NUGGETS

Michael Malone calls out Nuggets fans prior to home playoff game

Apr 20, 2022, 3:02 PM | Updated: 3:05 pm
Michael Malone...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Very little has gone right for the Nuggets thus far in their first-round series with the Warriors. They’ve been blown out in the first two games and seemed to come unraveled in the process.

Both of those games were in Golden State, however, where the crowd at Chase Center created a hostile environment. The building was loud. The Warriors fed off the energy. And the routs were on, as Denver ran headfirst into a buzzsaw in their first two road games of the playoffs.

Things are supposed to get easier on Thursday night, though. A little relief seemed like it was on the horizon, with the Nuggets returning home for Game 3.

But that might not be the case. At least according to Denver’s head coach.

“I imagine this place is going to be half full of Warriors fans,” Michael Malone said on Wednesday while standing inside Ball Arena. “Every time we play them, that seems to be the case.”

He’s not wrong. While Golden State’s trips to Denver don’t quite feel like quasi home games, they also don’t carry many of the discomforts that come with playing on the road. It’s pretty cozy and comfortable, in part because a good number of Warriors fans are in the building.

That’s not a big surprise. Golden State has a huge national following. Appearing in five-straight NBA Finals and winning three championships will do that for a franchise.

They also have one of the most-popular players in the history of the league on their roster. Steph Curry is beloved, especially by young people. No. 30 gear is universal.

So it stands to reason that there would be a bunch of bandwagon Warriors fans in Denver. They exist everywhere.

But that’s not the only reason that Malone and his team won’t get the benefit of a true home-court advantage in this series. The organization is also to blame.

For three seasons, the majority of sports fans in Denver have been unable to watch Nuggets games. The dispute between Kroenke Sports and Entertainment and Comcast, which has kept Altitude TV unavailable for more than half of cable subscribers in the Mile High City, has gone on for three seasons, effectively blacking out the team in their home market.

The fan affinity that would’ve been built by getting to watch one of the most-exciting teams in the NBA has been squandered. During that time, the Nuggets reached the Western Conference Finals, had the first MVP in team history and are poised to feature the first two-time Most Valuable Player in the history of Colorado sports.

That should’ve created excitement. It should’ve generated a new generation of fans. Instead, it went largely unseen by a lot of people.

It was easier to watch the Warriors than the Nuggets in the Denver market. As a result, the team’s head coach is having to lament his home arena being half full of fans rooting for the road team.

The Nuggets, as well as the Avalanche, have committed one of the biggest marketing blunders in professional sports history. They’ll pay the price on Thursday night. And they’ll continue to feel the impact for years to come.

“But it is great to be home,” Malone added, trying to put on a brave face. “It is great to be playing in front of our own fans.”

Unfortunately, there won’t be enough of them. In part, that’s due to the opponent. But the Nuggets head coach can also blame his boss for making the situation worse.

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Michael Malone calls out Nuggets fans prior to home playoff game