Notes from Nuggets Camp practice

Danilo Gallinari does light shooting at Nuggets practice - Jeff Morton

Here is some news, notes and observations from Nuggets practice at training camp today ... before they set out for Las Vegas to play the Los Angeles Clippers at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday.

Here's your news, notes and observations from Nuggets camp practice.

The first order of business was to talk about the Nuggets who are hurting. Coach Brian Shaw said that in addition to Kenneth Faried sitting out with a strained hamstring, Nate Robinson re-aggravated a muscle pull from last week in his leg, and Darrell Arthur strained his quad muscle. All three will not play against the Clippers in Vegas on Saturday. He said he hopes that Wilson Chandler will be able to go on Saturday, held him out of the last part of practice in order to not exhaust him.

I asked Coach Shaw if he is starting to incorporate more defensive principals as the preseason rolls along, here is what he had to say:

"We have laid the foundation of it," said Shaw. "It's always going to be a work in progress. What I've noticed so far is when we have gone away from, you know, one day in practice we may not get to a certain defensive drill and then immediately it's shown that we have slippage in that area if we don't work on it. That's one thing I have learned about this group, even if it's a shorter amount of time, we've got to hit those things every single day to make it like second nature for us."

In the grand scheme of things, this is about learning an entirely different approach ... and often times defense takes far more attention to learn than offense. It sounds like Shaw wants to emphasize certain defensive principals first and foremost while the offense becomes more adept and the rotation is set.

I then spoke with J.J. Hickson about how comfortable he felt inside the offensive system set by Brian Shaw, here is what he had to say:

"I've felt comfortable from day one," said Hickson. "I think coach has made it possible for everyone to feel that way. He hasn't complained once about a shot, or how I play individually yet. He will tell us certain things to do to get a better shot, but, as far as playing five on five, he gives us the freedom as long as we play within the offense."

Hickson is very much at ease, and it looks as if he is comfortable with his role on the Nuggets no matter what.

"My confidence level is very high and I have high expectations of this team, this season," said Hickson. "You know, training camp is still early and we have a couple guys who are banged up, but we will be all right."

When asked about what he has learned as a sixth year player that he wished he would have known when he was a younger player, Hickson said:

"It's never about who starts a game, it's always about who finishes," said Hickson. "It's human nature to have insecurities about whatever is going on in life, but, as far as getting minutes goes, I can only control what I control on the court. That's that. I'm gonna let my play speak for itself. We have a good enough group to where Coach can go with different lineups and you can match up night in and night out so you know, I'm ready for 82 games."

I asked Hickson if he sees himself in a David West role (from the Pacers). A power forward who can expand the floor with a mid range game.

"Of course. Coach definitely preaches that," said Hickson. "You know, as a player, I'm just doing the best job I can to make his job easier."

It's hard not to come away impressed with Hickson when you speak with him. The camp battle between Kenneth Faried and Hickson has been highly entertaining and extremely competitive. That is a good problem to have if you are coach Shaw.

Additionally, we saw Danilo Gallinari doing some light shooting at practice. This is the baby steps form of progress for someone coming back from a major injury, but it was good to see him out at practice with the guys. He seemed to be walking briskly. This will be a slow progress. We all want to see Gallo on the floor as soon as possible, but rehabbing his injury right and coming back strong is priority number one.

Saturday's game against the Clippers will be on NBA TV.

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