Danny Schayes played for seven NBA teams. In a league where allegiances can turn on a dime, Schayes considers himself a lifetime member of the Denver Nuggets alumni club.
So, on May 22, when the Nuggets eliminated the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Schayes found serious satisfaction when one of his former teams cemented the franchise’s first-ever trip to the NBA Finals.
“I’m very excited,” says Schayes. “It’s long overdue.”
“The team has always been an off the beaten path team, right? So for them to finally get their due is exciting.”
“I love watching Nikola (Jokic) play. It’s been a great couple of years.”
Schayes played eight of his 18 seasons with the Nuggets, from 1983 to 1990. He keeps up regularly with the likes of Lafayette “Fat” Lever, Blair Rasmussen, Calvin Natt and Alex English.
“Of my former teammates, those are the guys I probably see the most,” Schayes says. “Fat lives in Phoenix, so we see each other once in a while.”
With the likes of those former players on the Nuggets’ rosters, it can be mind-boggling to wonder how those talented Nuggets teams during Schayes’ Denver era never made it to the finals.
“Well, in our era you always had to get past Showtime (the LA Lakers), right?” Schayes says. “That was the biggest deal for us. We played them in the conference finals once, and it was one of those deals when it was tough to get through them.”
Schayes, who lives in Phoenix (“I love it here,” Schayes says. “I’m done with shoveling snow. It’s kind of lost its appeal.”), played the 1994-95 season with the Suns, and was invited by Suns’ management to attend the Western Conference semifinals when the Nuggets visited Phoenix. Picking a favorite had to be held close to the vest.
“The owner of the Suns invited all the former guys to come,” says Schayes. “He actually flew in probably 50 guys and gave us the box for one of the playoff games.”
When we spoke with Schayes, it was the day after Miami took a 3-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final against Boston. Miami was also a previous outpost for Schayes, in the 1995-96 season.
“I’m in a no-lose final,” Schayes exulted, assuming Miami would soon be heading to the Finals.
Boston stormed back to tie the series at three-games each, only for the Heat to win the decisive seventh game. Schayes gets to see two of his former teams play each other in the championship series, after all.
One thing irks Schayes, though: respect; mostly in the present, though a little in the past.
“In my era it was Broncos and then nothing, right?” he says. “We didn’t get anyone to come to our games back then.
“Now it’s certainly nice to have the Nuggets’ fan support.
“The biggest complaint now is that they don’t get enough love from around the country. They just swept the Lakers and all Charles Barkley (and other media) can talk about is LeBron James.
“It’s like, come on, give us some love. They’ve earned it.”
Schayes happened to return a phone call during game four of the Heat-Celtics series. Upon first glance at the caller ID, this felt like a mistake dial. (“Why would Danny be calling in the middle of this important game,” we wondered.)
“DON’T TELL ME THE SCORE,” Schayes proclaimed, before either party could say hello.
“I’m DVRing the game, and I hate commercials.”
To each, his own.
“I’d rather watch a 48-minute game in 50 minutes, than two-and-a-half or three hours,” Schayes says.
Logical answer. Effective and admirable time management.
Schayes, who has been in the business world and was briefly the executive director for the NBA Retired Players Assn., is now eying a role in sports management, “on the business side,” Schayes says.
“I’m talking to some sports properties about getting more involved. I’ve had a lot of experience on the sports business side versus the coaching side.”
Schayes, by the way, was head coach of Team USA during the 2013 Maccabiah Games.
Two of Schayes’ teams now play for the NBA title. While the Nuggets are heavily favored, the Heat — the eighth seed in the East after having to survive a play-in game — have been crushing doubters throughout the playoffs.
Regardless, in his “no lose” finals, Schayes admits to seriously being on the Nuggets bandwagon.
Don’t try to find Schayes on social media during the games, though. He doesn’t want to know the score yet.
Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News