, with only two other teams making it to the Western Conference Finals, and each only managing a single win. The sixteen locks a team needs to “pick” to make it all the way to the prize has always ended right here. At 10, at the most.

Even more interestingly, these opportunities are as rare for the Nuggets as oxygen can be in Colorado. Because of that, only one major player in their history had played meaningfully in more than a single Conference Finals, the amazing and historic Issel. Even so, the Nuggets fell to the yes-again Lakers in five games that year, the last of which would also be the last game of the Horse’s illustrious career.

In theory, that seems a probable part of why this team seems destined to at least surpass the achievements of any of its predecessors, which would be true even if they simply squeezed one more win out of this magical run. But you can see they intend to make this year something more. Something quite a bit more. For the first time, the Denver Nuggets have key players who have tasted the disappointment of falling just short of their ultimate goal, and have the opportunity to finally redeem that feeling.

With that, they’ve matured into a team that is led by the ultimate master/skeleton key in Jokic, who can solve any puzzle thrown at him over time. In his wake, a team made in his image works in much the same way, selflessly, tirelessly looking for ways to simply make the right play, time after time. Play after play. Make a mistake? Drop it, get back in. Play good D and get stops. Let that D turn into transition offense and broken defenses for the opponent. This is a team that understands another wrinkle is about to be thrown at them, another lock they have to pick. You’ve got a King? We have a Joker. You’ve got a ‘Brow? We have a Blue Arrow. You had a KCP? Well… now WE’VE got a KCP.

There will be another wrinkle from L.A. Nothing is done yet. The Timberwolves presented some issues. The Suns were pretty sure they’d figured something out. The Lakers still seem pretty confident in the same. Maybe they’re right. Maybe yet again, this is as far as these Denver Nuggets will ever go.

But it sure doesn’t feel that way, does it? It feels like this Mile High City Basketball team is the one demanding answers of their opponents they’re not fully ready to work out. Like the Nuggets are finally the one presenting the problems. Can Denver keep making their way? They’re the ones who seem surest the answer is yes, and in the face of these next six locks, that is what is actually key.

Scroll to next article

Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?
Don't like ads?