In comparing the two Kroenke-owned Pepsi Center franchises, Andre Miller fills the same role on the Denver Nuggets as J.S. Giguere occupies on the Colorado Avalanche. Both players backup key positions, provide experience and are veteran voices in the locker room. Additionally, Giguere and Miller both suddenly find themselves at odds with their first year coaches and could soon be looking for houses in other cities.
Miller, a veteran point guard at 38 years old, served as a stabilizing force for the Nuggets upon rejoining the team three seasons ago. Miller is the number one fall guy for all Nuggets fans’ problems, but his ability to control a sporadic team keeps him in the lineup most nights. He was a favorite of former coach George Karl, and at times has been given similar duties from first year coach Brian Shaw.
At 36 years of age, Giguere has been a solid backup goaltender in three seasons with the Avs, at times showing flashes of his Stanley Cup winning ways. Last year, he rose to prominence as a symbol of a broken Avalanche system by calling teammates out for being more concerned about their offseason Vegas trip than playing out a losing season. Under first year coach Patrick Roy, the retired greatest goaltender of all time, Giguere played spectacular to start the season, but has fallen off in recent weeks.
The trouble began with Miller during the Nuggets eighth straight loss last week, this time to the not so revolutionary Philadelphia 76ers. Miller was headed for his first full game benching from Coach Shaw, while the Nuggets played themselves out of the game. Miller decided to confront Shaw during the game, yelling at him in front of everyone about the coach’s disrespect for the veteran.
Shaw’s reaction after the game was anything but pleased. From Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post:
After a Colorado Avalanche 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames Monday night, goaltender J.S. Giguere faulted the team’s effort, instead of admitting to letting in several goals that should have been saves. Coach Patrick Roy did not take kindly to the comments that placed blame on the player’s effort, but not the goaltender. From Mike Chambers of the Denver Post:
“I think Jiggy should have played better tonight. We’re not going to look at our team. We might not have had the jump we should have, but Jiggy needs to be better. He hasn’t played well in the last four or five games. He should stand up and say, ‘I’m not playing up to what I should.’ And he did not. He needs to be better, and we need him playing better. Period.”
The Nuggets reaction to Miller was to suspend the point guard for two games, a decision they quickly revoked and instead just dismissed the disgruntled veteran indefinitely with pay. Miller has yet to return and is being showcased on the trading block, even though the Nuggets have destroyed any trade value he may have had by suspending him.
However, Shaw seems to have lit something under his team. They have won their last two games since the Miller incident. Perhaps the confrontation made the Nuggets buy into Shaw’s system or made them suddenly fear him. Time will tell if perhaps this winning stretch is instead the result of playing mediocre teams, but the Nuggets now know that Shaw will not just lay down to abuse.
Roy was smarter with his comments. Giguere made his comments about the team, not about the coach. While it was not a direct confrontation, it was assertion of blame for the loss.
Similar to yelling at Bruce Boudreau and knocking down the partition or taking a penalty to get his team fired up, Roy’s comments seem tailored to make a point. No one is above the team. If you attack the team, Roy will come after you. As the season wears on, you get the sense everything Roy does is calculated.
Of course, Roy and Shaw are coming from different places. Roy is dealing with high success against low expectations from his predecessors. Shaw is trying to stay afloat amidst a largely disappointing season after the Nuggets captured the third seed last year. Shaw is still trying to find his footing; Roy is leading the path forward. However, the result may still be the same. Giguere and Miller may both soon be off the Kroenke payroll.