Melvin Hunt of the Denver Nuggets speaks with J.J. Hickson (7) while playing the Houston Rockets during the first quarter of action. The Denver Nuggets hosted the Houston Rockets at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, March 7, 2015. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)
Let's start with the word "happy."
It's a good place to start. A happy place. But this one unassuming word, meant to convey a simply joyful state of being, is starting to look like the central word in what may reshape the Nuggets' future.
More specifically, whose happiness wins?
Players are happy. It can be argued they had never been happier as a collective this season than in these first few fanciful days under interim coach Melvin Hunt. In fact, if they had a vote, they'd unanimously move to remove the interim from Hunt's title. None expressed that with more oomph than the Manimal himself, Kenneth Faried, who had his mike-drop moment late Friday night when he said: "Hire him. Head coach. Hire him."
If only it were that simple.
Let's move on.
Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke? Not happy.
Understanding, of course, that his ultimate goal is a championship for the Nuggets, he was happy, at the very least, with the vibe in the past. The Pepsi Center rocked, full of energy. The team was a consistent winner. And it was also a consistent playoff participant. None of those things have been present in the last couple of seasons.
Some of that has returned since Hunt's takeover. And everyone had to be happy with a near-full Pepsi Center on Friday against Golden State in an arena that looked and sounded and felt like everyone had come to expect.
But is getting back to those happier times, when seats were full of fans and things were fun (until the playoffs) good enough?
Fans figured out that coming to the Pepsi Center to see a team play wide-open basketball made them most happy. They want that back. I have an inbox full of fan correspondence that has forgotten about the frustration of first-round playoff exits.
With all of these versions of happiness floating out there, and with few willing to stray too far from it to navigate the rough seas of change to get to smoother waters, pivotal questions start to be asked -- and maybe answered.
If the experiment to change style of play was scrapped after not even two whole seasons and with no full ability for Tim Connelly and Josh Kroenke to construct a team to fit that new style, will any outside-the-box thinking ever be welcome again?
Will a team that plays entertaining basketball and delivers playoff qualification most years but rarely if ever delivers big in the playoffs turn out to be fine for a fan base that misses fun nights at the Pepsi Center?
What were the actual reasons for the Nuggets' past playoff failures? Could it have just been bad luck? Running into the eventual champion multiple times; missing the head coach when the team was ready to win big in 2010; missing a key player or two in 2012; not having the experience that would have helped in two inbounds situations in the 2009 Western Conference finals? Was an overhaul ever necessary?
And can an energetic assistant, who has injected life back into a team that always knew it could play with the NBA's best, re- energize the franchise as well? Would the decision-makers entrust that task to him?
Whose happiness wins?
What can everyone live with? What can't anyone live without?
The wrong answers could send the Nuggets into a tailspin for several seasons.
And that would just be sad.
Christopher Dempsey: cdempsey@ denverpost.com or twitter.com/ dempseypost