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Family Dentistry Brings Smiles, Laughs to Their San Juan Capistrano Office

The father-daughter dental team of Kaban Dental Group is serving up smiles and laughs at their family-owned business in San Juan Capistrano.

Lawrence Kaban, who jokingly calls his family’s practice a “necessary evil,” has been practicing out of the San Juan Capistrano office since 2004. Lawrence took over the Kaban office in 2004 from his also-dentist brother, Gerald, who decided to go back into the Air Force after opening the office on Paseo Adelanto in 1989.

The duo, father Lawrence Kaban, 69, and daughter Kelly Kaban, 30, have been working together since 2017 since Kelly finished dental school.

Father-daughter dental duo Lawrence Kaban (right) and Kelly Kaban (left). Photo: Emily Rasmussen

“Patients really like (the duo) because we joke around a lot and my dad likes telling stories,” Kelly said. “They come for the company and catching up. We work well together, I’m coming out of school with new things I’ve learned and (my father) has all of the experience. It’s a good combination.”

The dentist family’s roots started when Gerald and Lawrence went to Loma Linda for dental schooling, years before Kelly’s graduation also from Loma Linda in 2017. Since her father was an alumnus, Lawrence was able to hand Kelly the diploma and he also facilitated her first job in dentistry.

Kelly, who studied molecular environmental biology at the University of California-Berkeley, said the switch to dentistry has been great so far because of relationships created with patients. Some patients—which include prominent San Juan Capistrano families of multiple generations—date back to when Gerald first opened Kaban Dental Group nearly 30 years ago.

“We spend a lot of time with our patients,” Lawrence said. “They become family friends.”

In addition to creating a positive, good-humored environment—which Lawrence and Kelly agree can reduce anxiety of their patients, especially those who are fearful of dentistry work—every couple of months, the father-daughter team does free clinic dentistry work in Santa Ana for low-income patients.

To learn more about the Kabans, visit their office at 32124 Paseo Adelanto, Ste. 2 in San Juan Capistrano, or go to their website at www.kabandentalgroup.com.

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Parents who kiss children on lips before baby teeth develop may spread harmful bacteria, dentist argues

INDYPULSEParents who kiss children on lips before baby teeth develop may spread harmful bacteria, dentist argues

A dentist has advised that parents should refrain from kissing their children on the lips, particularly before their baby teeth have developed, as they could spread harmful bacteria to their young ones.

The debate over whether it’s appropriate for parents to kiss their children on the lips is a constant source of conversation.

While many argue that there’s nothing wrong with parents showing their affection in this manner, there are supposedly certain health risks that parents need to become more aware of.

Tom Brady kisses 11-year-old son on the lips sparking debate

Baby teeth are particularly susceptible to infection, as they don’t have the strength to withstand the damaging effect of bacteria.

“Baby teeth have a different type of enamel and dentine to adult teeth,” Dr Richard Marques, celebrity dentist at Wimpole Street Dental in London, explained to The Independent.

“The enamel is much thinner on baby teeth. It is not as strong as adult enamel so is more likely to decay.”

The transfer of saliva between individuals can always increase the likelihood of spreading illness.

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However, parents need to be especially wary with their young children.

“Saliva transfer from parent to child is a risk as this can spread bacteria (such as streptococcus mutans) from adult to child,” said Dr Marques.

“This bacteria can cause decay of baby teeth.

“It can even affect the soft tissues and gums before the baby teeth have developed!”

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There are a variety of afflictions that can be spread from mouth-mouth contact, including the cold or flu and viruses such as cold sores, which are caused by the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1).

Dr Marques suggests that parents refrain from sharing cutlery with their children, blowing on their food or kissing them on the lips.

There are a number of things parents can do to ensure the optimal dental health of their children.

These include not keeping all of your toothbrushes in one container, making sure your child doesn’t swallow the toothpaste, reducing their sugar intake and taking them for regular dentists checks.

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“Take your child to the dentist regularly (they can go to the dentist as early as six months when the first tooth comes through),” Dr Marques advised.

“By age two to three they should be attending the dentist every six months to check for cavities (and check how well their teeth are developing!).

“Prevention is the key. We would rather help children to not get cavities in the first place!"

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Moose charges at man trying to pet it in Colorado

Feb. 19 (UPI) — A man attempting to pet a moose on a Colorado road ended up getting only a scare when the large animal charged at him.

Amanda Danielson recorded video Thursday on a street in Frisco when a man claimed he pets moose all the time and attempted to demonstrate with a nearby animal.

The video shows the man creeping closer to the moose until the animal turns its attention toward him.

The moose charges at the man, but turns away before making contact. The moose’s reaction appears to be enough to convince the man to abandon his plans.

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Off-and-on snow is expected to total up to 3 inches in Denver

Patrick Casey enjoys walking his dog Arya enjoy walking in the freshly falling snow along Canyon Blvd on Jan. 21, 2018 in Boulder.

Saturday is expected to be a cold day as snow falls on and off in the metro Denver area, potentially dropping up to 2 to 3 inches throughout the day, according to the National Weather Service.

The day’s high is only expected to reach the low 20s, cooling down to around 10 degrees at night, NWS meteorologist Natalie Sullivan said. Some freezing drizzle has been reported.

The snow is expected to pass through the metro Denver area and into southcentral Colorado through the afternoon, moving out at night, she said.

The Denver International Airport, which started seeing trace amounts of snow at midnight, said significant flight impacts aren’t expected but warned passengers to check their flight status as low visibility or shifting winds could cause delays.

Snow teams are ready for expected light snowfall during the morning and afternoon. Check your flight status as the weather moves in. While significant flight impacts aren’t expected, delays due to low visibility or shifting winds are always possible.

The mountains are expecting 3 to 5 inches of snow, although some parts could get up to 8 inches, Sullivan said.

Heavy traffic has been delaying travel times from Denver to the Eisenhower tunnel, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Traction law is in place on eastbound I-70 between Vail and Copper Mountain.

So far, the metro area has seen 6.4 inches of snow this season, slightly below the 7 inches that normally drop by now, Sullivan said. Despite a burst of January snow, the South Platte River basin is still 93 percent of normal snowpack after a dry end to 2017.

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MB2 Dental Solutions Releases Newest “We Are Dentistry” Video Featuring Dr. Matthew Simmons, owner of El Campo Dentistry

The video gives a behind-the-scenes look into the daily rhythms of Dr. Simmons’ life in Southeast Texas

CARROLLTON, Texas, Feb. 1, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — This week, MB2 Dental Solutions released the newest addition to the "We Are Dentistry" video series featuring Dr. Matthew Simmons, owner of El Campo Dentistry in Southeast Texas. The video spotlights his family life and the profound impacts of acquiring his own dental practice after he completed dental school.

"We chose to feature Dr. Simmons in this video because of his commitment to the El Campo and Victoria communities." said Dr. Chris Villanueva, Founder and CEO of MB2 Dental. "Dr. Simmons is a proficient and caring provider to his patients and their families. He and his wife bring a genuine and joyful energy everywhere they go."

In the video, Dr. Simmons confides that he used to be very shy growing up, so as a dentist he relates to and empathizes with his patients who may feel the initial discomfort of walking into a new environment. He enjoys getting to know his patients and setting them at ease by providing quality care.

"What I love about dentistry, and I’ll be honest, is what it provides my life to be. It’s provided me an avenue to owning my own house, provided me the sense of being proud of myself and it allows me to meet a plethora of different people."

In addition to running his practice, Dr. Simmons is an avid golfer and outdoorsman. He and his wife enjoy hosting many dinners and neighborhood get-togethers in their beautiful Victorian home.

MB2 Dental created the "We Are Dentistry" series in an effort to personalize dental care and reveal the individual behind each white coat. Each video offers a glimpse into the daily life, challenges and hobbies of dentist owners. MB2 Dental is passionate about removing the heavy load of dental administration and management from doctor owners, so that they can focus their time and energy on caring for their patients and enjoying time in their personal life outside of work.

Visit http://mb2dental.com/media/ to watch more videos from the "We Are Dentistry" series.

About MB2 Dental
MB2 Dental Solutions is a Dental Support Organization that serves as a partner to affiliated dentists and practice owners everywhere. We provide affiliated offices a suite of services to help them run their practice efficiently, allowing them to focus on providing exceptional patient care at their practice. MB2 affiliated dental offices maintain 100% clinical autonomy and with the help of the MB2 team, are efficiently running every facet of the practice.

MB2 Dental was founded on the principle that doctors working together can help each other accomplish more than ever possible working individually as dentists. That, and company culture should never be left behind. MB2 Dental offers a progressive and autonomous perspective on how dental management and practice development ought to work, and it’s changing the lives of countless patients and dentists for the better.

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Messiah Lifeways completes $80M campus expansion project

An exterior view of the new Village Square facility at Messiah Village in Upper Allen Township. – (Photo / Submitted)

Messiah Lifeways will unveil its new-look Messiah Village campus in Cumberland County this weekend, following an $80 million expansion project.

Messiah Lifeways CEO Curt Stutzman stands by the interactive scale model of Village Square in 2015. – (File)

The faith-based nonprofit is planning to host a grand opening with guided tours of recent changes at the continuing care retirement community in Upper Allen Township. The event will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Messiah Lifeways started the expansion, known as Project Envision, at Messiah Village in the fall of 2015 to better meet the "changing needs of future generations and their families." It’s the first phase of a 20-year campus expansion and improvement effort at Messiah Village.

The largest component of the project is Village Square, a sprawling building with 84 apartments, wellness and enrichment centers, a campus day spa, welcome center and two new dining options for residents. The new restaurants are called Kathryn’s on the Square and Cafe 100.

To make way for Village Square, 16 old cottages were demolished.

A personal care apartment building called Hopewell, also part of the recent expansion, adds 26 additional apartments to the campus. That project also includes outdoor spaces and a dining room, plus easy access to Village Square via a connecting bridge.

Last summer, Messiah Lifeways opened two new skilled nursing buildings, Greenwood and Engle, that each house 16 residents. The two buildings feature private suites, a growing trend among long-term care facilities.

Messiah Lifeways served nearly 3,000 people last year through its wellness and enrichment services. About 750 people live at Messiah Village.

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Van Gytenbeek shines as No. 10 Cherry Creek girls hoops tops Arapahoe

GREENWOOD VILLAGE — Behind Jana Van Gytenbeek, Cherry Creek girls basketball took down Centennial League rival Arapahoe 54-38 in Friday night action.

To cap off a banner week, Van Gytenbeek paced the Class 5A CHSAANow.com No. 10 Bruins with 19 points.

“My teammates just got me open, and I scored,” she said.

At this point of the season, every win in the Centennial will prove to be a vital one. The Bruins were able to take care of business at home, something that will always prove vital in a hunt for a league title.

“It means a lot, this win puts us into second place by ourselves in the league,” Cherry Creek coach Chris Curneen said. “Now we just have to keep fighting.”

Van Gytenbeek has also taken the reigns as the leader for the Bruins, in only her sophomore season.

“It is easy to lead a good team, with a good coach,” Van Gytenbeek said. “We always have good practices, it’s not hard to lead this team.”

And a self leading team the Bruins are with three athletes committed to play at the next level, and more to come with four mature underclassmen all playing an impact role in a balanced Cherry Creek team.

“We have the potential to go just as far (as we did last year),” forward Carly Thompson said. “I think we work together as a team and can do it again.”

At first glance the low ages of Bruin players may raise some concern but the Bruins are proving that age is just a number.

“We work really well together, on the court we have really good communication,” Thompson continued. “We also execute our plays really well and play solid defense which gets the rest of the game going. Defense wins championships.”

Senior transfer Emma Wrede has stepped into the Cherry Creek system without missing a beat.

“It isn’t much different, other than the styles of play, Jana is out of this world, it was hard transitioning at first with a new coach, new ways of play, but I like it and it is going really well.” Wrede said.

Wrede has emerged as one of the primary shooters for the Bruins.

“I just knock down shots when I’m open, which is all thanks to my teammates. I know what my role is and what I need to do every night.” Wrede said.

Wrede has postseason experience from last year at Regis Jesuit which will help bolster the Bruins when the playoffs begin.

“I’m hungry, we are hungry for more, once you get a taste of it you want more and this year, I know we have a good chance.” Wrede finished.

Cherry Creek improved to 8-3, while the Arapahoe Warriors dropped to 7-6.

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Educational Measures and Kynectiv Partner to Bring Simulation to Live Meetings

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo., Jan. 3, 2018 /PRNewswire/ Educational Measures LLC ("EM"), the leader in live meeting analytics and engagement technology and Kynectiv LLC, a leading provider of simulation-based technology to global audiences, announced today a partnership to provide enhanced simulation in live meetings. For meeting stakeholders who understand the value of engagement technology and simulated learning, there is potential to greatly improve interaction with meeting participants and increase data collection in a live meeting environment.

"Incorporation of Kynectiv’s DecisionSim patient simulations into Educational Measures’ Array platform creates a live meeting that engages learners and allows them to transfer the knowledge of the faculty into their practice," said Bob Yayac, CEO of Kynectiv. "Real-time data from the simulations can be broadcast to the audience which allows the faculty the opportunity to focus on key decisions that relate to the data presented and share best practices."

The combined offering creates an integrated solution for meeting stakeholders coupled with expertise in deploying live meeting technology.The platform is exactly what clients desire to improve overall engagement in live meetings while collecting valuable data for future decision-making and predictive analytic models.

"We are excited to provide our clients with this combined live meeting engagement solution.Having worked with Kynectiv and deployed their technology at live meetings, we see the value simulation can bring," said Marc Crawford, CEO of Educational Measures."When we evaluate partnering with other technologies, we ensure the combined solution drives additional value to our clients, increases engagement and enhances the data collection process.Kynectiv’s DecisionSim accomplishes all these goals."

The combined offering is immediately available.

About Educational Measures
Educational Measures is the leading provider of live meeting analytics and engagement technology. Our next-generation Array second screen technology takes ordinary meetings and turns them into dynamic experiences. Live meeting data and analytics drive actionable insight for continual improvement. Our customers increase audience engagement by up to 20X, surprise attendees with more than 25 interactive capabilities and continually improve meeting impact with data-driven insight. Educational Measures and Array are trademarks of Educational Measures LLC.Website – www.educationalmeasures.com.<

About Kynectiv
Kynectiv is a leading provider of simulation-based technology to global audiences. Our platforms enable clients to transform their training programs, offering increased engagement, stronger retention and comprehensive data collection that leads to actionable insights.Website – www.kynectiv.com

For more information, contact either:

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Under The Radar REITs: Data Centers To Cannabis Farms

Investing in REITs offer investors the benefits of real estate investment along with the ease and advantages of investing in publicly traded stock. (Photo by Shutterstock)

With their tax-advantaged corporate structure, real estate investment trusts are a popular investment for those seeking above-average dividend yields. Several MoneyShow.com contributors see both growth and income potential from a diverse group of REITs focused on such under-the-radar areas as student housing, billboards, casinos and storage facilities.

Easterly Government Properties holds a portfolio that is around 97% backed by the U.S. government, which has never defaulted on a lease throughout its history.

The U.S. government is the largest employer in the world and the largest office tenant in the U.S. Easterly is the only internally managed REIT with a focus on investing in U.S. government-leased buildings.

Easterly sticks to critical missions of the federal government that don’t go out of favor: agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The REIT only deals with the federal government, and the new REIT does not have an interest to work with any other government, state or local, because it is not backed by the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. The portfolio is 100% leased and the weighted average age is 11.5 years.

Most of its buildings are office buildings (67%) and the rest are either courthouse/office (6%), lab (9%), VA Outpatient (11%) or others (7%). Because DEA does not lease to state agencies, there are no risks related to appropriations.

Easterly’s acquisition of two VA outpatient clinics marks the company’s entry into an important new market. Meanwhile, the REIT’s latest acquisition is an FBI facility in Salt Lake City.

Easterly is on track to become a “blue chip” REIT. I expect it to generate returns going forward in the range of 12-14% annually. Also, senior management owns approximately 14% of Easterly, providing strong alignment of interest with shareholders (of which I’m one).

We’re investing in a company that owns many of the facilities used to grow legal weed. And we’ll be getting a little slice of the profits from every single grower that’s using those spaces.

The company is called Innovative Industrial Properties, Inc., and it falls under one of our bread-and-butter industries — real estate investment trusts (REITs). It’s still relatively small but is poised to grow exponentially as the legal marijuana market sweeps the country.

It was founded just last year in San Diego to take advantage of the growing medical marijuana markets in the U.S. And it’s grown (right along with all that pot) over the past year into becoming the premier landlord to some of the country’s biggest and best pot farmers.

Typically, the company buys a property that a grower has already established and then leases it back to the grower. This way, IIPR doesn’t have to worry about filling the space and the grower may use the money from selling it to IIPR to expand operations.

. That’s a triple-net lease. In case you’ve forgotten what that is, it means that the tenant is responsible for the maintenance of the facility and any necessary repairs. The tenant also pays the property taxes and insurance. All IIPR has to do is sit back and collect the rent.

The company pays a 3% quarterly dividend and has a ton of room to grow. So, let’s get into this one as soon as possible and start adding those quarterly payments to our growing pile of reefer royalties. Innovative Industrial is a Buy under $25. I have a 12-month price target of $32.50.

Sometimes the first glance at a stock can give the wrong impression. For example, consider the case of MGM Growth Properties LLC. This REIT owns casino properties, where results can be very volatile, leased to a single tenant: MGM Resorts MGM -1.16%

International.

That level of concentration looks very risky for a REIT. In fact, the way MGM set up the REIT for the spin-off has turned this stock into an attractive, stable and growing dividend, total return investment. In fact, we consider this a unique REIT for those seeking dividend safety.

The biggest strength of the MGP to MGM relationship is that all properties leased by MGM are on a single master lease. MGM pays a single annual lease amount to MGP. This prevents the casino operator from, for example, putting one property into bankruptcy to get out of making lease payments.

The lease is triple net with annual rent escalators. MGM also pays most of the administrative expenses of the REIT. MGM Growth Properties currently owns 13 properties operated by MGM.

MGM Growth Properties is also living up to its name, providing attractive revenue and dividend growth since its IPO in early 2016. At the time of the IPO, the annual lease revenue was $550 million.

Now after the last acquisition, revenue will be $757 million, up 38% since the IPO. The dividend rate has grown by 10% compared to the initially planned dividend. I expect another 10% increase in 2018 as the revenues from MGM National Harbor in Maryland kick in.

With a current 5.4% yield and prospects for high single digit dividend growth make MGP a compelling value when compared to other net-lease REITs. Investors have not yet discovered the quality of this REIT, and when they do, I expect the price to rise and yield to drop below 5%.

American Campus Communities, the largest real estate investment trust (REIT) specializing in rental housing for U.S. college students, has underperformed this year, giving up almost 12% of its value.

The stock sold off hard after management lowered its full-year guidance for funds from operation by $0.07 per share. Hurricane-related charges and expenses related to American Campus Communities’ $591 million purchase of seven high-end properties from Core Spaces accounted for some of this downward adjustment.

Excluding these three trouble spots, the REIT’s 57 other markets posted a 98% occupancy rate. In other words, these market-specific challenges don’t appear to extend to the rest of the portfolio.

Despite American Campus Communities’ recent hiccups, we continue to like the higher occupancy rates and lower-risk nature of student housing, as well as the REIT’s focus on pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly properties within 0.2 miles of major universities. These rental units tend to book up much faster than those in outlying areas and support higher price increases.

More important, American Campus Communities has proved itself a savvy portfolio manager over the years. Recently, the management team has highlighted the strong demand for student housing among international investors.

The REIT has a multi-year plan to skew the portfolio toward schools with marquee sports programs in so-called power conferences and top research universities — colleges with strong enrollment trends and, therefore, housing demand.

With a 4.1% yield and an appealing business model, American Campus Communities rates a Buy up to $45 for patient investors.

is a data center REIT offering everything from move-in-ready spaces with configurable power systems to state-of-the-art customized data centers. This is an enormous opportunity. Businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies are all drowning in a sea of data.

Why do so many businesses and non-profit organizations turn to Digital Realty? Its data centers are designed, built and operated by professionals with decades of experience. Its 170-plus properties in 11 cities on four continents are centered where customers need them.

And the company has the financial strength to be a stable and reliable long-term partner. The numbers here are already excellent. Digital Realty took in $2.26 billion over the last 12 months. In the most recent quarter, earnings soared 56% on an 11% increase in revenue. Its operating margin tops 25%.

Digital Realty is organized as a real estate investment trust (REIT). This allows the company to avoid the corporate income tax and pass net income straight through to shareholders. So, you’ll collect a 3.2% dividend yield here. However, I see plenty of capital appreciation potential here, too.

Digital Realty has set the global standard for technical real estate, offering a unique ability to acquire, manage and scale-up data center campuses. With the data universe growing exponentially, its centers are fast becoming the corporate world’s go-to storage solution.

Formed in 2013 and based in Greenwood Village, Colorado, National Storage Affiliates is a self-administered, self-managed REIT focused on the acquisition, ownership and operation of self-storage facilities.

Since its formation in 2013, the REIT has expanded its property base more than five-fold to 512 self-storage properties located in 29 states with combined rentable space of approximately 32 million square feet.

The REIT boosted its $0.26 quarterly dividend from the previous period by 7.7% to the current $0.28 dividend payout. This current quarterly dividend converts to a $1.12 annualized dividend amount and yields 4.2%.

Over the 11 quarters since the REIT’s initial public offering in 2015, the trust hiked its dividend distribution amount six times, which is an average of more than twice per year.

The combination of a rising dividend that pays above-average yield and a substantial asset appreciation over the last 12 months has rewarded shareholders with a 33.9% total return. If the REIT pays the same current dividend amount next quarter, the three-year total return will be 123%.

Founded in 1902 and headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the Lamar Advertising Company is a REIT that sells advertising space on billboards, buses, shelters, benches and logo plates. With more than 330,000 displays, it is one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in the world.

In addition to its traditional methods of outdoor advertising methods, Lamar Advertising installed its first digital billboard in 2001 and currently offers its customers the largest network of digital billboards in the United States with over 2,700 displays.

The company’s current $0.83 quarterly dividend distribution is 9.2% above the $0.76 payout from the same period last year. The most recent dividend amount is equivalent to a $3.32 annualized dividend payout and a 4.5% dividend yield.

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The Denver Nuggets are the NBA’s last great mystery team

BOSTON — The Denver Nuggets limped into town just before daylight. They had been on the road for a week and a half, hopscotching the country from Dallas to the Northeast via the Midwest on a brutal six-game road trip. By the time they arrived at the Garden, they were already without their two best players — Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic — and the injury list was about to claim another key performer in Will Barton.

Still, the Nuggets were feeling good about themselves after beating the Pistons just hours earlier. The victory gave them a chance to break even on the trip, and that had coach Michael Malone both concerned and hopeful.

“You’re coming into the last game of a road trip and sometimes you exhale,” Malone said. “When you exhale, you get your ass kicked. Understand that we have a chance to go 3-3 on the road trip, and I don’t think anybody gave us a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening with the injuries we’ve had.”

Let the record show that while the Nuggets didn’t beat the Celtics, they didn’t get their asses kicked. Led by Gary Harris, who scored a career-high 36 points, they managed to hang around for four quarters before Boston was finally able to put them away down the stretch.

Afterward, Malone noted his team’s resilience, not only on Wednesday night, but throughout the road trip. Still, the Nuggets are trying to break out of the moral victory business. It’s been five years since they made the playoffs and with Millsap signing as a free agent to pair with Jokic, the time to compete is now.

In the absence of his two stars, Malone has worked the roster up and down, giving minutes and chances to players on an incredibly deep team that is split almost evenly between young pups and salty vets. With Jokic set to return soon, decisions will have to be made about playing time.

“Some guys are taking advantage of that opportunity, and just as revealing, some guys are not taking advantage of that opportunity,” Malone said. “Minutes are not going to be given just because you think you deserve them. Minutes have to be earned. If you’re not playing well, those minutes are not going to be there anymore.”

In other words, it’s time to figure out who the Nuggets are and what they’re trying to become.

There are few mysteries left in the NBA. Why do the Wolves melt down in the fourth quarter so much? Answer: Their starters play too many consecutive minutes. How did the Spurs prosper without Kawhi Leonard? Answer: They tailored their offense through LaMarcus Aldridge and received phenomenal production.

Basketball may be a mystical experience on some level, but the secrets of the NBA are generally revealed to anyone who takes the time to look. There is one perplexing issue that remains, however: Are the Denver Nuggets any good?

“The team can be extremely good,” veteran sage Richard Jefferson, who comes off the bench for the Nuggets, said. “It’s less to do with other people and more with what we do as individuals. We have plenty of talent.”

At times, they have been excellent. Denver is almost unbeatable at home, and the Nuggets ran through a 7-2 stretch earlier in the season right before Millsap tore a ligament in his wrist that will keep him out for several months. Their offense, which excelled in the second half of last season, has remained potent even with the injuries.

At other times, they have not been good at all. Their road struggles have been so pronounced that winning two out of six on this trip constituted a positive step forward. The defense has been mediocre at best and downright awful on occasion.

Perhaps the right word for this team is inconsistent. Ten of their wins have been by double digits and so have eight of their losses. Those are not the qualities one associates with a playoff team, but the Nuggets are right in the thick of a Western Conference race that has yet to settle.

A third of the way through the season, we know who the top three teams will be at the end: Golden State, Houston, and San Antonio. Four-through-nine is anyone’s guess. After years of incremental progress, the Nuggets are not just happy to be included among the postseason contenders.

“Going into the year, we were excited about the potential this team had,” Malone said. “We felt that adding Paul Millsap would help us defensively and offensively he would be a seamless fit. How we play is how he played in Atlanta when they had the best team in the East. If we’re healthy, I think we’re a very competitive team in the Western Conference.”

Losing Millsap in mid-November was a cruel blow. His free-agent signing was heralded as a major event for a team that felt like it was ready to turn the corner. The timing was also unfortunate. After an initial adjustment period, he and Jokic appeared to find the right groove.

Millsap is not expected back until February at the earliest. The Nuggets have admirably held it together, splitting the dozen games that he’s missed. That was not a surprise to the four-time All-Star.

“Knowing the level of competitors that we have and the amount of talent that we have, I’ve been a little impressed, but not too impressed,” Millsap said. “These guys can play given an opportunity.”

Then Jokic went down with a sprained ankle, and that looked like an impending disaster. Enter Will Barton, aka Thrill Will, a 27-year-old jack of all trades. With a versatile game and a willingness to accept any role, Barton is the quintessential Nugget. He’s a proven scorer both inside and out, a tough rebounder, and has proved to be a willing playmaker in Jokic’s absence.

“He means everything,” Malone said. “That guy is a complete basketball player.”

Barton’s stellar play has helped the Nuggets survive, but survival is not what they ultimately have in mind. Their evolution begins and ends with Jokic. A wonderfully talented passer — think a young Bill Walton mixed with a dash of Jason Williams’ funk — Jokic is the alpha and the omega of this team.

Jokic needs to be seen to be truly appreciated, but his impact stretches far and wide. He’s the fulcrum around whom all the other pieces need to mesh. The question is who will step forward to claim those roles.

The roster as assembled by general manager Tim Connelly is full of wings, power forwards, and tweeners of all shapes and sizes. There is not a traditional point guard, or even a standard three-man, but the sheer amount of talent is obvious.

Take Jamal Murray, a 20-year-old in his second season from Kentucky. Murray can play, but where? He’s a combo guard in the classic sense, and he’s been tasked with handling point guard responsibilities next to Harris, who is an off-guard from central casting. Individually, they’re intriguing talents. Together, they’re a plus-10 per 100 possessions in various lineup configurations. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

It works in part because Millsap and Jokic are not only their two best players, but also their best passers. Around them are a collection of proven vets in Wilson Chandler, Mason Plumlee, and Kenneth Faried, along with recent first-rounders such as Trey Lyles and Juan Hernangomez.

The latter pair have yet to carve out substantial roles, although Lyles has shown flashes of potential. The logjam is so pronounced that this year’s first-rounder, Tyler Lydon, has played all of two minutes, and veteran Darrell Arthur has appeared in only four games. How this shakes out during the course of the season will go a long way toward defining what kind of team the Nuggets will actually be once everyone gets healthy.

The good news is that Jokic should be back soon. He warmed up before Wednesday’s game, but Malone elected to hold him out after a pregame conversation with his young star.

“I didn’t think he was ready,” Malone said. “They (the training staff) might say he’s ready. But talking to him, it’s not just, ‘Is his ankle ready?’ Is his head ready? I didn’t think he was ready to play tonight so I wanted to protect him. I made that decision.”

Now there’s a metaphor worthy of this enigma of a team. Are the Nuggets ready? We’re about to find out.

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