A lousy fall and winter for Denver sports fans appeared to get worse last month, when, after months of rumors, the Nuggets dealt superstar Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks in exchange for four young players and three draft picks in a blockbuster executed just before the NBA’s trade deadline.
But instead of falling apart without their centerpiece, the Nuggets have thrived. Denver is 11-4 since the trade and has solidified its playoff position: The Nuggets (43-29 through Thursday, March 24) are in fifth place in the wildly competitive Western Conference, five games ahead of the ninth-place Houston Rockets. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
The Knicks, meanwhile, are 7-10 with Anthony and have lost their last four and are 1-7 in their last eight games to fall under .500 overall (35-36) and to seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
The success of the Nuggets has surprised just about everyone, most notably ticket brokers in Denver who expected their business — as well as the Nuggets — to suffer following Anthony’s departure. The Nuggets have averaged 16,879 fans at the 19,155-seat Pepsi Center in their first seven home games without Anthony and have welcomed the first two capacity crowds of the post-Anthony era in the last three games. In 29 home games with Anthony, the Nuggets drew an average crowd of 16,712 and had seven sellouts.
“I would say [sales have] remained steady, remaining consistent, which in our minds is a good thing because we expected interest to fall off,” Roger Jones, owner of Denver’s Alliance Tickets, told TicketNews. “The long negotiations and the drawn-out conversations and the disappointment about the whole thing just prompted people to finally say ‘He’s gone, let’s just go forward with basketball.
“I think people are a little surprised that the team has moved on without him and has been able to be as competitive as they’ve been so far.”
The Nuggets’ hot streak has come at a good time for brokers, who desperately needed a successful team in the Mile High City in order to boost business. The Colorado Rockies remained in playoff contention in the NL West until late September, but the NFL’s Broncos finished 4-12 last year — the franchise’s worst season in more than four decades — while the NHL’s Avalanche have the second-fewest points (64) in the league.
“Denver is very much a city of ‘what have you done for me lately?'” Jones said. “The Avalanche have a lot of young talent and they’re what we feel is a team that’s building to the future, not rebuilding. And with the unrest within the NFL and the unknown about the NFL, really, the Nuggets are the [most] interesting [team], as they well should be at this time of the year.”