Michael Porter Jr. will indeed undergo another surgical procedure on his lower back, per Adrian Wojnarowski. Porter’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN that he expects a full recovery, though a timetable for return won’t come until after surgery. It will be Porter’s third procedure before the age of 24 — nightmare-kindling to a young blue-chip prospect, the Denver Nuggets Organization, and its deeply wounded fan base. We can all smell the smoke now.

Porter signed a five-year, $172-Million contract in September, an event that surprised few in Denver but is trending toward infamous status already. Porter’s season is likely over, and the Nuggets’ championship campaign is off to a horrific start, the ship more likely to reach the bottom of the ocean than the promised land. As of Monday morning, things looked bleak in Denver, even to the painfully optimistic.

The front office took a risk when they selected Porter in the 2018 draft despite the red flags. They took a bigger one when they handed him the biggest contract they could before he hit restricted free agency. They’re not above reproach and will shoulder the blame should that contract blow up. They made an informed decision to place great weight on a precarious pillar.

The men at the helm have a track record, though. From Jokić’s team to Michael Malone’s staff and Tim Connelly’s front office, they’ve all preached the importance of staying the course. They believe in the pieces they invest in so heavily. They believe in each other. One has little reason to assume they’ll abandon that philosophy now and less to abandon ship. You’d be headed for the same destination either way, after all.

Porter’s extension kicks in next season, a season that he could play in. The path back to the court will be long and difficult for him, but there is a path. We’ve not yet encountered the worst-case scenario, even if it lurks on the horizon.

The title looks far out of reach, but making any declarations now carries no utility. For however wise it would be to punt on this, or any season, the dialogue is futile. Quitting is not in the DNA of Malone, Jokić, or many others in that locker room. The crew will press on with the dirty work as a matter of culture and habit.

Jokić returned to action Monday night in Miami, and his mere presence on the court overhauled entire perspectives on what’s to come. It took no time at all for hope and joy to permeate. The Nuggets stand a chance to win virtually any game he takes the court, and his teammates know that. They don’t tap into that confidence. It permeates from Jokić like an intoxicating aroma, and they couldn’t shake it if they wanted to.

The Denver Nuggets still have a chance. Not just a chance to win the next regular-season game in, but a chance to make team history as long as Jokić wears a Nuggets jersey. That’s the luxury of unearthing all-time greatness, a newfound luxury for this organization.

The Nuggets will “stay the course,” Malone reiterated after the win in Miami. The course they’ve charted takes them to uncharted waters. It takes them to The Finals. Perilous the voyage may be, with no guarantee of safe arrival, there’s no turning back now. They have a chance, and that’s more than most Nuggets teams could say. The task at hand is less an opportunity and more an obligation to themselves, each other, and this city. They’re going for it.

No one is qualified to tell any fan how to feel this week. The Porter news is not a glancing strike but a devastating blow to our chances at experiencing history together. At our wildest dreams taking shape. But it’s not yet a death blow.

Beaten, battered, and weary, the heart of this fan base will press on as they always have. If the nightmares come, they’ve come before. If the storm rages on, they’ll tighten their grip on whatever’s fastened securely. They’ll cling to the knowledge that it’s been worse, and with the talent on this team, it can get better yet. Quitting isn’t in the fans’ DNA either. Enduring hope isn’t a choice for them, but a facet of identity — perceived futility be damned.

With the walls closing in, the next step is clear to all aboard this journey. Onward.

Brendan Vogt

Brendan moved to Colorado at the start of the 2017-18 NBA season with dreams of covering the Denver Nuggets with a full time media credential. After obtaining that credential during a brief tenure with the Denver Stiffs, he made the move to DNVR at the start of the rebrand. You can read his work on DNVR Nuggets, hear him on the DNVR Nuggets podcast, and follow his tweets @DNVR_Nuggets. Follow Brendan on Twitter - @BrendanVogt