4 More Wins

David Zalubowski/AP

I’m sitting here right now, enjoying some Sunday Night Baseball. Phillies and Braves. But it’s funny … there’s not much other sports on TV as I’m looking around. It’s quiet. And I was thinking to myself, like, Where’d all the games go?? Why isn’t hoops or hockey on?? Then I remembered why. It’s because it’s almost June — which means there’s almost no games left.

To be playing in these games … that really means something.

I’m not one to reflect on a season before it’s over, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. But this is a special moment. For Denver, for the Nuggets organization, for my teammates, and — yeah, I won’t lie — for myself. It’s a very cool feeling to be in this spot, especially with my path to get here. 16 years. 15 seasons. 1,000-plus games. 11 teams. (I count Seattle and OKC as one stop!) Some people, I know they probably look at “11 teams” and see the negative. They see a “journeyman,” or whatever word you want to use. But for me I see the positive in that word: I see the journey I’ve had, and the perspective I’ve gained. I’m grateful for everywhere my NBA career has taken me. I’m proud it’s still going.

And I definitely don’t take being in the Finals for granted. The other time I made it this far, it was in 2018 with the Cavs. We had an amazing run, but then we ran into the Warriors and got swept. That’s one of the worst feelings you can experience as an athlete: being so close you can taste it, but falling short. I don’t ever want to experience that again. And I’ve communicated that to our guys, about the mentality we have to have right now. It’s poise … but with a killer instinct.

Something I love about this group is how the closer we get to a goal, the sharper our focus gets — whether it’s finishing a game, or a series, or these playoffs. We don’t play with our food, you know what I mean? Look at what happened against Phoenix. It went from 2–2 to 4–2 very quickly. Or look at Game 4 in L.A. We’re down 15 at half, we’re on the road, I think everyone’s figuring it’s back to Denver for Game 5. An hour later it’s over. There’s no doors left open with this team. We go through them and we slam them shut.

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty

And we’re bringing that same energy to the Finals. I know he doesn’t want the attention, but I’m excited for Joker. He’s the definition of a unicorn, and I’m glad he gets to do his thing now on the biggest stage possible. I’m excited for Jamal. For people to recognize that he’s one of the best guards in the league — and that when it comes to stepping up in clutch moments, he just has it in a way that’s rare. I’m excited for MPJ. He’s so talented, I think people can’t always see past that to understand his work ethic. But he’s put in the work. He hasn’t stopped proving himself. I’m excited for AG. AG’s my little brother, so I’m biased, but if you know basketball you know: He’s a top-five two-way player. There aren’t many guys who both guard and attack at his level. I’m excited for KCP. People need to realize it’s no accident he’s in the Finals again, after winning a title a few years back. Some players, they’re just winning players. That’s KCP. I’m excited for DJ and Ish. So many years put in the league, and it’s the first Finals for each of them. Those are OGs and also really good dudes — they’re like family. They deserve this. I’m excited for everyone, man. I’m excited for Denver. A lot of people think of this place as Broncos Country, and they’re not wrong. But there’s a lot of Nuggets hype right now in the city, a lot of people believing. And it’s cool to see.

Like I said … I’ll keep this short and sweet. There might not be much on TV, but I’ve got a lot going on. Healing up these aches and bruises. Getting in some date nights. Some dad time. With my daughters, it’s ironic, because they’re usually the ones coming to watch me do something. But over this break before the Finals, it’s happened to be their last week of school, with these ceremonies and events they have. So it’s nice how I’ve been able to make it to all of that, and be the one in the audience for a change. Actually — I have to brag: My second oldest, Jasmine, she received an award from her classmates the other day “for being an amazing person.” (I’m serious.) So it’s a similar dynamic at home to at work, where I’m surrounded by superstars and I’m the role-player vet.

They’re happy for their dad, though. They don’t follow it down to the detail or anything, but they know that it means something for us to be playing still. They know that “Dad’s team beat LeBron’s team,” and now he’s trying to win a championship. He’s never done it before — not in 16 years, not in 15 seasons, not over 1,000-plus games, not with 10 other teams.

4 more wins.