High Hopes

The Nuggets have finally begun to warm up the faithful.

"I'm coaching every day like it's my last day," Bzdelik recently told an ESPN reporter. "And I want my players to play and practice like that -- like every day is your last day. It's the truth. None of us have any guarantees about tomorrow." Still, if the Nuggets can maintain their momentum and Buzz grabs Coach of the Year honors, as many are predicting, tomorrow will probably take care of itself.

For the emerging superstar Carmelo Anthony, who shows no lack of self-confidence, a glorious tomorrow is getting here fast. But he, too, has bought into Bzdelik's last-day, last-ditch philosophy. While many NBA fans and much of the media obsess on the Rookie of the Year battle between 'Melo and Cleveland's teen star, LeBron James, Anthony is capable of focusing on the task at hand and, maybe surprisingly, on the fleeting whims of splendor. After losing to underdog Toronto 81-74 last week, he said: "I'm unhappy. But we put this behind us. We get ready for tomorrow. We will play hard. We will give the effort for what counts. Because no one gives you anything. You earn it."

Encouraging words for a team long in shadow and now seeing the light of true faith.

On guard: Earl Boykins is the heart and soul of this 
year's team.
Garrett W. Elwood/NBAE/Getty Images
On guard: Earl Boykins is the heart and soul of this year's team.

That bloody lump of gore on Pat Bowlen's dinner plate is Larry Coyer's head. Or maybe Mike Shanahan's game plan. Whoever -- or whatever -- it is, it got hit by an Indy race car named Peyton Manning on Sunday afternoon, and Bowlen is now left to contemplate the roadkill.

The ill-prepared, totally baffled Denver Broncos who were annihilated 41-10 by the Colts in the AFC wild-card game put you in mind of some earlier Broncos pretenders: the clueless dreamers who lost the 1988 Super Bowl 42-10 to the Washington Redskins, or the ones who got creamed 55-10 by San Francisco in 1990, or the 2000 playoff team that got its ass handed to it in Baltimore. It has now been five years since Denver won a post-season game, and the dispirited losers who slunk off the AstroTurf Sunday looked like a broken army. Predominantly blue is what they were.

Will their fate improve next year? Not likely. The best tight end in NFL history, Shannon Sharpe, seems headed for retirement. Aging receiver Ed McCaffrey was a no-show in the Denver offense this year. Linebacker Al Wilson might slip away as a free agent. And anyone who still believes after Sunday's debacle that Jake Plummer is the Elway apparent should check out his Griese-esque numbers versus Indianapolis: 23 completions for 181 yards, a touchdown and -- sound familiar? -- two interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Coyer will probably be the one to get the guillotine. But shouldn't Bowlen keep the blade sharpened for Shanny?

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