Sep 15, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) celebrates after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in game seven of the second round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Nuggets are a few weeks removed from a first-round playoff exit, but that hasn’t tempered the franchise’s expectations.
Kroenke Sports & Entertainment vice chairman Josh Kroenke stated on Friday that the Nuggets are in “championship-or-bust” mode moving forward.
“We’re entering a new phase of the organization, and with this squad in particular, which is: It’s championship or bust. And this is the first time those words have been uttered around these halls, I think,” Kroenke said via ESPN.
Over the last several years, the Nuggets have become one of the playoff staples in the Western Conference. However, the team hasn’t gotten over the hump.
Nikola Jokic has emerged as one of the game’s best talents, especially after earning the MVP award in back-to-back campaigns. Denver has reached the playoffs in the last four straight years, reaching at least the second round three times, and the Western Conference once in 2020.
It’s been the play of the team around him, combined with unfortunate injuries that have prevented the team from lifting their way forward.
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The 2021-22 season saw star guard Jamal Murray miss the entire campaign due to a torn ACL, while Michael Porter Jr. missed the bulk of the year because of back surgery.
Kroenke’s comments put tremendous pressure on the franchise to put the right roster together to reach those lofty expectations. Jokic is the central piece while the hope is that Murray can return to form and help lift the team to NBA title contention next season and beyond.